Forbes put out its annual list of “Best Cities for Working Moms” and as a Minnesota mom, I was excited to see that Minneapolis topped the list. There was only one thing I found puzzling, though. How did we ever get up there?
An even more recent study came out from the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), listing the highest cost states when it comes to child cares services. And once again, Minnesota tops this list, this time at #3. Numbers one and two? Massachusetts and New York, who came in near the top of the Forbes list.
In fact, if you compare the two lists, you’ll see that the cities coming in at the top of the “best for working mothers” list are all from the states that are the top ten when it comes to childcare costs, with all of the states having childcare costs come in at 10 to 20 percent of the income an average two-parent family brings home each year, depending on the age of the child in care. And if you are looking at just the income of a single mother, that percentage goes all the way up to 66 percent of her income.
Yes, that’s right. In Massachusetts, a year’s childcare costs for one infant is the equivalent of two thirds of a single mother’s average income in that state.
Forbes states that when it came up with its rankings, it weighed “Job opportunities, high earnings potential and a budget-friendly cost of living” as well as health care and crime. But when it comes to the cost of living index survey they used, it seems that it was focused more on costs of goods and services overall than specific services that would be needed by a working mom. It’s great that she can get cheaper clothes and haircuts here, but if she’s paying more for daycare than you would to send a child to college for a year, that seems to be a more important factor on where is really best for working moms.
But is any place any better? Sadly, thanks to government subsidy cutbacks and companies less willing to provide additional support, child care costs have skyrocketed for all the states, and it doesn’t look like those costs will be coming down any time soon. Plus, as more children are pulled out of care centers because they are no longer affordable, the prices continue to creep upwards for those left behind, as centers try to meet their own budget requirements.
This is something I’ve had to struggle with firsthand, myself. As a work at home mom, people often assume I have the best of both worlds, being able to both hold down jobs and care for my child at home. However, once my daughter got closer to one, and my job at the same time became more complicated, we decided a daycare center associated with my husband’s work would be a better fit for everyone.
Infant care at that time was $1500 a month, after the subsidy from my husband’s office. It was as much as we were paying on both of our mortgages. And as she grew, the costs only went down minimally, a few hundred dollars once she was 16 months, and it should have gone down another step after she turned 30 months. That was the point in which his office decided to pull their subsidy, placing us back at $1200 a month for toddler care.
Even now I struggle with the idea of pulling her out of the center. Having now switched to a total freelance workload, I have more time I could spend with her, and we really could use that money, which is over 35 percent of our monthly expenses. But I also know how much she has learned and grown since she has been there, and how happy she is with her friends, and I can’t justify pulling her out unless it becomes absolutely unaffordable. I’ve cut our shopping funds, our grocery bills, removed cable, downgraded phone lines, and ended any vacations, movies or eating out, but I just cannot bring myself to pull her out of daycare.
Now, with a second child arriving in a few months, I have a bigger problem. Two children in daycare would cost nearly $2800 a month, only $700 less than our entire monthly budget not counting daycare. It would be more than my husband brings home in a month, and more than 50 percent of our current take home pay. It’s simply impossible to do.
So the new baby will of course be home with me, regardless of how impossible it might become. I will write when he naps, care for all of his needs, work nights once he is in bed, and somehow find some way to meet all of my responsibilities, at the very least until our eldest is old enough to go to school in two years, and we can maybe afford to let our son experience the new friends and new experiences daycare often offers a growing child.
And throughout those two years, I’ll keep reminding myself that I live and work in the number one city for working mothers. At least, according to Forbes Magazine.