- Parents have difficulty finding and affording childcare.
- They are turning to different options to cope, including sharing a nanny and co-parenting.
- But most of these options come with their drawbacks.
When Brittany Wilson-DeMarco, 27, started looking for daycare for her two-year-old son last year, the most affordable option she could find cost $1,200 a month.
It would allow the New York mom to pursue a full-time job, she told Insider, but she wasn’t sure the financial trade-off was worth it.
In less than 24 hours, the decision was made for her – the daycare spot was filled. To help pay the bills, she began working about 35 hours a week at two remote part-time jobs—running catering sales for a restaurant and an account manager job with an influencer marketing agency. She did all this while caring for her son full-time while her fiancé was working and says she began to “suffer physically and mentally from the stress.”
Wilson-DeMarco began looking for any lifeline she could find. She turned to her local YMCA, which she says offers $2 an hour childcare for up to two hours a day, plus a monthly family membership cost of $93. She would spend the few hours working at a table in the lobby or take her laptop to a treadmill.
“Those 2 hours were my total saving grace,” she said. “I would have lost two hours to focus only on work.” Although her fiancé has convinced her to work less, she says she still uses the YMCA often for a few hours of childcare and a “great mental health break.”
Wilson-DeMarco is among the many U.S. parents who are wondering whether it makes financial sense for their families to get a career while struggling to find and pay for childcare. In 2018, the left-leaning Center for American Progress found that more than half of Americans live in an area where child care is in short supply, and the shortage has only increased during the pandemic. When families do get childcare, it’s often expensive. National child care costs an average of $9,000 to $9,600 per year, according to the advocacy organization Child Care Aware, and the cost could rise even higher over the next year.
Although many fathers are also involved in the childcare struggle, the responsibility usually falls on women in heterosexual couples. According to 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average mother with children ages 12 and under spends eight hours a day on childcare while also working six hours each weekday. Meanwhile, the average dad spends five hours a day on childcare while working eight-hour days.
Unable to get or give childcare, many parents are exploring all their options on the table. Here’s how some of them are doing.
Many parents are finding ways to get through it, but there is no perfect solution
After getting stuck on three daycare waiting lists, Nancy Clancy found a friend of a friend to watch her daughter on the days she works, she previously told Insider. However, this fall adds almost an hour to her commute, and the Michigan mom said the cost is almost more than what she makes while working.
“It’s almost a wash. I do it just to get out of the house, really,” she said.
Allison Ellsworth, 28, of Michigan, turned to part-time private care when daycare centers couldn’t accommodate her and her husband’s schedules. While she told Insider this currently meets most of their childcare needs, it costs them $1,000 to $1,500 a month.
Some families have tried “nanny sharing” – where two or more families hire one nanny to watch their children at one of their homes and share the cost.
“It seems to ease the cost a little bit,” said Wilson-Demarco, who says she knows several families who share a nanny. “And the children get to play with other children and get that socializing element that many parents are looking for.”
However, it is not always cheaper. Michael Grady and his wife pulled their daughter out of a child care center last year because they were concerned she had been exposed to COVID, he told Axios. They joined a nanny share with one other family and started paying $2,000 a month, up from the $1,200 a month they spent on daycare.
There are also less formal shared childcare options, however.
Some parents within a community have organized shared childcare with another family or formed a parenting co-op — an arrangement of anywhere from three to 20 families — to rotate childcare responsibilities between a group of parents.
“Talk to other moms and try to work something out with them,” Clancy said. “Maybe watching each other’s kids when you go into work part-time or trade days. I have some friends who do that, and I’ve helped with that too.”
There is no hearth like your own hearth
When all else fails, some families are willing to move for help.
Hannah Cases, 31, began motherhood while living in San Diego, where she and her husband had “zero family,” she previously told Insider.
Eventually, however, they realized they needed more help. Last fall, they moved across the country to St. Louis to be closer to her parents.
“Now that he’s surrounded by family, it makes such a difference,” she said, and she’s far from the only millennial sticking around town for childcare help.
About 60% of young adults live within 10 miles of where they grew up, and 80% live within 100 miles, according to a July study by researchers at the US Census Bureau and Harvard University. The study focused on people born between 1984 and 1992.
Many people are even living with their families. Nearly one in four millennials were living with their parents as of last December, according to a PropertyManagement.com survey. Since the 1970s, the share of Americans living in multigenerational households has more than doubled to nearly 20% as of 2021, according to Pew Research data. Financial needs, as well as childcare needs, probably contributed to this change.
Some people are even moving in with other families. In 2016, Maria Pfefferkorn moved in with her friend and her friend’s two children after her friend divorced, she previously told Insider.
“It’s a co-parenting model, it’s a co-economy model, and it’s a great friendship and support model,” Pfefferkorn said.
She is not alone in this thinking. According to real estate analytics firm Attom Data Solution, the number of home buyers with different last names increased by 771% from 2014 to 2021.