Parents Sound Off On The Economics Of Child Care : The Baby Project To tap into the hushed discussions about day care that take place alongside soccer fields or among trusted friends, All Things Considered co-host Michele Norris assembled a group of middle-class parents. And some have advice: Be flexible and start thinking about it before you get pregnant.

Parents Sound Off On The Economics Of Child Care

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

F: We hear first from Stacey Ferguson. The mother of three says the day-care dilemma is almost always on her mind.

STACEY FERGUSON: Ninety percent of my time is spent balancing, juggling, thinking about it.

ADAM GRAHAM: Oh, it's ever pervasive. It's just always there. It's a strata of parenthood that just never goes away. It's always on your mind.

NORRIS: Even when it's working well, you're still...

GRAHAM: Even when it's working well, yeah.

NORRIS: Whether they are nannies or babysitters or day-care providers, anyone who is in the business of taking care of children that are not their own, do they earn enough money based on what they do?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No, probably not.



WOMAN: Yeah, no. No way.

NORRIS: And yet, if I flip the question and ask: Does day care cost too much money?

WOMAN: Right.



NORRIS: How can both be right?

WOMAN: Right.


NORRIS: Personal question, but I hope you don't mind me asking: How much of your family budget goes toward day care? How expensive is it for you?

GRAHAM: My second daughter, when we had her in a Montessori school, it was probably excess of $10,000 a year - a little child. I mean, you know, I don't know that I'd paid that much when I went to college.


GRAHAM: I was a little bit older but, you know, but then I went to an in-state school. But still.

KELLY HRUSKA: This is Kelly. I have a lot of friends who after, you know, they had their children and then they're trying to make the decision whether or not to go back to work, have sat down and calculated out to the nth expense. So their professional clothes, their lattes, you know, and muffin in the morning and their latte in the afternoon - and calculated out every last cost to see if it's cost-effective for them to go back to work. Some have found that it is. Some have found that it isn't. And they've made the decision not to go back to work because it wasn't cost-effective.

NORRIS: Sharon, if you were - I'm going to put you on the spot here - but if you were to put a dollar amount on the - an hourly dollar amount on the price of what you do for your grandson, what would that be? If you were to go into business for yourself, how much would you charge per hour?

SHARON JOHNSON: The situation for us is really ideal because my daughter and son-in-law were able to rent a house directly across the street from me.


JOHNSON: So, I mean, for me it's great because I can go across the street in my pajamas, if I'm late.


JOHNSON: And I don't have to worry about somebody saying, you're taking care of my child in your pajamas?


JOHNSON: I want to be able to provide a center where children are able to come. But I don't want it to be place where parents are, you know, overcharged. So I know for infants, people charge anywhere from - what, 300, 350 a week.

WOMAN: Not in D.C.


WOMAN: Way more than that.

JOHNSON: Really?

WOMAN: Yeah.

WOMAN: Yeah.

WOMAN: Yeah.

WOMAN: We figured a nanny would have been about 40,000 a year.


JOHNSON: Dollars?


JOHNSON: U.S. dollars?

WOMAN: U.S. dollars.


WOMAN: You can find it like 30, but it's still...

JOHNSON: Thousand?

WOMAN: For two infants though...

WOMAN: OK, yeah.

GRAHAM: She was like, I don't know how you think you're going to raise kids there with no infrastructure. Luckily - and I will sing the praises of the grandmother, my mother-in-law, who was with us, my eldest daughter, for a long time. And you cannot underestimate having a grandmother. It's one of the greatest inventions ever.


NORRIS: So who did you all think would take care of - you know, when you first thought about having children, it was still sort of the glimmer in your eye and you thought OK, I think I might go back to work, or I'm going to try to figure out this structure. Or if I don't go to work, I can at least get out of the house a little bit. And who did you think might take care of your child, and how does that match up with what actually happened?

FERGUSON: Because what if you don't want to go back to work - are you able to afford to stay home? Because, you know, that's like my only regret in my life, is that I didn't get to stay home for the first few years of my child's life because I didn't plan for it.

NORRIS: Well, you know, they need you just as much as they get older.

FERGUSON: Understood. But I feel - I feel like now, they're relying on you for everything. And you have to be at the Halloween parade. And you have to be at the, you know, whatever - Spirit Day. That's the hard part.

ANGELA TILGHMAN: Being a single parent...

NORRIS: Angela.

TILGHMAN: Sorry, this is Angela. Being a single parent, I knew when I was pregnant from - I mean, the moment I found out, I was like oh, gosh, how am I going to do this?


TILGHMAN: So, and you definitely go through sticker shock.

NORRIS: Any other pearls of wisdom?

GRAHAM: I think just making sure that you're a flexible person. I mean it's, you know, I've learned a lot more flexibility - and learned that sometimes, something that you may have said no to at the beginning - like, I don't think I can do that - well, when you have to, you do, especially with child care and taking care of your child. The bottom line is it has to be done, whatever it is. You know, so be flexible.

NORRIS: And before we say goodbye, thank you to all those people who watch children who are not their own.

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