By: Revanche

Parenting and the childcare conundrum

April 13, 2015

Is it ironic to anyone else that one of the first things you have to look for when you’re expecting, assuming you haven’t decided that one of you will stay home with the kid(s), is childcare? I mean, you’re going through all that trouble to bake and birth the child and then we have to farm out their care to some degree.

I say this with absolutely no judgment at all, I have never wanted to give up my professional career to stay at home with the kids a day in my life so I know it’s part of the cost of my choice but it sure does feel counterintuitive. I enthusiastically support the idea of Doting Dad PiC staying home if we could swing it but since we’re not quite there yet, sitters and daycare are part of our reality.

Sidebar: I have had friends who chose to stay home after looking over the finances, not because they wanted to do that more, and also SAHP friends who did want to. We have all sorts in our cohort and I respect all those choices equally. /sidebar

The minimum for your bog standard daycare here is a shade under $2000/month for full time, five days a week, maybe including a snack but usually not. They don’t come standard with: diapers and wipes, hot or full meals or snacks, or video monitoring.

You might think I’m nuts expecting that last but it is becoming more common in the LA area and that’s one thing they may be doing right. For my money and sanity, I’m not leaving my kid with strangers without some kind of oversight – I’ve read too many (horror) news stories about abuse. Just the other day there was a 2 month old killed by her sitter’s 11 year old kid. ELEVEN. I nearly threw up reading that and don’t tell me that hormones have anything to do with that reaction other than the hormone of their world will BURN if someone tries to abuse my Little Bean.

Right. Back to the point.

In the Bay Area, full time daycare is bogglingly expensive.

Our mornings are hard enough that I hate the idea and the logistics of dropping LB off at some location with strangers and no video surveillance for the day. This is further reinforced by an unexpectedly strong sense of not wanting to let hir out of my sight. We need other options at least for the first few months that I’m back to work.

We do have some flexibility here in that I can work remotely for a period of time. I initially wanted to hire a couple mother’s helpers but they’re charging nearly or just as much as experienced nannies in this area for very little experience. I’m talking about $18-25/hour for 0-2 years of experience, and $20-45/hour for 10-30 years of experience.

Indeed.com shows that full time nannies in the SF area are typically charging 35% more than the rest of the country’s average and run about $30-40K per year. Obviously, we do not have that kind of Silicon Valley/SF dot com money.

We had a frustrating trial with a mother’s helper who came highly recommended. She’s great with toddlers but had to be told four times in the same day to check LB’s diaper when ze cries on waking from a nap – my patience doesn’t extend to repeating basic instructions several times a day. In the end, we decided that it’d be worth it to try and find someone with more extensive experience. We scoured care.com, urbansitter.com, and sittercity.com for both, and they were all three kind of a crapshoot.

After we interviewed a handful of providers it appears that the people posting profiles use the listed rate ranges like a weird kind of target practice.

You’d see:

* Will take up to 3 kids
* Comfortable with pets/dogs
* Will take care of sick children
* XX years of experience
* Will drive kids to and from school and activities
* Will cook and clean, do laundry
* $15-20/hour

I’d expect that $20/hr would be for more than one kid, with lots of other work thrown in, and $15/hr would be for much less work, which is what we’re looking for. 1 kid, very minimal clean-up, feeding, diapering, and putting down to sleep.

Instead, all were charging $20/hr minimum, with paid sick leave, holidays and 2 weeks of vacation, and are horrified by Seamus.  Oh and are utter Awkward Aardvarks with the baby.

If you’ve never seen someone hold a floppy necked infant for the first or second time, it goes something like this:

Here’s the baby!
*ginger or wary acceptance* They sort of stick the baby into one side with one arm, bracing as if for impact, while most of the baby remains free. Baby wiggles. Switch to the other side. Then back again. They grimace and adjust their hold. Baby, slipping, flails an arm or a leg. They adjust again. Baby squeaks and writhes indignantly. They start. Baby looks up at them, and their head suddenly flops forward. *thunk* Eyes wide, they return the baby.

It wasn’t quite that bad with the people we met but it was close.

The one touting 30+ years of experience with newborns kept asking us to show her how we hold the baby, adjusting her from one floppy position to another, insisting that my (already incredibly opportunistic) child was unhappy because ze “wants to be held the way hir parents hold hir.” The picture of grace, I managed not to laugh in her face. Yes, of course, ze knows how hir parents hold hir. That’s why ze just rejected me in favor of Grammy who cuddled, rocked AND cooed at hir for a weekend. Don’t tell me what my baby prefers. Ze’ll take the best offer going. And the best offer was NOT that nanny.

One didn’t come near the baby and told me that vitamins are a lie that doctors tell us to make them hyper. The origins or the why of this theory, we’ll never know.

I was starting to think we’d never find anyone but we took a shot with someone who looked less qualified on paper and it was well worth it. She actually holds the baby like she’s met one before and had that parentese down pat. LB was cooing at her in 90 seconds or less. It remains to be seen how well it works out on an ongoing basis but we’re doing a trial with her.

At full time employment, this carer’s rate will run just a touch below our previously very-(un)precisely budgeted allocation for childcare.

27 Responses to “Parenting and the childcare conundrum”

  1. Cloud says:

    I’m glad you found someone who seems like she will work out! That is great news.

    Once LB is a little older, you might find the centers more appealing. Both of my kids have made really, really good friends at their day care. And the teachers don’t feel like strangers for long at all. I expect I will cry like a baby when we say good-bye to our day care teachers for the last time. With two kids going through the same place, there are some teachers we’ve known for more than 8 years now. They are awesome. My older daughter still likes to go back and say hi.

    Of course, not all centers are that great. It really is hard finding child care that works for you!
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    • Revanche says:

      Thank you!

      And I agree that I expect to like day cares better when LB is older – it’s just that before ze can speak, I don’t feel comfortable sending hir off with strangers. I really hope we can find one to love as much as you’ve loved yours.

  2. saverspender says:

    We have to start looking into this but have not felt the push as my partner can currently stay at home with Baby Bun. Once he gets signed though, we have to hustle and find a place. It’s easier to find a daycare for an 18-month old than one under a year and a half, so I’m half hoping he’ll be old enough before he goes into daycare.

    Still, daycares… ridiculously expensive.
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    • Revanche says:

      How come daycares are easier at 18 months than before? I think we have different age tiers locally, something like 6 months and 1 year.
      Do you still get subsidized if they’re older?

      • Leah says:

        Centers have a different ratio mandate for various ages. We live in MN, and our daycare centers are 1:4 with babies whereas 15 months plus are 1:8. So, easier to find a spot when they’re older or reserve a spot early.

        We put our kid in at 2 months. She’s 9 months now and loves her center. She has found ways to communicate with us. It was hard to trust at first, but I had to go back to work. I took a leap of faith. Our center is well-rated, nice folks, communicative, and we had friends who took their kids there. I’m grateful it has worked out well.
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      • Some daycares require that your child be toilet-trained.
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  3. NZ Muse says:

    “Is it ironic to anyone else that one of the first things you have to look for when you’re expecting, assuming you haven’t decided that one of you will stay home with the kid(s), is childcare? I mean, you’re going through all that trouble to bake and birth the child and then we have to farm out their care to some degree.”

    As someone who also never planned on staying home with a kid, yeah, this has occurred to me in recent times.

    Thankfully it’s still awhile away but something we’re starting to talk about more.

    I remember many moons ago being at a lunch where one of the attendees said having a live in au pair was a breeze, apparently feeding 1 mouth extra is nothing, and having them around all the time makes things easier. (To me feeding 1 more sounds like the worst thing ever!)

    Am hoping his family may be able/willing to help out to some degree when the time comes. Eep.
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    • Revanche says:

      Now I wouldn’t mind FEEDING one more but I’d mind having one more body around indefinitely. Hmm… not if they were a friend, I’d mind having a stranger around. I am not the “strangers are just friends you haven’t made yet” sort 🙂

      Really hope you have reliable family help too! It makes a world of difference. (Also note: There’s a difference between family visiting and family helping. Huge diff.)

  4. Eesh, this is making me feel very happy that both of us are home — assuming we ever do have a kiddo anyway. Plus the in-laws in the back. I joke that if we ever do have a kid, I’ll be constantly knocking on the guest house door demanding my MIL return the sucker.
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    • Revanche says:

      Yeah I think it’s great you’re both there & you have inlaws near. I will note that in-home kiddo can be really distracting while you’re trying to work so having a “Please take hir out of the room!” signal is valuable.

  5. One of the great things about relationship with my SO is we’ve both always known he’s the type to be a SAHD and I’m the breadwinner. Luckily I make enough money to probably be able to support us both when the time comes. Plus, given the child care costs in the area, his income would barely cover daycare for 1 kid, let alone 2 (which we’re expecting to do close together for just this reason).
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  6. {groan!} We live in one of the country’s lower-rent metropoli…I can remember when I finally landed a job that paid a decent wage. My son was about 5 or 6, going to a private school. He had to be picked up after school (no school buses) and then watched until I got home.

    So flush were we (heh!) that I had this brilliant idea that we’d hire her to show up around noon, clean house, do the laundry, iron my husband’s shirts, pick up the kid from the school, and get the dinner started while she was watching him. For six hours of work, five hours a day, her salary (not including our share of her FICA) well over half of the amazing salary I thought I was earning. That’s in a right-to-work state with a whole lotta poor folks who’ll work for next to nothing.

    The best child care we found came from a) older neighbor ladies who liked kids and were happy to work a few hours a day at very reasonable prices; and b) churches that fostered the SAHM mentality. A lot of SAHMs will take care of your kids very cheap and very much under the table. Quality varies, tho… You have to keep an eye on them by showing up at unexpected times and by word of mouth with other parents.
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    • Revanche says:

      Having a caregiver who actually LIKES kids and looking at them is so great. Paying them fairly and what it does to the finances is … a different story. BUT ze is the most important dependent right now so I can’t begrudge it. Plus I really did budget for it, so it’s not the end of the world.

      • Yes, they do need to love other people’s kids. But that’s not all. The person has to have a BRAIN. You know…some sort of stuffing between the ears. The person to whom we paid over half my gross salary was the one affectionately known as “Ninette,” because she was such a ninny.

        Ninette applied pure, unalloyed Murphy’s Oil soap to the bottom of a dust mop and rubbed it all over about 1500 square feet of custom blonde parquet flooring, ruining it and my mood. She couldn’t see her hand in front of her face but refused to drive with her glasses on because she thought they made her look dowdy. She once put one (1) washrag into the dryer, set the dryer to “blow-torch,” and turned it on to run as long as the dryer would run. I finally canned her when I came home a little late — about a half-hour after she had left to pick up her own kid at the daycare her mother ran — to find my son sitting in the family room with the ironing board left up and the iron sitting on it turned to the highest heat it would go.

        Ah, just think. Soon you, too, will have war stories to tell. 😀
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  7. middle class says:

    “Is it ironic to anyone else that one of the first things you have to look for when you’re expecting, assuming you haven’t decided that one of you will stay home with the kid(s), is childcare? I mean, you’re going through all that trouble to bake and birth the child and then we have to farm out their care to some degree.” I totally agree with this and I, too, never wanted to stay home full-time. We were fortunate that my husband has a freelance schedule and could work from home, though he took some time off in the first year. We hired a p/t nanny who came to our house. It worked out because we were e so paranoid about having babies out of our sight. When they get older, it’s easier to separate but I admit that I wanted to peek through the windows when my first kid went to kindergarten.

    • Revanche says:

      It worked out because we were so paranoid about having babies out of our sight.

      With all the terrible things we hear happening, it’s hard not to be! I know that’s why my mom never relied on paid childcare when we were younger – she grew up in a pretty bad environment where kids, and particularly girls, were preyed upon at any opportunity. I will feel a lot better about it when ze is older and can understand right/wrong, etc.

  8. It is crazy how some of the “most experienced” people we interviewed as mother’s helpers had obviously never held a baby in their lives. We had some really great people looking after our kids though. And we’ve had some wonderful center experiences (though not so much with the center before the current one).
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    • Revanche says:

      YEP. I have to thank you for sharing so much of your experiences, it helped me figure out where to start when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by the search for good carers. My fingers are crossed that we find good daycares when the time is right too.

    • Uh huh. Been there!

      We were lucky with most of the individuals we hired but the day-care center gambit was a major fiasco.
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  9. SP says:

    This sounds like such an excruciatingly difficult process – thanks for sharing your experience and how you handled it. If/when we have kids, I dread the process of doing the same, but I know neither of us is interested in SAHP and the finances likely won’t make that the only good option.

    I’m glad to hear you have a possible care solution, at least for now.

    How did these others get so much “experience” without actually knowing how to care for a baby? Was it with older kids/babies?
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    • Revanche says:

      It was painful, not least because I hate interviewing no matter how often I’ve done it, but I did have some help too.

      I think everyone counts their experience with say, watching younger siblings or other family, or similar as years of experience. Which is to say, I think the term is used rather loosely and you have to dig deeper to find out what they mean by that and what they decide to do as a result of those experiences.

  10. Feeny says:

    I imagine most of the “mommys helpers” had worked with toddlers/babys but not actual newborns, and thought “meh who cares a baby is a baby”… which of course is not true. I was a nanny for years and years and loved it but you’re right, it’s kind of a crapshoot with who you will get in an interview.

    We are trying to get on a waiting list for a couple of day cares right now. Like you and some others, if it was in the cards Bob would be a SAHD in a second but sadly we just cant afford to go down to one salary. Also, I work nights, 6pm to 6am. We needed childcare primarily while hes at work and I’m asleep because right now, I just couldn’t imagine trying to be asleep while someone was playing with my kid in the next room. I have seen work at home parents struggle to focus while I nannied and I just feel like sleeping would be even harder.

    • Revanche says:

      I think you’re right – newborns require quite a bit more care and carefulness and people who aren’t prepared for that aren’t great with the baby.

      We backed out of putting ourselves on a waiting list for the moment but we will have to make the decision soon whether we want to put ourselves back on for later. Ideally, if this situation works out, I’d rather not deal with daycares, but we have to wait and see.

      I think if it were Bob working nights and had to sleep, you might have better luck but if you’re not a heavy heavy sleeper, I suspect you too would have trouble sleeping in the early months while someone else was watching the baby. Well, that’s my experience, anyway.

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  12. We’re doing the round of daycare center tours right now, looking for a place for our 8-month-old, and both my husband and I are feeling the guilt of handing off so much of his care to other people. And wow, is child care expensive. I have such mixed feelings about the cost, because anyone looking after my kid should definitely be getting a decent wage, and yet even with two incomes we’re barely going to be able to afford 3 days a week.

    • Revanche says:

      I don’t think I mentioned the guilt but yet, I have had some pangs handing LB off to a stranger even right here in my home! I feel like hey, I should be holding hir!
      It’s hard to both pay someone what we’d think they were worth based on caring for your kid and actually afford it. The cost is no joke.

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