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I owe you guys some updates on a couple of topics that I have hinted about and mentioned in passing a few times.

Today I’m going to talk about:

  1. The daycare situation.
  2. The financial relationship between my husband and me.

This morning’s post will focus on the daycare situation. Check back this afternoon for more about the interesting financial relationship my husband and I have worked out.

Childcare Costs

Childcare is an exorbitant cost, any way you look at it. We have been lucky that someone I know has been watching the girls in an at-home daycare for a fraction of the cost of traditional daycare facilities. For comparison, when the girls were 6 months old I was dissertating and had to put them in a “traditional” daycare 2 days per week. Our rent at the time was $595/month (granted, we lived in the ghetto, but still…) Our daycare for TWO days per week = $1200/month. Yes. Literally double our rent!

Currently we pay $600/month for 3 days per week of care ($50/day). I’ve mentioned several times how I’ve been thinking about cutting our childcare back to two days per week to try to save some money.

But in discussing with my husband, he’s raised some concerns and wants to consider other options. I’d love to hear any suggestions or advice that you have.

Here’s the deal…..

We’re trying to decide if we want to keep the girls in daycare at all (versus just being home with me) and, if they stay in daycare, if we should reduce our number of days at our current place, or if we should look into other options elsewhere.

I’ve made a table below with the Pros and Cons that we have been considering…

At Home With Ashley

In-Home Daycare (Current Provider)

Traditional Daycare

Pros I get to be with the girls all the time! I’m 100% in control of what they do, what they learn, what they eat, when they nap, etc. It’s free! Lots of extra money toward debt-reduction! Lots of individual attention; Only 4 children (socialization, but not a ton of germ exposure); Children have a strong bond with provider (not a different teacher everyday); Relatively inexpensive. Everything is documented (food eaten, diaper changes, activities the kids did, etc.); Lots of structured activities in addition to free time; Educational enrichment is provided; Stability (substitutes in case of teacher illness); Extra opportunities for socialization (more kids)
Cons Very challenging to get work done; Never have a “break” (working during naps, and in morning/night); difficult to accomplish some things with girls home; Really sucks when we’re sick (we have no family here so no “social support” to help out if we need it.) Less structure (e.g., music time, story time, art time, etc); No documentation (e.g., writing how much kids ate, at what time; when their diapers were changed, if it was “dirty” or “wet”, when they napped and how long, etc.); Requires flexible schedule (if provider is sick, there’s no substitute). More children (somewhat less individual attention); More chance of illness (more kids = more/varied germs); More teachers (instead of 1 caregiver that we all “know” there could be random substitutes, etc.); Very expensive!

 

I’m leaning toward keeping our current daycare provider and reducing to 2 days per week. However, if I’m really serious about debt-reduction (and I am!!!), then I should really be considering removing the girls from daycare entirely and keeping them at home with me. Even if I got a babysitter for 1 day per week (in case I need to go to campus), it’d still be cheaper. I am VERY nervous about how this would go with my work. I’ve read a couple library books on work-from-home Moms and many of the strategies do not sound like they would work for me (e.g., “Wake up a couple hours before the kids to do work.”……ummmmm, my kids wake up at 5:30am a lot of the time. If you think I’m waking up at 3:30am, you’re out of your mind!). I already work in the evening many times as it is, so I don’t see how I could possibly get everything done. But…people do it all the time. There are LOTS of work-from-home Moms (shout-out, Hope!!!). If there’s a will, there’s a way, right?? Right??? : /

Meanwhile, Chris is leaning toward option 3 (traditional daycare facility). We love our current provider, but Chris really liked the documentation, structured activities, and educational enrichment the traditional daycare provided. Plus, he really thinks the girls would benefit from additional socialization (being around more kids). But it’s literally twice as expensive as our current costs, for less overall care (2 days versus 3 days). And it definitely runs counter to our debt-reduction goals. However, it’s hard with kids because you can’t always just pick the cheapest option. There are some definite “positives” of the most expensive option.

So this is why I haven’t made a change yet. I guess I’ve just been mulling it all over waiting for the “right” choice to knock me upside the head.

What do you all think? Should I bite the bullet and become a work-from-home Mom full time (the quickest route to debt eradication)?? Should we stay with our current daycare provider and reduce the number of days? Or should we go with Chris’ wishes of moving our kids back to a larger and more traditional (and costly) facility?

Stay tuned….I’ll peep back in mid-day with another of my Money-Saving Tricks series, then later this afternoon I’ll post about the interesting financial relationship situation between my husband and me.


37 Comments

  • Reply Kili |

    Hi Ashley,
    reading your post, I think you’re most comfortable with the current In-Home-Daycare. This way you have some kids-free days for working productive but not the outrageous cost of the Traditional Daycare.
    I am not a parent yet, so maybe my opinion is not accurate: but for me the “documentation” of the food / diaper etc. part is something I think I could do without. I am sure your current In-Home-Daycare provider also pays attention if something is other than usual… e.g. if one of the twins has less apettite than usual… weird stool in the diapers…. if they are more agitated than usual or whatever… being such a small group, I would assume she’d point out if something was different to you as well.
    To me the “at home with ashley”-idea sounds like the least feasible. I would definitly assume you won’t be as productive with the kids at home as without them.
    Best of luck!

  • Reply Jill |

    Have you looked into church based preschools? These can be a relatively inexpensive option (although school year only) and they’d provide the structured activities and some f the documentation.

    • Reply Hope |

      This is what I did with mine. They went to the Mom’s Day Out program at our local church from 18months until Kindergarten age, two times a week for 4 hours.

      I think kept my youngest in it my daughter’s Kindergarten year so we could get some one on one school time, especially for reading.

      • Reply Ashley |

        I’ll have to check around. When I’ve looked into it in the past, I had a difficult time finding anything for their age (almost 2). It seems like a lot more programs open up at age 3/potty trained.

  • Reply Kiki |

    I would definitely not go with the traditional daycare. It is so costly, and are you really bringing in the income with your work right now to justify this? Perhaps it would be good to reduce your present daycare to two days for starters. Can your husband give you some time by spending a couple evenings with the girls so that you can begin your work earlier? This would include bath time and the bedtime ritual.

  • Reply Misti |

    What about a local college student that could come in the afternoons or mornings, dependent on their school schedule? That would at least give you a couple of hours a day to work alone with the girls occupied. Should also be cheaper.

  • Reply Sue |

    We have our daughter in a small preschool and I have loved it. The less germs is key for me (my daughter is immune suppressed) and the few kids have a great relationship (there are six here and they have grown up together – a little older 2 to 5 now). The attention is better here than what I have heard of at more traditional day cares. I think if you have someone you trust that is key.
    I teach college and I tried to cut back my daughter’s days in care and I was a basket case. So I have gone back to the additional days. I think the two days a week is key if you are trying to work. So I would stay, cut back a day and bank that saved money and comfort with your caretaker. 🙂

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thank you so much for admitting the “basket case” thing! I had a short time home full-time with my kids in-between when I graduated and when I started working (it was maybe a month). I feel like a terrible person admitting it, but I was absolutely climbing the walls toward the end! I don’t know how stay-at-home/work-from-home Moms do it full-time! It’s a challenge!!

  • Reply Mysti |

    I would start with reducing your current home day care to 2 days a week, and see how it goes (either trying to work with the girls around, or getting everything you need to do done in 2 days). If you find you are not managing to get everything done that you need to, then you will know that being a full time work from home mom might not be a good fit right now. You don’t want to lose your sitter, and then find out that you have created a situation that isn’t working.

    With summer coming, have you considered a “mother’s helper?” I did this when I has a younger teen. Mom is still home, but it is a person who can entertain kids, change a diaper, make lunch….but without the full responsibility. If you hired a 12-13 yr old, you can pay less…maybe $5-$7 an hour (more if you want her to help you with household chores like folding the kids’ laundry, taking out the trash, etc). It may be something you can look at as a compromise, or if there is something you are trying to concentrate on. Plus….getting in with a young teen is great for when he/she is ready to babysit for a night out!

    • Reply Ashley |

      What a fabulous idea! I hadn’t even thought about something like a “mother’s helper!” I have to admit, I don’t really know any young people but we just started attending a new church so maybe I can meet someone there that has a teen who would fit the bill. Thanks for the tip!

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    If your kids are home with you, how much income (or potential income) will you give up?

    You are happy with the current situation and it is affordable. Better to stick with it (and you can decide whether one less day will ‘cost’ you more in lost revenue opportunity), than to definitely cramp your income potential by having the kids at home with you.

    I did, but I ran a home daycare to compensate slightly for the income lost by my not working. Plus my dh had a good enough job that I knew my income would not be missed once the kids were in school and daycare didn’t figure into the work/stay-home equation.

    My job was to run the household (housework, home repairs, car maintenance, finances, children’s lives, his life) so my dh was free to pursue a lucrative career. Only twice did he have to take time from work to assist with the kids (once he had to pick my sick daughter up from a babysitter because I was taking my sister to our parent’s home so she could tell them she was dying, and the second time, he rushed from the airport to home, instead of work to be there when the kids came home from school because I had flown out that morning to deal with a dying, maiden, aunt – looking back, I can’t believe I trusted airlines enough to pull that stunt!)

    That worked for us, but it was as conscious a career path for me as your going to university to get an advanced degree was for you. I hope your career path works out for you and your family as well as my chosen path worked for me and my family.

  • Reply Jessica |

    Maybe drop down to two days and get accustomed to that before you decide to keep them home all the time? Traditional daycare…I’m sure there are wonderful ones, but all the friends I’ve had who’ve dealt with it have had terrible experiences, and ended up removing their kids for other options.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I think there’s huge variance between places. The one we had our girls at when they were infants (6-12 months) was FABULOUS! We paid an arm & leg for it, but it was incredible. They had local artists and musicians come in once a week, an actual art-gallery displayed that changed monthly, more activities than I can remember. But quality doesn’t come cheap. And I’ve toured a couple less expensive “traditional” daycare places and absolutely would not feel comfortable leaving my kids there.

  • Reply TPol |

    Tough decision to make but I would stay away from the traditional day car at least for another year. You may want to try cutting down to 2 days at the present facility and see how it works out for you. I am not a parent and I do think you need time away from the kiddos. Being a stay-and- work-at-home mom seems like a big task. I wouldn’t want to see you burnt-out or depressed. I understand your husband’s point but I guess you can still manage to stay away from the traditional daycare for at least another year or 18 months.

  • Reply Jen From Boston |

    I think the more individual attention your children receive now makes up for lack of structured educational enrichment. Also, I don’t think it’s necessary for them to have that at this stage. Do they get to play where they are right now? Would they still have the same level of free play in a traditional day care? I think introducing too much structure too soon could hamper their inherent creativity, which is pretty important, IMO.

    Having said all that, I’m not a parent and I’m not an educational/child development expert. Instead, I’m basing this on my own experience as a child, and I turned out pretty well 😉 I went to pre-school, but it was half a day and I’m not even sure it was every day, and I don’t remember when I started. But, I’m pretty sure it was very loosely structured. I remember finger painting, and nap time. That’s about it. And knowing my mother I would NOT have been in any all-day daycare (she’s ideologically opposed to it, but she was also a SAHM until I was in kindergarten). During the summer I lived with my grandparents. No other children except for the girl next door. I was pretty much left to my own devices, which meant lots of play time using my imagination. And mud pie baking. I knew I was safe and loved.

    So because of that I see no pressing need to get them more structure. I think you might be getting sucked into the notion that more structure/documentation = better environment. I don’t think that is the case. They will get barraged plenty with intellectual demands later. I think right now they need to develop their emotional world and imagination.

    As for having them stay at home with you full time I worry that it would hinder your ability to work and get a job with more demands on your time. I think cutting back on your current day care arrangement is a better idea.

  • Reply Theresa |

    I would keep them in the home day care. What happens if you have them home and they stop napping? It could happen in the next 6 months. Then when will you get work done? And I just don’t get the impression that you have the income to afford a center. Things could change with your job situation and maybe then you guys can look into Centers. I know it is tough to make financial decisions about your children’s care. And I also have had kids that are up at often at 5:30 a.m. and that is inhumanely early.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Ack! Don’t even mention the “stop napping” thing! I just had a mini panic-attack! ; )

  • Reply adam |

    I have no kids and so this might be a totally stupid idea, but what about paying somebody to come to YOUR home 1-2 days a week and occupy the kids for a while so you can get work done. Like a nanny? Forgive me, I have no idea about this stuff. Is that a possibility?

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yeah, typically “nannies” are more expensive (we used to pay $13/hour when we used one), but there are similar options that other commenters have mentioned that would cost less – a “mother’s helper” for example. Something to think about.

  • Reply Susan |

    I also agree with keeping your children where they are now. Drop to two days a week if you like, and see how it goes.

    I have one child, who is 3 years old. He goes to our church pre-school 3 days a week. I cannot imagine being able to get anything done if he was here 5 days a week. He is go-go-go and I love my two days here with him. However, it is precisely because I am able to get my work (both household and “real work”) done on the other 3 days that we have such a good time together on our days at home.

    You have two children and as another poster said, what if one or both stop napping? I am dreading that time because I really enjoy the 2 hour respite on our days at home together. I do meal prep and yes, I take 45 minutes to sit and read my library books! Then I am all set to give my little boy my attention when he wakes up.

    SCM1959

  • Reply Mel |

    I think there’s a strong case for keeping your daycare situation as it is.

    Have you asked your in-home daycare provider if she would be willing to provide more of the documentation you’re looking for? I recently started caring for a 3-month old, and I really want the parents to tell me anything I can do that helps them. We have a notebook that we pass back and forth each day with details on feedings, diapers, and any notes or questions from any of us.

    Having your girls home all day every day sounds like a recipe for insanity! Said with love from a mom who’s been there 😉 I’m sure you would love it, as would they. But the ability to get stuff done would be seriously diminished, and very frustrating. I’ve been blessed to stay home with my boys (now 6 and 3); there is no way I could have worked while caring for them, especially at the ages of your girls.

    Your option to drop back one day of daycare per week seems most feasible. The things I would consider: how will your provider feel about it? A happy, good in-home provider is a valuable thing (I would be flexible myself, but when I started I sought advice from several others and they didn’t take kindly to changing schedules and reduced income). It’s only $50 per week…good money, but not huge in the grand scheme. How much would that change cost you in stress and progress toward your dream job? You mentioned a limited window of time to work toward becoming a professor…do you want to maintain your focus to pursue it? If you succeed in landing a position, it will make a much bigger difference in your family’s financial future…and probably your happiness…than $50 extra per week now.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Mel – I have thought about the reduced income/changed schedule thing! I definitely fear having the conversation for that very reason! It’s $50 a week for that one extra day (which we can afford), but what if that one less day causes our provider to think it’s “not worth it” for the other two days? Or raises prices for the remaining days? Or whatever?? I guess its a conversation worth having so we can come to an agreement we’re both happy with, but I definitely stress over it. I’m also not good with these types of conversations, in general. I’m so awkward and I just get really anxious over it! Ugh!

  • Reply Hope |

    I totally get everyone has different circumstances and we know very few of yours, but put aside money for a minute and remember that these are the MOST formative years and set the stage for everything coming up. That is crucial not only for education, but relational. I don’t know if you plan on having any more kids, but I would recommend spending as much time as possible with them now…doing every day life stuff. Believe me, time flies by and it won’t be long before they are walking out the door and not looking back.

    • Reply Ashley |

      It’s so true! That’s one reason I actually feel very fortunate about my job situation since I’m able to be home so much (which would not be the case if I were currently in the traditional professor position). I can’t get these years back!

  • Reply MW |

    I agree with whoever suggested talking to your in-home provider about doing more documentation. That being said, you can also think of the lack of documentation as preparation for when your kids start elementary school. 🙂

    Remember if you drop a day or drop out entirely from your current provider, you probably won’t be able to go back (I assume she’d get a new family to fill your girls’ spots). So if you take the girls out and then manage to get a good job, you’ll have to find new care and it will likely be much more expensive. Especially if you get a full-time job– the cost of care for two kids full time could wipe out any income you bring in.

    All that to say, I’d stick with what you have.

    • Reply Ashley |

      You’d stick with the full 3 days, or cut back to 2? Mel (commenter above) made a good point about potential ramifications for cutting back. : /

  • Reply Lori |

    We have found that there is no single right answer for childcare. For us, we have had to experiment and figure out what works for us. There might be other options besides those you are considering. Such as, is there a high school kid who could come help out for a couple afternoons after school and allow you to work? Could your husband adjust his schedule to come home earlier so you could get some more time to work? We worked out an arrangement were my husband flexes time one day a week and has our kids. This has been great and everyone seems to treasure their extra time together.

  • Reply Tracy |

    I am a licensed home daycare provider I only care for a max of 6 children. I charge the 60 a day,250 for a week. I have structured music, arts and crafts, outdoor time ,storytime,etc. I give daily sheets for diapers changed, food or formula eaten. An added bonus because I am licensed you can pay with pre-tax dollars and write my costs off on your taxes. Every state has licensed home providers. This could be a nice compromise .

  • Reply Laura |

    I would not cut out child care all together. You wouldn’t try to take kids to the office with you, for good reason, and you shouldn’t try to work at home with 2 toddlers. They need so much attention at that age I don’t think you’d be able to concentrate on work with them around. I would feel out your current provider, she how she feels about you dropping a day.
    I don’t know how it is where you are at but in my state traditional daycare rates start dropping when they turn 2. Maybe look into a traditional daycare later, when they are ready for preschool

  • Reply Krista |

    I wouldn’t cut back daycare days at all. If you did you’d have to cut back work hours or if you didn’t cut back work hours then you would have to take more time out of your “me” time and/or time with your hubby when the kids are in bed. If you’re left stretching yourself thin your kids will notice(you’re moods) and I’m sure you’re hubby will notice too. Sometimes things aren’t just about the money. I think you have the ideal now, you get to spend 2 days a week with your kids and 3 days working!

  • Reply Cathy D. |

    I used to teach preschool at our church for three year old and eventually two year old children. There was a definite difference in the children who did not have the socialization around other children before starting the preschool program. If you keep your children at home, they may have a more difficult time with separation anxiety when they eventually start a preschool class or kindergarten. They may take longer to adjust to other children if they are more introverted.

    If I were you, I would keep them in the situation you currently have. You could cut back to two days for a trial basis and if it doesn’t work, go back to the three days. Work it our with your provider. Do what’s best for your kids, but keep your sanity at the same time!

  • Reply mary m |

    We just switched our daycare situation. For the first 2 years, we had a “nanny” come to our house to watch our daughter (Started when she was 3 months old and I went back to work fulltime). We got a killer deal as it was a very close friend of the family who was also attending school online/at night, so she had grants in addition to what I was paying her. But then schedules changed, and she needed more money etc. It got to where we were paying her $50/day for 1 child (plus the bigger kids before/after school but they’re 12 and 10 and don’t need a sitter). It was just too much.

    We finally got her into a non-profit daycare center that is between $175 and $225 less per month (since I pay monthly, and before was paying daily). It was such a hard choice to make. And she cries for her nanda (the nanny we had is named Amanda). And the first week at daycare was horrible. But 2 weeks in we’re doing great!

    Point to the story is that there ARE options out there, even if you don’t know what’s right for you guys at this point, you can find something that works for you!

    I recommend against keeping them home fulltime if you’re going to be still doing your part time work. I don’t think that would allow you to be the mom you want to be (or the consultant your job wants you to be). Plus the pros you listed for daycare (learning activities etc), would probably end up costing you some money (baby gym classes, music classes etc). So you might not even get to do everything you wanted while having them home full time due to the cost, and your stress of trying to balance everything.

    I know it’s easy to say that because it’s not MY situation. The part that does sound very similar is that our little one is in daycare 3 days a week, and home with my husband 2 (and then I’m home on the weekend). So the mix between home time and school time has actually be a good thing (in our limited 2 weeks so far ;-))

    But that’s just my two cents 🙂

  • Reply tami |

    If you want to get work done, you need childcare. I found having nanny/babysitter come to the house didn’t work well, as the children know you are there. I would consider dropping 2 days a month, which would be a 2 day week, followed by a 3 day week. Your in home daycare might consider it. Also, if you can cobble together a care coop – 1 or 2 other parents who are willing to trade child care. Each parent runs one morning of activities – breakfast, outdoor play, snack, art activity, outdoor play, lunch nap, and the parents collect the kids right after nap. Where I live there are coop preschools that work on the same principal. They are much less expensive, because the parents have volunteer responsibilities. You have twins, so it might be best to find a family with 2 kids close in age to yours.

  • Reply AT |

    Your priority has to be getting work done so that you can get that elusive academic job in the next 12 months. Otherwise you are unemployable in your field. It’s all or nothing time on the craps table. Doubling your income will do more for your debt in 24 months than saving $50 a week. Cutting back daycare or disrupting your schedule might save a buck now, but you are hosed if you don’t get hired. You need to be writing papers. Writing more papers. If you don’t have your dissertation written up for an academic journal by now, set a goal of 3 months or less. And then write more papers. Few of the commenters understand you need to light a fire under your desk chair and stay there. Do you?

  • Reply hannah |

    Honestly? Your kids are way too little to need the ‘educational activities’ that the expensive option offers. They will be spending all day in school soon enough as it is, no need to worry about starting so soon with structured learning and classes etc. Play is healthy and good for little ones!
    Also, I don’t see why they need more socialization from many kids, I’m sure they are good friends with the other kids at the in home daycare, right? Having other kids around will let them learn about sharing, manners, different personalities and things like that.
    But keeping it to the in home daycare lets you control what type if influences they are around. What if the number of kids at an expensive daycare exposes them to untrained children who throw temper tantrums and misbehave in other ways?
    Then your children would be getting bad influence instead of positive.
    All things considered I think the in home daycare is a much better choice – it lets you save some money, but also lets you get some work done uninterrupted.

So, what do you think ?