If You Can’t Afford Good Day Care, Here’s Why
Life + Money

If You Can’t Afford Good Day Care, Here’s Why


Laurie Ulster remembers hiring her first part-time nanny when her son was five or six months old; she just couldn’t bear the thought of putting him in daycare. Then when her daughter was born, the Ulsters had to hire another nanny. They ended up sharing two nannies among three families: “I made this huge calendar with three families’ schedules and I sat there until I figured out five days of coverage.” After a year, one of the nannies left and the Ulsters hired the remaining nanny full-time until their daughter went to kindergarten.

“She worked very long hours for us, she helped us do laundry and go grocery shopping if I forgot something. I used to call her my second wife, and it was very expensive. It cost us a fortune,” the Westchester mother of two remembers. “At one point it was almost $900 per week. There were Christmas bonuses, sick days and vacation days. My husband and I were both trying to work longer hours and pay for my son’s preschool too, and we could never build up a proper savings during that time.”

Related: The Shocking New Cost of Childcare

The things you do for your kids. When it comes to raising children, working parents need help. Childcare is the largest household expense for working parents of young children, with a national average annual cost of $18,000 for two children. That’s more than the $17,000 spent on housing or the $7,000 spent on food, according to the latest survey from Care.com.

And that’s just the average, meaning that some families spend far more: a staggering 28 percent of mothers and fathers spend more than $20,000 on childcare per year, and 13 percent of parents report spending more than $30,000 on annual childcare costs.

It’s not just nannies, of course. Working parents who choose to send their kids to day care are also shelling out big bucks—the national average is $341.21 per week for two kids—and they’re willing to spend more if the day care offers baby sign language or baby yoga and has video cameras onsite so that parents can peek in and check on their kids remotely.

To cover all those costs, parents are making budget cuts, taking second jobs, asking family and friends for help, or even going into debt. Nearly 1 in 4 couples fight about childcare costs. Nearly 70 percent of the of working parents said that the cost of childcare had influenced their career decisions, with 35 percent changing jobs to make more money and 24 percent taking a second job to help pay for it. Twenty six percent of respondents said they’d actually change jobs for better family benefits, and 89 percent wish their workplaces offered on-site care.

Related: Clinton Urges Tax Cuts to Help Families Pay for Childcare

It’s no surprise that New York leads the list of the five most expensive states for day care:

  1. New York
  2. Vermont
  3. Oregon  
  4. Nevada
  5. Minnesota

But the list of the 5 most expensive states for a nanny is more surprising:

  1. New Mexico
  2. Arkansas
  3. Idaho
  4. Mississippi
  5. Arizona

Currently the national average rate for a nanny for two kids is $488 per week. More than half of the parents surveyed by Care.com were willing to pay extra for a nanny with CPR and First Aid certification, or for a nanny with an early childhood degree. Another attribute worth more money? Nannies who could speak more than one language and could teach another language to the children.

Related: 10 Worst States for Working Mothers

Ulster remembers sitting down with her husband to figure out just how much she had to make with her next job—so that it made sense emotionally, psychologically and financially for her to work. “The day my daughter went to kindergarten, we were cheering and dancing. Now we just have to hire someone for after school or in the summers at a flat $15 an hour.”