As day care costs skyrocket and salaries in the workplace plateau out, working parents are taking a long hard look at the cost/benefit ratio of paying for a child’s care outside the home versus at-home parenting. The average daycare center charges nearly three hundred dollars a week in most mid-size to large metro areas. Doctor studies show that children in daycare are more likely to pick up airborne and physical contact illnesses than children raised at home during the early years. That means more visits to the doctor. The math is becoming alarmingly simple for most working parents -- unless you are making a hundred grand plus a year, you are spending an inordinate amount of your income on allowing strangers to raise your children.
But the financial experts are also quick to point out that if your job includes a decent 401(K) retirement plan, or another type of good pension plan, you may want to give some very serious thought to giving up such a guarantee to future financial security. While many Millennials and younger demographics are counting on future Social Security income to tide them over in their old age, recent headlines from Washington hint at financial shipwreck in the not too distant future for this government savings program. Plus Americans are living a good ten years longer, on average, than their parents did -- which puts an additional strain on the budget of those wanting to enjoy their ‘golden years.’ A solid retirement income can take the financial and emotional strain off of children who otherwise will become totally or partially responsible for their parent’s upkeep and wellbeing. No parent wishes to burden their children with such a potentially expensive and emotionally-draining situation.
So as you consider your responsibilities to yourself and to your children, make sure you are asking yourself the right kind of questions --
What’s the long term cost?
Working a job is not the same thing as having a career. A job, especially one that is not full-time and has no benefits, brings in money to pay the bills -- there’s no expectation of much satisfaction or future in it, whether it’s cashiering, assembly-line work, or flipping burgers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with work, of course -- but is it really wise to put plain work ahead of parenting? Especially when child care costs continue to escalate while the minimum wage is stuck in the mud? A career, on the other hand, suggests the possibility of advancement and the inclusion of a benefits package that can only get better with time. The old factory/union jobs, where you basically trade your life for the promise of healthcare and college for your children, is no longer a viable career path for Americans. To get ahead you need to be working in the hard sciences or MBA-related fields, as well as healthcare and the financial industry. These kinds of jobs can reward you well as the years pile up, making it worthwhile to ‘farm out’ your children for a period of time.
And short term?
As more businesses add flextime, no-commute days, and parental/family leave to their mix of benefits, parents may be able to juggle their schedules in such a way that very little actual money has to be spent on childcare. Add to this mix grandparents and other family members who may be available to care for your children for free or at an economical rate, and it still may be possible for parents to rack up a respectable retirement account and progress in their career without having to ‘sacrifice’ everything for their children.
The bottom line is that children thrive best when they feel secure. If this can best be done with a parent staying home, well and good -- but parents who work carefully at mixing careers with parenting can give their children just as much stability. The choice is up to you, as a conscientious father and/or mother!