Paige Connell, 33, is forking over about $5,000 a month to ensure her four kids have childcare.
She has two kids in daycare and one in kindergarten, and she pays a part-time au pair for her youngest. Altogether, she said, the cost of childcare is more than what she pays for her mortgage.
"It somewhat limits us, right? We need the childcare in order for us to work and to kind of build the future that we're looking to have as a family and for our children," she said.
As a millennial parent, Connell isn't alone in having to shape her life and finances around the burdensome cost of care. Connell lives in Massachusetts, where the Annie E. Casey Foundation has found the average annual cost of center-based childcare for toddlers is $19,961.
That tracks with what she pays: $3,250 a month for two day-care spots, and up to $2,500 a month for the au pair.
"The biggest issue we've come into is actually lack of childcare," she said. "One of the reasons we actually have an au pair is because day care kept shutting down." She added that no day care would be able to take on their youngest until April.
Connell works from home — so in the mornings and after the workday she's back on childcare duty. Her husband's work as a utility lineman means he can't work from home, and he's often called for storm duty. And while both Connell and her spouse make six figures, she said childcare is "probably the thing that costs us the most."
"It's almost like $2,000 more than our mortgage," she said. "I mean, that is a pretty significant dollar amount for us. It is the thing that we pay the most money for, for sure."
Many millennials think they'll never be able to afford kids
Millennials and Gen Zers say they're facing a pretty bleak economic picture. In a Deloitte survey of over 22,000 members of both generations across the globe, about half of millennials and about half of Gen Zers reported living paycheck to paycheck.
Many respondents suggested they saw traditional milestones as out of reach. About half of Gen Zers and 47% of millennials said they expected starting a family to become harder or impossible. That's something Connell and her peers are navigating firsthand.
"Most of my friends — pretty much all of my friends — have stopped at two and don't plan to have another," Connell said. "Some even stopped at one."
Connell said that when it came to having a fourth child, she and her husband discussed whether they could afford another baby. She said they also had to be "strategic" about the timing, since they were using IVF.
Connell learned that timing could also be particularly important for childcare costs. One of her children is a so-called cutoff baby: Her November birthday meant she missed the birthdate cutoff for starting school, requiring another year of childcare.
"It's an additional $20,000 to $30,000 for her for that extra year of childcare," Connell said. "That's a consideration as well."
She said her family's budget meant each child could generally do only one activity a session or quarter, depending on how activities bill. "We can't afford everything that maybe our kids would want," she added. Vacations are local, because flying with four kids is pricey.
"As these kids age out of childcare, our budget opens up a little bit more for each one to be able to do more, to do multiple sports in a season, or to go on a bigger family vacation," she said.
A whole new generation of parenting
Connell's situation showcases the financial and social disconnect among different generations of parents, even recent ones.
"People are always so shocked to find out what we pay for day care," she said. "My parents in particular, they're like, oh, you know, it was never that expensive for us." Her father said that even when her parents employed an au pair, they spent about a hundred dollars a week — a far cry from what Connell's spending.
Millennial parents' support networks can look different too. Economic circumstances may have taken them farther from home, or their own parents may still be working and unable to provide care.
"There's a lot of commotion around being a working parent and if moms in particular should stay home or pay for day care — and at what point is the cost of childcare outweighing the benefits of having a career or a job," Connell said. "That's a very personal question that everybody has to answer for themselves and their own family. But I think a key component to that is the lack of a network that once existed."
Connell said that about half of her friends could rely on their own parents to help with childcare. She argued that outside care needed to be more affordable and accessible; she said her two oldest children were adopted through foster care and received year-long vouchers to help subsidize their day care, but she couldn't get both into the same daycare at the same time because of limited availability.
"I think free childcare, in a sense, or at least affordable childcare from the government or whatever it might be, would be game-changing for many families," she said. "Obviously that just doesn't exist here."
Read the full story here: https://www.businessinsider.com/costs-of-childcare-millennial-spends-5000-a-month-on-daycare-2023-6
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