Are you considered rich if you can afford childcare? After all, childcare for one child can cost between $1,500 – $2,500 a month, depending on where you live.
Or are you considered poor if you have to pay for childcare because you cannot afford to stay at home and take care of your own kids?
What an interesting conundrum to consider! This debate, just like politics, will surely rile people up on both sides.
For most, I believe any family who can afford $18,000 – $30,000 a year in childcare costs a year per child should be considered more well off than the family who has a stay-at-home parent. Mind you, these are after-tax dollars.
I, for one, would not be comfortable spending such an amount after tax. Given we live in San Francisco, the cost of childcare is closer to $30,000 a year. We would probably need to make over 20X the cost of annual childcare or $600,000 to not feel the pinch.
Ironically, because both my wife and I were unemployed well before we had kids, we can more easily afford to stay home and raise them.
Staying home and raising our son has probably saved us $75,000 over a 2.5 year time frame. At least one of us plans to stay at home and care for our daughter for at least 2.5 years as well.
The Biggest Downside To Preschool Is Not The Cost
When our boy first started attending preschool, we felt a huge sense of relief. Suddenly, both of us had eight hours a day of freedom after 32 months of always caring for him.
I mostly used my free time to write more, play more tennis, and take longer naps. My wife used her free time to catch up on business stuff and sleep more since she was close to her third trimester.
For the first three months, I thought preschool was absolutely worth it. But now that the honeymoon period is over, I’m starting to have my doubts.
The biggest downside to preschool is not the cost. The biggest downside to preschool is being perpetually sick!
Before preschool, our boy would get sick once every six months. For the five months our boy has been in preschool, he’s been sick for three months to varying degrees. On the lighter side, he’d just have a running nose for weeks. On the heavier side, he’d have a running nose, a cough, and a fever.
Being sick disrupts his sleep. When sick, he wakes up multiple times a night because he cannot breathe or is hacking up a lung. This, in turn, ruins our precious sleep given we are waking up every 1-3 hours to feed our baby daughter.
Sometimes we get lucky because we’re already awake when he starts crying out for us. At other times, however, we are unlucky when he starts crying for our help 10 minutes after we’ve passed out from the latest feeding session. That’s when delirium sets in!
Unfortunately, every time our boy has gotten sick, he has also given his cold to either his mom or me or both. After going through a month-long coughing spell from mid-November to mid-December, I had a pleasant three-week break before I got sick again. Ugh.
My latest cold has caused me to wake up at least once every night for a week due to a heavy dry hack. I even got a right lung hernia from exerting too much pressure coughing.
Further, my overall energy is down by 25% – 35%, which means I cannot work as much to take care of my family. I also can’t enjoy life as much because it’s harder to play sports or go out with friends.
The Cost Of Sickness And The Price Of Health
We’re paying $1,950 a month for some great teachers to teach new things to our boy. We love his developmental progress. Preschool also gives us much-needed free-time we need to rest and tag-team taking caring of our daughter.
The thing is, I’d willingly pay another $10,000 a month to never get sick. Normally, I rarely have a cold for longer than two months a year. The most common occurrence I experience is no cold or at most two weeks of cold. In other words, I’m willing to spend $120,000 every year to eliminate the risk of getting sick for up to two months.
$120,000 a year sounds like a lot to be healthy, but it’s the same thing as me willing to pay much higher taxes and much higher housing costs to live in San Francisco versus Des Moines. In San Francisco, I can enjoy the great outdoors for 12 months of the year. But if I moved to Des Moines, I could save over $1,000,000 on housing. But then I’d only get to enjoy the great outdoors for eight months a year.
They say getting colds when young builds your immune system. But if that’s the case, why are my wife and I also always getting sick? My dad says it’s because I never went to preschool! Ha.
They also say if your child doesn’t get sick in preschool, he will start getting sick in kindergarten. Conversely, if your child gets sick in preschool, he will be less sick in kindergarten. Let’s see what unfolds in the future.
Getting Sick Less From Preschool
If you are like me and hate getting sick, perhaps there are some strategies for still getting some childcare help while also reducing your chances of getting sick.
The first strategy is to always wash your hands and your child’s hands before and after school. Encourage the administrators and teachers to remind parents and kids to always wash their hands as well.
The second strategy is to wear a face mask. But this is socially tough because people will look at you weird and treat you differently, even though you’re just trying to protect yourself from them.
The third strategy is to get a flu shot. Although not always effective, getting a flu shot could lessen your chances of getting the flu and lessen the severity of the flu if you get it.
The fourth strategy is to not send your kid to preschool during the high flu season, which is usually from January through February. But the season often starts in October and goes through May.
Keeping your kid home for a month or more is not a viable strategy for many working families. However, if you are like me, and are willing to pay thousands of dollars to not get sick, perhaps taking your kid out for a week or two might be worth it.
In retrospect, If I knew my wife and I were going to get sick after the winter holiday due to my son getting sick, we would have definitely kept him home for the entire month of January.
Having the three of us sick is terrible, especially when we have a baby at home. We pray she won’t get sick as well, but at this point, it seems like an inevitability.
Parents, what is your child’s experience with getting sick in childcare or preschool? Do you think their immune systems really get stronger after going through so many illnesses? Have you noticed your kids have fewer colds as they’ve grown older? How much would you be willing to pay a month or a year to not get sick?