The latest figures on child care costs across the U.S. can leave parents in a state of shock.
The report from Child Care Aware of America states that “The cost of full-time center-based care for two children is the highest single household expense in the Northeast, Midwest and South. In the West, the cost of child care for two children is surpassed only by the cost of housing in the average family budget.”
For example, in Massachusetts, the average annual cost of child care in an urban area is $16,430 for an infant and $12,176 for a 4-year-old. This means that if an average family in Boston with two kids has to pay for five years of child care for each child, that family would pay over $138,000 in child care costs.
Compare this to other investments. Parents, financial advisors, and economists will say to start saving for retirement as soon as possible. With the rising costs of higher education, many parents start college funds as soon as they have a child, which allows them to save for 18 years. Even with that much advanced planning, some families and students will continue to pay off college loans for years after.
What many parents may not realize is that child care for an infant is now more expensive than state college tuition in 31 states plus Washington DC, and it is also more expensive than the average annual mortgage in many parts of the country. However, most parents do not have child care savings plans, nor do they have years to save for child care since the expense starts almost immediately after a child’s birth.
With these rising child care costs, families struggle to find affordable child care that is also the right choice for their family. Some families might immediately write off an au pair program as a child care option because of the misconception that au pairs are only for the wealthy. However, in many areas, the cost of hosting an au pair is thousands of dollars less than other child care options for a family with two children. Even when you factor in the cost of room and board, hosting an au pair is an affordable choice that offers a lot more flexibility than other child care options.
Were you prepared for the cost of child care when you had children? Share your thoughts in the comments below.