Working Women and Competition for Daycare

Sunshine Day Care

I’ve been wanting to set up a blog for quite awhile and finally got around to it. So, I have a couple of articles that have been piling up that I want to write about. They are a couple months old but the content isn’t time-sensitive. The first article I’m writing about is from the 6/9/2010 issue of the Wall Street Journal by Sue Shellenbarger.

With more women than ever in the workforce, many of the country’s roughly 1,000 nationally accredited child-care centers are full to capacity.

So, do we need more day care centers ? Fewer children ? Or more moms to stay home with their children ? It gets worse:

Jessica (for privacy I didn’t add last name) put her baby-to-be on a child care wait list last August, as soon as she got the results of her home pregnancy test. The child care center director got the good news even before the baby’s grandparents. Now, one year later, Jessica’s baby has been promised a coveted slot in August in the infant care room at Primrose School in (for privacy) Somewhere, Colorado.

Granted the point of the article is to offer a glimpse into how difficult it is to find open slots for childcare, especially at the best child care centers.  The author’s does not debate whether one should perhaps give some thought about staying home with her child instead of forking out $1,500 to $2,000 a month for someone else to care for her precious baby. That’s my job.

I lived in Washington, D.C. when our first child was born and was faced with the same considerations that all working women who become pregnant face:

a) How will I afford daycare ? Why do I want to sacrifice to make a monthly payment, equivalent to a mortgage payment in some areas, to a daycare center to care for a child whose best nurturer is me ?
b) How can I deal with the emotional turmoil of parting from my baby ? Biologically, your child isn’t supposed to be taken from you at 6 weeks. (6 weeks is the usual length of maternity leave and when infants are accepted into daycare).
c) What’s the point of having children if I won’t be there to answer the silly and not-so-silly questions they have throughout the day, to impart lessons of right and wrong, see their first step, smile, etc.

When pregnant with my first, I constantly weighed the pros and cons of working. I had just finished my doctorate in economics and was kind of excited about working in my field and even more excited about earning money. I had worked the first couple years of Ph.D. but the last couple of years, I had a fellowship which paid for classes and little else. So, having some real money was an exciting concept. But, through the tears and being pulled in the career direction and then the mommy direction, I eventually ended up knowing that I would “mostly” be a stay-at-home mom.

Needless to say, everything wasn’t sorted out when our first was born. We really needed my income given our student loan debt and the foregone income sacrificed to pursue graduate studies. I kept interviewing and turning down job offers for the first two years of our first son’s life. When I’d get a job offer, it was like being sawed in half as we desperately needed the money as we were going into debt to have me stay home. However, my husband and I always ended up plowing ahead. It came down to not being able to live with myself for turning our beloved little person over to strangers. We didn’t have any family around and, even if we did, our parents wouldn’t be interested in caring for the kids.

My husband and I met in Ph.D. so it wasn’t like we could have made the decision for me to be home before we had taken on undergraduate or graduate studies. It was very messy and took some time for us to back out of the Two Income Trap (and we’re still doing it). We never wavered on the one thing that was most important to us: for me to be at home to teach the kids. All our choices aligned with this commitment and financially we were slowly able to make that happen.

As I ramble on through this blog, I will share how we did this.

See the entire link for the WSJ article here.  Note that you might have to be a WSJ subscriber to access it.