Few people enjoy going back to work after a vacation, and the return to normalcy can be even more difficult after a major life event, like having a baby. If you will be paying for childcare when you return to work, the costs can be staggering depending on where you live. For infant and toddler care, the US average cost for one child at a day care center is $972 per month. In cities like Boston and San Francisco, new parents may pay up to $2,000 per month. Costs decrease as children grow older and become more independent but still can be overwhelming. For new parents adjusting to a change in lifestyle or families adding another child, here are ways to have peace of mind about your childcare and your bank account.
If you or your spouse has a flexible job schedule, you may be able to have one parent home at most times, which can eliminate or greatly decrease costs. Telecommuting or changing work hours allows you to spend more time with your children, which also eases the guilt that many working parents feel when leaving their children with someone else. This means less time together for the parents each day, so be sure to schedule some alone time at least once a week to keep the relationship strong.
If you are staying home to take care of children but can’t seem to get housework done, consider hiring preteens as mother’s helpers. They can provide the basic care and supervision while you get work done, but if there is an emergency you are still readily available. They charge less per hour than an older sitter or a daycare center and generally have enough energy to actively play with the children for several hours. In a few years you will have a reliable babysitter who knows the children well and has already proven to be dependable.
If rearranging your work schedule is not an option, you still have resources. Friends, coworkers and neighbors who also have children may be struggling with childcare costs as well, and you can all benefit from a babysitting co-op. Parents in the co-op take turns babysitting, so all members know that their children are in good hands and in a safe environment. Many children appreciate having playmates, and all parents in the co-op save money. If your co-op is small, for example less than five children, you can hire one babysitter and pay him or her extra rather than hiring several babysitters separately.
If you have trouble paying cash for a babysitter, consider a barter system. Maybe you play an instrument, have a green thumb, enjoy cooking gourmet foods or make your own jewelry. You may be able to trade your services to benefit both parties. If you prefer traditional payment structures, there are resources to help you find the lowest price for childcare in your area. Your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency or the Child Care Aware website provides resources to find daycare centers, contact home daycare providers and compare costs in your area. Your child or children are precious to you, and leaving them in good hands shouldn’t cost you a fortune.