Photo: Andreas Wohlfahrt
Having a child is going to upturn your world and empty out your wallet. Too many of us are still unprepared for what it takes financially to balance a new family with our personal and professional lives, according to Care.com’s fifth annual survey of childcare costs.
Three in four families reported that the childcare costs were more than they expected. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing up to 7% of household income, while parents in the survey said they were paying almost triple that number. One in three families said they spend 20% or more of their household income on childcare costs.
Increasing costs of childcare are straining finances and marriages
Childcare is increasingly unaffordable. According to Care.com’s national averages of weekly childcare costs, while a nanny cost $472 and an after-school babysitter cost $181 in 2013; in 2017, a nanny costs an average of $580 and an after-school sitter costs $242.
More than a quarter of parents surveyed said they would put themselves in debt to pay for childcare costs. These added concerns take a toll on our personal relationships. Thirty-five percent of parents said childcare costs caused relationship tension with their partner. It is limiting families’ futures. Families are waiting to have children longer, or are having fewer children than they would like if money was no object. One in three families said that childcare costs factored into their family planning decision, which helps explain why the U.S. fertility rate is at a record low of 60.2 births per 1,000 women in 2017.
The demands of childcare costs also influence our career choices. The top career changes parents said childcare influenced them to do were: changing jobs to increase take-home pay, requesting a more flexible work schedule, switching to a part-time schedule, and becoming a stay-at-home parent. And sometimes, these careers switches are done with regret. About one in four parents said they would not have done the same career decisions, knowing what they do know about childcare costs.