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.
* 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
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.