Childcare: Figuring out what's best for your family

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  February 4, 2009 06:58 AM

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It's a predicament that all working parents have to face at some point, whether your kids are tiny and you have to go back to work or your children are older and you're trying to figure out how to handle the hours after school: How do you manage child care?

Not every family can afford to have one parent stay at home, and it's rare that a blended family can get by on one income. In our case, our finances dictated that neither my husband nor I could put our careers on hold and still pay the mortgage. So, for years one of us worked nights, the other worked days, and we traded off with the kids in the middle.

It was tag-team parenting at its finest. And it was a stress fest. My husband and I rarely saw each other. The kids had plenty of time with each of us, but very little time with both of us together. To make matters more difficult, my husband and I only had one day off in common, and that day was filled with each of us trying to "get stuff done."

We had two more kids together and figured we'd manage with our wonky schedule for a few more years, until the littles were old enough for kindergarten, but in 2007 my husband got a job offer with daytime hours that was just too good to pass up. I had just returned from maternity leave and felt like I had already used up any good will I had banked at the office, along with all of my vacation and sick time. Our big kids were older (and much more independent) by then, but I couldn't take time off while we figured out childcare for our youngest two kids. What were we going to do?

Evaluating your childcare options can be difficult even when you have plenty of time to prepare. Can you afford to stay home for a few years? Should Mom stay home, or should Dad? What do you ask the directors of a daycare center? How about when you're interviewing a nanny? Can you share child care with someone in your neighborhood? Is a home-daycare situation the right fit for your child? Should you look for part-time or full-time care? (You can benefit from my research: Here are a few things I wish I'd known when I was looking.)

We combed through our finances and examined our options and ended up choosing a new branch of an established daycare and preschool that had opened up in our town.

Fast-forward nearly two years. The initial guilt I felt about having them in "someone elseís care" was eclipsed only by the shock of the first monthly tuition bill, and both feelings were replaced by relief and amazement when I saw how they were thriving. They're so active and social -- much more so than when I was home with them during maternity leave (that's another blog post). Is it easy to drop them off at care each day? Not always. But it was absolutely the right choice for our family.

What do you do about childcare? How did you decide what worked best for your family?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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21 comments so far...
  1. Staying home was never an option for us. We need two incomes to pay the bills, my husband's job has better benefits, but I have better pay. We only have one child and she began daycare in a center when she was 3 months old. She stayed there until she went to kindergarten, and they were a phenomenal group, part of our family for six years. We have always been lucky that the grandmothers have helped A LOT. When our daughter was an infant, my mom took her two days a week. We ended up with benefits from having the social interactions at daycare and from having the one on one time with my mom. AND we saved a ton on infant care by having her with my mom those two days a week.
    I don't know that I could have been a good stay at home mom, regardless of the money factor. I certainly would have liked to work less (not really possible in the positions I've had since she was born), but I don't think I would have been doing anyone in our little family any favors if I was home all the time.
    Our daughter is in third grade now and attends the before and after school progams at her school. The grandparents still help out a lot so that she doesn't have long days every day, and I'm able to pick her up most Friday afternoons which is a treat for both of us. I worry about what will happen once she's in middle school, but I'm trying not to stress too much about it yet. So far, we've been lucky and have found the right mix for us. She's a great kid, very sociable and able to deal with different situations, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that she's been dealing with this since the beginning.

    Posted by finny February 4, 09 09:05 AM
  1. Ours was such a hard decision, but it boiled down to economics. We're very fortunate that my job covers the rent, the bills, the necessities and sometimes leaves extra for spending (after savings is taken care of). My husband's job, on the other hand, would have only paid for day care with nothing left over - and not even fully paid for it at that. I still would have had to contribute.

    So, when my maternity leave was up, my husband left work and became a stay-at-home father.

    It's not always easy. He's exhausted most days and relieved to see me. Our baby is incredibly active, an early walker at 9 months and runs circles around him. But she has thrived in ways I never expected. She's yet to be sick, she's extraordinarily social and not at all stranger shy. He takes her out at least twice a day and she's made "friends" all over the neighborhood. He'll also get her together with the baby next door who is also cared for by a stay at home father. The two dads spend a lot of time herding the babies, but the kids do play together, are happy to see each other and sometimes, if you can focus them, will play together with a toy for a long period of time which allows them to rest.

    Meanwhile, I still work my full time job, participate in my military reserve duties and bartend at my VFW once a month - but I'm always home from work by 3:30 in the afternoon, I don't stay overnight with the military unless I have to and all of my free time is devoted to playing with the baby, helping her father out along the way.

    We don't have family anywhere in the area we can rely on (he's from CA and my family moved out of the region a long time ago), but having my husband stay home has saved us a fortune and her social and physical development is thriving. Her pediatrician has been impressed from almost the moment she came home from the hospital. Her father encourages her independence and sociability, her love of music and favorite games. I do feel guilty sometimes that it's not me that's staying with her, but I don't know that I could do half as good a job that she does.

    Financially, we're OK for now. He'll go back to work when she's school age and we'll see what happens from there. But there's no way we could do this with both of us working and her in day care.

    Posted by phe February 4, 09 11:13 AM
  1. Our situation: My husband and I both work FT. Although we could get by on just one of our salaries, we wouldn't have the economic leverage that we've come to appreciate. Plus, he's still paying down law loans and I also have grad school loans to complete as well.

    Both our families are scattered across the US, so we have been pretty independent of any help. There have been numerous times that I've prayed my mom would just read my mind and jump on a plane to come help... It's been difficult, and quite scary at times, but I know in the end I'll consider it an accomplishment (some day).

    For now, we're using a nanny, but hope to get our daughter into a preschool in the fall. It's been such a struggle finding quality care that isn't over-priced in Boston. I just don't see how most families can afford to pay for childcare (center, nanny, in-home, anything...) while saving anything substantial!?

    Along with the cost, one of my other concerns is that many preschools end at 5 or 5:30. It's literally impossible for us to get out of work at 4:30 or 5 - anyone else deal with this issue? What do other's do? We're forced to consider an afternoon nanny who can pick her up from school, bring her home and stay with her until one of us arrives.

    Posted by I-guess-I'll-figure-it-out February 4, 09 12:24 PM
  1. We have two children who were both in day care. While we loved out particular daycare, the stress was killing us of rushing from place to place, and we never had quality time as a family. It was hard to ever get an 8 hour day in between the commute and daycare hours. My wife and I shared the drop offs and pickups, but her job was much more demanding and she often relied on me to pick up the slack. When our oldest was ready to start kindergarden last year, we reassessed and realized that my income, although high on paper, was very small after you deducted taxes, daycare and after-school costs. Also, we were eating out or take out ALOT, and that adds up! With that, we decided to have me stay at home with the kids and have not looked back once...

    I know people say that they they need two incomes to survive. I am sure that its true in MANY cases. But just reassess those things that you think are indispensable, and maybe you will see that it is doable. We as a society like to lament that we used to be able to get by on one salary, but at that time, we didn't have cable, cell phones, (necessarily) two cars, 3000 sq ft houses, internet, computers, etc. Now, some of these things are hard to do without these days, but decide which are important and which are unnecessary. Certainly you can shovel the snow and cut the lawn yourself and save big money.

    Again, we are fortunate and not everyone can do this, but after having done the two working parents / day care shuffle, we found this to be a better solution. Of course on days like today when I am sick at home with the flu, it is not easy to provide a stimulating environment for the kids. When healthy, it is much easier.

    Posted by bv February 4, 09 01:42 PM
  1. bv: I can totally relate. If you read my comment up top, it's impossible to imagine getting by on one salary, but we're doing it. We rarely eat out or eat take out. My husband and I do go out together once a month, alone...but our babysitters are friends (free!) or the girl next door who thinks 5 bucks an hour to listen to the monitor is great.

    We got rid of our cell phones (not needed), scaled back on unnecessary purchases and make things last longer. The result is money in the bank, better health from eating at home most nights and a happy baby.

    You're right - not everyone can do it and we're fortunate too. It's not easy, but it's nice to know that others do it too. Often, we get looks like we're nuts.


    Posted by phe February 4, 09 02:40 PM
  1. Thankfully, I made it to the other side of the infant and preschool childcare issues (still dealing with summer childcare issues). I think it is a very personal decision about whether and how much to work and what type of child care to use. There are many ways to raise happy, well adjusted children.

    Before my kids started school, I was able to work part-time. It really was a true gift to me. My kids went to daycare 3 days/week and I was home the other 2. My pay barely met the cost of daycare but I was able to pay for the family benefits (my husband's work did not offer them) and keep my skills sharp. Once I was ready to go full-time I quickly was able to take some promotions that earned me back the salary cuts I had taken to go part-time.

    I adored the daycare my kids attended. My kids still talk about the teachers, activities and some friends they made (they are now approaching their teens). Kindergarten was actually a disappointment for me because my children's preschool program was so enriching.

    Posted by Nancy Antunes February 4, 09 03:18 PM
  1. I'm just curious to know how other working parents handle the winter. I work part-time from which provides me a lot of flexibility. I definitely needed that flexibility the past two winters--my two little ones have been sick so often that I'm sure I would have been fired had I had a full-time job where I had to report to the office. Even working at home has been tough as I still need a sitter while I'm working and she can't get here when there's a storm. Couple that with the fatigue from being up with sick children almost every night.....if I can wait until they are older to go back full-time I certainly will--it's better than losing a job or my reputation.

    Posted by LJM396 February 4, 09 04:11 PM
  1. LJM396 that's a great question! For my first child, my mom watched my son the 4 days a week that I worked so it wasn't a big issue. With my second, my mom was again helpful but he was in daycare two days a week and I definitely felt the burden of constantly having to come in late or leave early for one ear infection after another. With my third, I was working at home three days so my absences due to a sick child were less noticeable but still, I could tell when my boss was having enough of dealing with this. Not to mention two other members of my 6-person team also have small children and go throught exact same thing. Overall, the compassion of a boss who had had small children in a dual income family (albeit a long time ago) was a huge help. On the upside, after the first one or two winters per child most have far fewer illnesses so it's not nearly as bad. I was going through some receipts from two years ago and we took our two little guys (ages one and three at the time) to the pedi a total of 10 times in two months. This winter, knock on wood, we haven't gone once. So I think that each family pieces it together day by day and over the years it just gets better. The one piece of advice I have is to make sure that both parents assume some sick day responsibility. Often times it ends up falling entirely on the primary caregiver even though it wouldn't kill the other spouse to use a vacation day every now and again to take care of the kids. In my office, communicating that my co-workers or I would need to be out in the morning but that our spouse was taking the afternoon shift so that we could come in for a few hours went a long way towards maintaining goodwill in the workplace.

    Posted by Jen February 4, 09 05:23 PM
  1. I realize there are many that do *need* a second income to survive, however, I do not consider the extra's things I *need* to survive and I gladly do without to be home with my girls.

    It has been almost nine years and it has not been easy. I can't imagine not having been there for my girls for the sake of a bigger home, better car, more material things, hair/nails etc. For most if you factor the cost of your commute, cost of work clothing, dry cleaning, cost of daycare, cost of buying more "convenience items" etc. you will realize staying home is not out of your reach. I'll gladly mow my own lawn, shovel, eat more at home etc. to be home with my kids. Life is short and kids grow up too damn quickly to miss out on the little things. :-)

    Posted by momfirst February 4, 09 06:58 PM
  1. For me it wasn't a question. I love my son more than anything in the world, but I love my job too. I love working and knowing that I am able to support myself and be a mom and raise my son well. Now that I'm divorced, I know it was the right decision to keep working. I still love my job and my son.

    We all make our choices. Do not judge others if they didn't make the same ones you did. Offer encouragement and support, perhaps the tricks you learned. The world is an amazing place because we are all different.

    Posted by SB February 5, 09 08:39 AM
  1. I started out working full time after the birth of my first child and after he turned one cut back to 3 full days and two half days. After my second child, I cut back to just 3 full days at work. When the younger entered preschool, it changed to school hours 4 days with one day off. We started out with a home day care when the children were infants and moved to a todder/preschool/K center. Both situations worked out well for us but we were lucky that our kids were social, healthy and loved being at daycare. Other parents whose kids had health issues, separation issues and social problems had it much harder. My career has certainly taken a beating for it but with a husband that travels a lot for work and two very high energy children, I was happy to get off the fast track and onto the mommy track. That said, my staying home full time was not right for us. Having me as a backup income takes a load of stress off my husband and, since I also carry the family health insurance, allowed him to take some risks with his career, twice jumping from unhappy, although stable, job situations into start ups, both of which greatly advanced his career and his happiness. Although the childcare costs were high, they are over now and there is no way I'd be able to make as much as I do now, reentering the work force as a part timer after 5 years off. Given the time demands my husband's work requires, I truly feel that we would fall apart as a family if I didn't work part time. My children thrive on the sports and music activities that I can drive them to after school and they have many more options for summer day camp than the one "boring" 7:30-5:30 camp that the town provides. By using my day off to run errands and do chores around the house, we have more family time on the weekends. It's not for everyone but right now it's what works for us.

    Posted by Cordelia Potter February 5, 09 09:36 AM
  1. I'm pregnant with twins and after doing the research on the local daycare centers (and nannies) for two infants it's clear that I'd be working to pay my commuting costs and fund my 401k plan. We're currently working on a budget and saving like mad to prepare for life on hubby's income. We won't have any "extra" but we'll manage. And if I go back to work we won't have much extra anyway - along with the stress of daycare dropoff/pickup - who stays home when they're sick etc.
    If things get too tight we're completely open to moving to another part of the country where life is less expensive (especially housing).

    Posted by twinstobe February 5, 09 09:39 AM
  1. My husband and I have always worked full time during the day. So our kids have been in daycare since they were 3 months old. We did the Kindercare route for both, it was a little pricy, but well worth it. We cut other things out to make it work. We would not have been able to afford to have one of us stay home. Then we did the home day route and was very happy with the care our kids received as well as the cost savings. We always had the dilmea of if they were sick who would take the day off, but we just alternated. Our kids now are 7 and 9 so they are in school all day and attend afterschool care. For the past 2 years my husband works 3-11. SO summers, school vacations, sicknees, he is home most of the day and then we work out the remained few hours. During the summer, we do have a babysitter.

    But only you as a parent can make the decision if you can and want to stay home. My kdis have always been very happy in daycare and love the afterschool program. When I do pick them up our time is very special make the most out of weekend as well.
    So don't let anyone pressure you on what should be done, you make the decision you want and that should be enough

    Posted by mom2kids February 5, 09 09:45 AM
  1. My husband and I both work full time. And we're lucky that we both have a lot of flexibility with our jobs, and fantastic bosses. We both work from home 2-3 days a week and we're very satisfied with our arrangement. Our children (4 and 2) both go to daycare (obviously, we can't work from home if they are around) and when they're sick, we both work from home so that we can tag-team throughout the day (we both have conference calls, meetings, etc). The girls are at daycare anywhere between 6 and 8 hours a day. They are very well-adjusted and love their friends and teachers. We spend a lot of time together as a family in the evenings and weekends (i.e. we all go grocery shopping together, etc) to make up for the time we're at work.

    I work because I want to, and not because I have to. Both my parents worked and I respected the choice they made. Our family is very close. I never felt that my parents were not there for me. We spent a lot of time together on the weekends, going places, reading together, etc.

    My husband and I both love our jobs. We also love the little luxuries of live - we travel a lot throughout the year as a family - so the double income definitely helps. We are lucky that we have found a wonderful family-owned daycare center where each class has 2 primary teachers (instead of one primary and one float). So the kids see the same faces all day long for a year. Because it's family-owned, it's very affordable ($1400/mth for both kids).

    Posted by NHmom February 5, 09 10:23 AM
  1. I have 3 kids spaced out over 10 years. Iíve worked at home FT and PT, worked in offices, stayed at home completely Ė every scenario over the last 13 years. Iíve used sitters in the home (for older kids, after school) as well as day care centers. Always had terrific luck.

    Whatever oneís ability is to live on a shoe-string is not so important in their decision. Itís whatever works and feels comfortable to you. If you are adverse to risk and need financial comfort/stability, continuing to work may be good even if you hand over 70% to your DC providers Ė long term itís a good choice to bank the extra $ and fund retirement and college. And with 3 kids we expect to go to college, even if we scrimped/saved for years when they were young, those years fly and Iím not sure how weíd ever expect to help out, even for a public univ. Weíll be retiring (hopefully) shortly after they graduate college, I donít know how we would ever retire if we didnít have at least 1.5 incomes, given so much of what weíve diligently saved through 401k and 528 has hit basement.

    Being old and wise in juggling it all while working FT with 3 kids...donít care what anyone else decides and donít decide because you feel itís a badge of honor to be a SAHM. I am so happy, during these bad financial times that I can contribute financially to the family if my husband should be laid off (my job is very secure, his not so secure). Thirteen years ago when deciding whether to leave or stay in the workforce I never would have seen what was coming, I am so thankful I have modern skills and a professional salary. After 13 years off, if I entered workforce again Iíd have little flexibility and pay, instead I have amazing flexibility and very good pay. Had to take off an hour early Tuesday and all of Weds off b/c of child illness and activity scheduling changes. Thatíd be tough w/o my work situation which took years of trust and credibility to work up to.

    One more thing...those of you with infants/toddlers who think itís easier when they go to school will be in for a shock. Daycare centers and nannies have much more regular schedules than public schools and afterschool/sport activities. Itís crazy now that most of mine are in public schools, I long for the days of simplicity and being able to take them where they need to be on MY schedule lol.

    Posted by BTDTwithluv February 5, 09 12:27 PM
  1. For us a live-in nanny is the only option that made sense economically. She is less expensive than 1 day care plus two after-schools, plus she cooks and cleans and I don't have to get off work early. It is good for her too, because she has everything taken care of, so she can just spend the money on herself and her retirement.
    I feel guilty that i cannot afford a preschool, but he benefits so much from one-on one attention. He is much happier than his brothers were, when they were toddlers and went to day care.

    Posted by elena February 5, 09 12:32 PM
  1. My husband and I both work FT, but because he works in a retail job, he's able to make his own hours and work around my M-F job so that our daughter only has to go to daycare 2 days a week. He's home with her the other 3 days. It's a great balance and I'm home by 4 most days so I get plenty of time with her.

    She's 17 months old now and has been going to daycare since she was 4 months old and we feel it has really aided us in her learning and development. She started walking at 10 months and is a very social little girl. By comparison, my 2 nieces are 3 and 1 and raised by my stay at home sister. Both girls are painfully shy and were behind the curve in each stage of their physical development. The 1 year old just started to crawl, never mind walk.

    It's not for everyone. My husband and I did the math just like others and while we could have survived if he had given up his job and become a stay at home dad, at least we have a little extra money to put towards her college fund and she's been able to make lots of friends!

    Posted by Melissa February 5, 09 12:52 PM
  1. Melissa - don't judge kids' developmental milestones. I've had 3 kids in daycare, and all 3 developed at their own pace. Daycare vs. home does not make the difference, and if/when you have a second child, you'll see how much is nature vs. nurture. I have one girl who is also very shy, and she went through daycare from age 4 mos - Kindegarten, and she's still shy in middle school. It has nothing to do with daycare vs. home. Maybe you feel better about your working decision by attributing your daughters development to daycare, but it's just not the case. Accept your decision to work as it is, don't have to compare to other's or put down their choices.

    Posted by BTDTwithluv February 6, 09 11:32 AM
  1. melissa: Our daughter is 9 months old and walking. She's also extremely outgoing and social, both with little kids and adults. She's energetic and active and her pediatrician just described her as a "happy, healthy handful with loads of personality".

    Her faather is a stay at hom dad and she's never spent a day in day care. Perhaps it's simply your sister's method of child raising or even something else entirely? Our next door neighbor's 12 month old is also raised by a stay-at-home dad. She's active, energetic and social...but not yet walking which isn't exactly abnormal. It's our early walkers who defy "normality"! : )

    This isn't to put down your decision - but I sometimes think that too many people place accolade - and blame! - where it isn't necessarily warranted.

    Posted by phe February 6, 09 12:43 PM
  1. Melissa: as mentioned earlier, we both work and our kids are in daycare. My second child started crawling at 12 months and walking at 19 months. So I agree with the other posted. Daycare/stayathome parents have nothing to do with development. It's actually hereditary - if one parent was a late walker/crawler, it's not unusual for a child to inherit that trait.

    That said, my "late walker" is now 2, and is off the charts for her cognitive, problem solving and social skills. She is still behind on her gross motor and speech. She chose to focus on other stuff, instead of walking!

    Posted by NHmom February 11, 09 05:15 AM
  1. Has anyone had good or bad experiences with infant care in the Longwood/Fenway area? Does anyone know where to get good information on what the options are around there? Thanks!

    Posted by mk2323 February 23, 10 05:04 PM
 
21 comments so far...
  1. Staying home was never an option for us. We need two incomes to pay the bills, my husband's job has better benefits, but I have better pay. We only have one child and she began daycare in a center when she was 3 months old. She stayed there until she went to kindergarten, and they were a phenomenal group, part of our family for six years. We have always been lucky that the grandmothers have helped A LOT. When our daughter was an infant, my mom took her two days a week. We ended up with benefits from having the social interactions at daycare and from having the one on one time with my mom. AND we saved a ton on infant care by having her with my mom those two days a week.
    I don't know that I could have been a good stay at home mom, regardless of the money factor. I certainly would have liked to work less (not really possible in the positions I've had since she was born), but I don't think I would have been doing anyone in our little family any favors if I was home all the time.
    Our daughter is in third grade now and attends the before and after school progams at her school. The grandparents still help out a lot so that she doesn't have long days every day, and I'm able to pick her up most Friday afternoons which is a treat for both of us. I worry about what will happen once she's in middle school, but I'm trying not to stress too much about it yet. So far, we've been lucky and have found the right mix for us. She's a great kid, very sociable and able to deal with different situations, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that she's been dealing with this since the beginning.

    Posted by finny February 4, 09 09:05 AM
  1. Ours was such a hard decision, but it boiled down to economics. We're very fortunate that my job covers the rent, the bills, the necessities and sometimes leaves extra for spending (after savings is taken care of). My husband's job, on the other hand, would have only paid for day care with nothing left over - and not even fully paid for it at that. I still would have had to contribute.

    So, when my maternity leave was up, my husband left work and became a stay-at-home father.

    It's not always easy. He's exhausted most days and relieved to see me. Our baby is incredibly active, an early walker at 9 months and runs circles around him. But she has thrived in ways I never expected. She's yet to be sick, she's extraordinarily social and not at all stranger shy. He takes her out at least twice a day and she's made "friends" all over the neighborhood. He'll also get her together with the baby next door who is also cared for by a stay at home father. The two dads spend a lot of time herding the babies, but the kids do play together, are happy to see each other and sometimes, if you can focus them, will play together with a toy for a long period of time which allows them to rest.

    Meanwhile, I still work my full time job, participate in my military reserve duties and bartend at my VFW once a month - but I'm always home from work by 3:30 in the afternoon, I don't stay overnight with the military unless I have to and all of my free time is devoted to playing with the baby, helping her father out along the way.

    We don't have family anywhere in the area we can rely on (he's from CA and my family moved out of the region a long time ago), but having my husband stay home has saved us a fortune and her social and physical development is thriving. Her pediatrician has been impressed from almost the moment she came home from the hospital. Her father encourages her independence and sociability, her love of music and favorite games. I do feel guilty sometimes that it's not me that's staying with her, but I don't know that I could do half as good a job that she does.

    Financially, we're OK for now. He'll go back to work when she's school age and we'll see what happens from there. But there's no way we could do this with both of us working and her in day care.

    Posted by phe February 4, 09 11:13 AM
  1. Our situation: My husband and I both work FT. Although we could get by on just one of our salaries, we wouldn't have the economic leverage that we've come to appreciate. Plus, he's still paying down law loans and I also have grad school loans to complete as well.

    Both our families are scattered across the US, so we have been pretty independent of any help. There have been numerous times that I've prayed my mom would just read my mind and jump on a plane to come help... It's been difficult, and quite scary at times, but I know in the end I'll consider it an accomplishment (some day).

    For now, we're using a nanny, but hope to get our daughter into a preschool in the fall. It's been such a struggle finding quality care that isn't over-priced in Boston. I just don't see how most families can afford to pay for childcare (center, nanny, in-home, anything...) while saving anything substantial!?

    Along with the cost, one of my other concerns is that many preschools end at 5 or 5:30. It's literally impossible for us to get out of work at 4:30 or 5 - anyone else deal with this issue? What do other's do? We're forced to consider an afternoon nanny who can pick her up from school, bring her home and stay with her until one of us arrives.

    Posted by I-guess-I'll-figure-it-out February 4, 09 12:24 PM
  1. We have two children who were both in day care. While we loved out particular daycare, the stress was killing us of rushing from place to place, and we never had quality time as a family. It was hard to ever get an 8 hour day in between the commute and daycare hours. My wife and I shared the drop offs and pickups, but her job was much more demanding and she often relied on me to pick up the slack. When our oldest was ready to start kindergarden last year, we reassessed and realized that my income, although high on paper, was very small after you deducted taxes, daycare and after-school costs. Also, we were eating out or take out ALOT, and that adds up! With that, we decided to have me stay at home with the kids and have not looked back once...

    I know people say that they they need two incomes to survive. I am sure that its true in MANY cases. But just reassess those things that you think are indispensable, and maybe you will see that it is doable. We as a society like to lament that we used to be able to get by on one salary, but at that time, we didn't have cable, cell phones, (necessarily) two cars, 3000 sq ft houses, internet, computers, etc. Now, some of these things are hard to do without these days, but decide which are important and which are unnecessary. Certainly you can shovel the snow and cut the lawn yourself and save big money.

    Again, we are fortunate and not everyone can do this, but after having done the two working parents / day care shuffle, we found this to be a better solution. Of course on days like today when I am sick at home with the flu, it is not easy to provide a stimulating environment for the kids. When healthy, it is much easier.

    Posted by bv February 4, 09 01:42 PM
  1. bv: I can totally relate. If you read my comment up top, it's impossible to imagine getting by on one salary, but we're doing it. We rarely eat out or eat take out. My husband and I do go out together once a month, alone...but our babysitters are friends (free!) or the girl next door who thinks 5 bucks an hour to listen to the monitor is great.

    We got rid of our cell phones (not needed), scaled back on unnecessary purchases and make things last longer. The result is money in the bank, better health from eating at home most nights and a happy baby.

    You're right - not everyone can do it and we're fortunate too. It's not easy, but it's nice to know that others do it too. Often, we get looks like we're nuts.


    Posted by phe February 4, 09 02:40 PM
  1. Thankfully, I made it to the other side of the infant and preschool childcare issues (still dealing with summer childcare issues). I think it is a very personal decision about whether and how much to work and what type of child care to use. There are many ways to raise happy, well adjusted children.

    Before my kids started school, I was able to work part-time. It really was a true gift to me. My kids went to daycare 3 days/week and I was home the other 2. My pay barely met the cost of daycare but I was able to pay for the family benefits (my husband's work did not offer them) and keep my skills sharp. Once I was ready to go full-time I quickly was able to take some promotions that earned me back the salary cuts I had taken to go part-time.

    I adored the daycare my kids attended. My kids still talk about the teachers, activities and some friends they made (they are now approaching their teens). Kindergarten was actually a disappointment for me because my children's preschool program was so enriching.

    Posted by Nancy Antunes February 4, 09 03:18 PM
  1. I'm just curious to know how other working parents handle the winter. I work part-time from which provides me a lot of flexibility. I definitely needed that flexibility the past two winters--my two little ones have been sick so often that I'm sure I would have been fired had I had a full-time job where I had to report to the office. Even working at home has been tough as I still need a sitter while I'm working and she can't get here when there's a storm. Couple that with the fatigue from being up with sick children almost every night.....if I can wait until they are older to go back full-time I certainly will--it's better than losing a job or my reputation.

    Posted by LJM396 February 4, 09 04:11 PM
  1. LJM396 that's a great question! For my first child, my mom watched my son the 4 days a week that I worked so it wasn't a big issue. With my second, my mom was again helpful but he was in daycare two days a week and I definitely felt the burden of constantly having to come in late or leave early for one ear infection after another. With my third, I was working at home three days so my absences due to a sick child were less noticeable but still, I could tell when my boss was having enough of dealing with this. Not to mention two other members of my 6-person team also have small children and go throught exact same thing. Overall, the compassion of a boss who had had small children in a dual income family (albeit a long time ago) was a huge help. On the upside, after the first one or two winters per child most have far fewer illnesses so it's not nearly as bad. I was going through some receipts from two years ago and we took our two little guys (ages one and three at the time) to the pedi a total of 10 times in two months. This winter, knock on wood, we haven't gone once. So I think that each family pieces it together day by day and over the years it just gets better. The one piece of advice I have is to make sure that both parents assume some sick day responsibility. Often times it ends up falling entirely on the primary caregiver even though it wouldn't kill the other spouse to use a vacation day every now and again to take care of the kids. In my office, communicating that my co-workers or I would need to be out in the morning but that our spouse was taking the afternoon shift so that we could come in for a few hours went a long way towards maintaining goodwill in the workplace.

    Posted by Jen February 4, 09 05:23 PM
  1. I realize there are many that do *need* a second income to survive, however, I do not consider the extra's things I *need* to survive and I gladly do without to be home with my girls.

    It has been almost nine years and it has not been easy. I can't imagine not having been there for my girls for the sake of a bigger home, better car, more material things, hair/nails etc. For most if you factor the cost of your commute, cost of work clothing, dry cleaning, cost of daycare, cost of buying more "convenience items" etc. you will realize staying home is not out of your reach. I'll gladly mow my own lawn, shovel, eat more at home etc. to be home with my kids. Life is short and kids grow up too damn quickly to miss out on the little things. :-)

    Posted by momfirst February 4, 09 06:58 PM
  1. For me it wasn't a question. I love my son more than anything in the world, but I love my job too. I love working and knowing that I am able to support myself and be a mom and raise my son well. Now that I'm divorced, I know it was the right decision to keep working. I still love my job and my son.

    We all make our choices. Do not judge others if they didn't make the same ones you did. Offer encouragement and support, perhaps the tricks you learned. The world is an amazing place because we are all different.

    Posted by SB February 5, 09 08:39 AM
  1. I started out working full time after the birth of my first child and after he turned one cut back to 3 full days and two half days. After my second child, I cut back to just 3 full days at work. When the younger entered preschool, it changed to school hours 4 days with one day off. We started out with a home day care when the children were infants and moved to a todder/preschool/K center. Both situations worked out well for us but we were lucky that our kids were social, healthy and loved being at daycare. Other parents whose kids had health issues, separation issues and social problems had it much harder. My career has certainly taken a beating for it but with a husband that travels a lot for work and two very high energy children, I was happy to get off the fast track and onto the mommy track. That said, my staying home full time was not right for us. Having me as a backup income takes a load of stress off my husband and, since I also carry the family health insurance, allowed him to take some risks with his career, twice jumping from unhappy, although stable, job situations into start ups, both of which greatly advanced his career and his happiness. Although the childcare costs were high, they are over now and there is no way I'd be able to make as much as I do now, reentering the work force as a part timer after 5 years off. Given the time demands my husband's work requires, I truly feel that we would fall apart as a family if I didn't work part time. My children thrive on the sports and music activities that I can drive them to after school and they have many more options for summer day camp than the one "boring" 7:30-5:30 camp that the town provides. By using my day off to run errands and do chores around the house, we have more family time on the weekends. It's not for everyone but right now it's what works for us.

    Posted by Cordelia Potter February 5, 09 09:36 AM
  1. I'm pregnant with twins and after doing the research on the local daycare centers (and nannies) for two infants it's clear that I'd be working to pay my commuting costs and fund my 401k plan. We're currently working on a budget and saving like mad to prepare for life on hubby's income. We won't have any "extra" but we'll manage. And if I go back to work we won't have much extra anyway - along with the stress of daycare dropoff/pickup - who stays home when they're sick etc.
    If things get too tight we're completely open to moving to another part of the country where life is less expensive (especially housing).

    Posted by twinstobe February 5, 09 09:39 AM
  1. My husband and I have always worked full time during the day. So our kids have been in daycare since they were 3 months old. We did the Kindercare route for both, it was a little pricy, but well worth it. We cut other things out to make it work. We would not have been able to afford to have one of us stay home. Then we did the home day route and was very happy with the care our kids received as well as the cost savings. We always had the dilmea of if they were sick who would take the day off, but we just alternated. Our kids now are 7 and 9 so they are in school all day and attend afterschool care. For the past 2 years my husband works 3-11. SO summers, school vacations, sicknees, he is home most of the day and then we work out the remained few hours. During the summer, we do have a babysitter.

    But only you as a parent can make the decision if you can and want to stay home. My kdis have always been very happy in daycare and love the afterschool program. When I do pick them up our time is very special make the most out of weekend as well.
    So don't let anyone pressure you on what should be done, you make the decision you want and that should be enough

    Posted by mom2kids February 5, 09 09:45 AM
  1. My husband and I both work full time. And we're lucky that we both have a lot of flexibility with our jobs, and fantastic bosses. We both work from home 2-3 days a week and we're very satisfied with our arrangement. Our children (4 and 2) both go to daycare (obviously, we can't work from home if they are around) and when they're sick, we both work from home so that we can tag-team throughout the day (we both have conference calls, meetings, etc). The girls are at daycare anywhere between 6 and 8 hours a day. They are very well-adjusted and love their friends and teachers. We spend a lot of time together as a family in the evenings and weekends (i.e. we all go grocery shopping together, etc) to make up for the time we're at work.

    I work because I want to, and not because I have to. Both my parents worked and I respected the choice they made. Our family is very close. I never felt that my parents were not there for me. We spent a lot of time together on the weekends, going places, reading together, etc.

    My husband and I both love our jobs. We also love the little luxuries of live - we travel a lot throughout the year as a family - so the double income definitely helps. We are lucky that we have found a wonderful family-owned daycare center where each class has 2 primary teachers (instead of one primary and one float). So the kids see the same faces all day long for a year. Because it's family-owned, it's very affordable ($1400/mth for both kids).

    Posted by NHmom February 5, 09 10:23 AM
  1. I have 3 kids spaced out over 10 years. Iíve worked at home FT and PT, worked in offices, stayed at home completely Ė every scenario over the last 13 years. Iíve used sitters in the home (for older kids, after school) as well as day care centers. Always had terrific luck.

    Whatever oneís ability is to live on a shoe-string is not so important in their decision. Itís whatever works and feels comfortable to you. If you are adverse to risk and need financial comfort/stability, continuing to work may be good even if you hand over 70% to your DC providers Ė long term itís a good choice to bank the extra $ and fund retirement and college. And with 3 kids we expect to go to college, even if we scrimped/saved for years when they were young, those years fly and Iím not sure how weíd ever expect to help out, even for a public univ. Weíll be retiring (hopefully) shortly after they graduate college, I donít know how we would ever retire if we didnít have at least 1.5 incomes, given so much of what weíve diligently saved through 401k and 528 has hit basement.

    Being old and wise in juggling it all while working FT with 3 kids...donít care what anyone else decides and donít decide because you feel itís a badge of honor to be a SAHM. I am so happy, during these bad financial times that I can contribute financially to the family if my husband should be laid off (my job is very secure, his not so secure). Thirteen years ago when deciding whether to leave or stay in the workforce I never would have seen what was coming, I am so thankful I have modern skills and a professional salary. After 13 years off, if I entered workforce again Iíd have little flexibility and pay, instead I have amazing flexibility and very good pay. Had to take off an hour early Tuesday and all of Weds off b/c of child illness and activity scheduling changes. Thatíd be tough w/o my work situation which took years of trust and credibility to work up to.

    One more thing...those of you with infants/toddlers who think itís easier when they go to school will be in for a shock. Daycare centers and nannies have much more regular schedules than public schools and afterschool/sport activities. Itís crazy now that most of mine are in public schools, I long for the days of simplicity and being able to take them where they need to be on MY schedule lol.

    Posted by BTDTwithluv February 5, 09 12:27 PM
  1. For us a live-in nanny is the only option that made sense economically. She is less expensive than 1 day care plus two after-schools, plus she cooks and cleans and I don't have to get off work early. It is good for her too, because she has everything taken care of, so she can just spend the money on herself and her retirement.
    I feel guilty that i cannot afford a preschool, but he benefits so much from one-on one attention. He is much happier than his brothers were, when they were toddlers and went to day care.

    Posted by elena February 5, 09 12:32 PM
  1. My husband and I both work FT, but because he works in a retail job, he's able to make his own hours and work around my M-F job so that our daughter only has to go to daycare 2 days a week. He's home with her the other 3 days. It's a great balance and I'm home by 4 most days so I get plenty of time with her.

    She's 17 months old now and has been going to daycare since she was 4 months old and we feel it has really aided us in her learning and development. She started walking at 10 months and is a very social little girl. By comparison, my 2 nieces are 3 and 1 and raised by my stay at home sister. Both girls are painfully shy and were behind the curve in each stage of their physical development. The 1 year old just started to crawl, never mind walk.

    It's not for everyone. My husband and I did the math just like others and while we could have survived if he had given up his job and become a stay at home dad, at least we have a little extra money to put towards her college fund and she's been able to make lots of friends!

    Posted by Melissa February 5, 09 12:52 PM
  1. Melissa - don't judge kids' developmental milestones. I've had 3 kids in daycare, and all 3 developed at their own pace. Daycare vs. home does not make the difference, and if/when you have a second child, you'll see how much is nature vs. nurture. I have one girl who is also very shy, and she went through daycare from age 4 mos - Kindegarten, and she's still shy in middle school. It has nothing to do with daycare vs. home. Maybe you feel better about your working decision by attributing your daughters development to daycare, but it's just not the case. Accept your decision to work as it is, don't have to compare to other's or put down their choices.

    Posted by BTDTwithluv February 6, 09 11:32 AM
  1. melissa: Our daughter is 9 months old and walking. She's also extremely outgoing and social, both with little kids and adults. She's energetic and active and her pediatrician just described her as a "happy, healthy handful with loads of personality".

    Her faather is a stay at hom dad and she's never spent a day in day care. Perhaps it's simply your sister's method of child raising or even something else entirely? Our next door neighbor's 12 month old is also raised by a stay-at-home dad. She's active, energetic and social...but not yet walking which isn't exactly abnormal. It's our early walkers who defy "normality"! : )

    This isn't to put down your decision - but I sometimes think that too many people place accolade - and blame! - where it isn't necessarily warranted.

    Posted by phe February 6, 09 12:43 PM
  1. Melissa: as mentioned earlier, we both work and our kids are in daycare. My second child started crawling at 12 months and walking at 19 months. So I agree with the other posted. Daycare/stayathome parents have nothing to do with development. It's actually hereditary - if one parent was a late walker/crawler, it's not unusual for a child to inherit that trait.

    That said, my "late walker" is now 2, and is off the charts for her cognitive, problem solving and social skills. She is still behind on her gross motor and speech. She chose to focus on other stuff, instead of walking!

    Posted by NHmom February 11, 09 05:15 AM
  1. Has anyone had good or bad experiences with infant care in the Longwood/Fenway area? Does anyone know where to get good information on what the options are around there? Thanks!

    Posted by mk2323 February 23, 10 05:04 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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