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It Takes a Village

Richard Connor, 1:43 pm ET

FINDING HIGH-QUALITY, affordable childcare has always been a challenge, but it became especially so during the pandemic. Suddenly, thousands of parents were working from home. Many childcare centers closed or restricted new enrollment. Our small South Jersey town saw an influx of families fleeing New York and Philadelphia. That put a strain on limited local resources, and spots for the summer have been hard to find.

I know a little about this because my youngest son and daughter-in-law have been struggling to find consistent childcare for their 17-month-old son James. They’ve been successful, but it’s taken a combination of babysitters, flexible work schedules and extended family support.

The childcare website Winnie shows that, in Manhattan, there’s a one-year waiting list for infants and a two-year waiting list for preschool children. According to Winnie, childcare in Manhattan—one of the most expensive places in the country to live—costs between $1,300 and $2,500 per month. This equates to $15,600 to $30,000 per year.

That sounds like a lot of money for childcare and, for most U.S. families, it would be. But I think it’s helpful to look at the cost on a per-hour basis. Assuming a child attends 48 weeks a year and 40 hours per week, that’s 1,920 hours of childcare per year. At the high end of $30,000, that’s $15.63 per hour. That’s similar to what the fast-food restaurants are paying in our area. My conclusion: As expensive as childcare is, it seems like a bargain compared to many of the other services we pay for.

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Philip Karp
Philip Karp
3 months ago

This is a very emotional quandary for parents of babies and toddlers.
We know how strong and important forming emotional bonds are between parents and their young children. It is very very difficult to depend upon detached non-family caregivers for early childhood care. No easy answers to this quandary.

Boss Hogg
Boss Hogg
3 months ago

I agree with R. Quinn’s comment. Parents should be the primary caregivers of their children when possible, and most of the time it is possible with appropriate family-finance restructuring and management. Ask the children who they would prefer for their day care.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
3 months ago

Our oldest having special needs, my wife stayed home until he started kindergarden. He had some time in a school setting before then as a result of early intervention programs. With our youngest we intended to have him in daycare for a year or two, but he soundly rejected it. I would say ‘we adapted’, but frankly it was my wife who adapted by changing her work plans. I think this was the right decision, despite the apparent long term benefits of child daycare. This definitely was a financial hardship, but one worth bearing.

R Quinn
R Quinn
3 months ago

I find this subject so depressing. My parents didn’t use daycare, my wife and I never used daycare with our four children and I expect we gave up some things like a house with a family room three baths and walk-in closets.

I understand that today and for the last many years young couples very often need to have two incomes, but I find that sad. How did we create a society where careers became so important resulting in trapping the next generation so two incomes are necessary? Somehow we raised the status of a job and career above that of mother.

Yeah, I’m old fashioned, but I don’t think that except for the accumulation of status stuff, we are better off.

Last edited 3 months ago by R Quinn
Randy Wickham
Randy Wickham
3 months ago

If you are paying 15$ per hour then you better have a job which pays a significant amount more in order to make it work. Most childcare workers are taking care of more than one child, and they are not making 3-4 times that, so a lot must go to overhead. My daughter is looking for childcare as well, and there are many women who have quit their jobs after having a child and are taking extra kids in their homes as going back to work is cost prohibitive. It does not seem like much of a bargain to me.

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