Best Cities for Working Moms (If You Can Afford the Daycare)

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.

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Arienne de Vassal
Arienne d7 years ago

Other countries do a much better job at assisting women who work. Sometimes it's not even worth working because of how much you pay for day care. When I lived in an expensive city, I opted to get an au pair. The only thing is you need an extra room. I put my two kids in the same room to allow for an au pair room. It was so worth it! They work 45 hours a week and are flexible when a crisis comes up at work. They become part of the family and we're still in touch with our former ones. And the cost is about $340 a week no matter how many kids you have. There is support from an agency and they pre-screen and YOU interview and pick your own girl. There are several agencies out there, we used AuPairCare. They got the best rating from, which is an unbiased resource. Good luck to all those working moms out there!

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

The affordability of child care has always been an issue, especially for single parents. My ex-husband deserted my 10-year-old son and me in the mid 70's. I did not have a job at the time, and I was going to school. The best paying job I could find at that time was $5.52/hr. Babysitters were getting $5.00/hr., more than I brought home after taxes. Needless to say, my son had to stay at home alone while I was at work, because I needed the tiny bit of income left after taxes to try to keep a roof over our head and put some food on the table. There was no help of any kind for childcare expenses then. It was an utter nightmare for a long time. I can only hope the situation has improved since.

Pamela P.
Pamela T7 years ago

Dear Care2 staff:

This is a PARENT/CHILD issue, not a WOMEN's issue. To file this kind of article here under "women's rights" implies, once again, that it is a woman's job to deal with the issue, and that childcare or staying at home is a women's issue is not very progressive.

I'm not saying that childcare-- availability and cost-- are not an issue, I live in an area where it's much higher than the numbers posted in the article. And I think good childcare is important, not everyone is meant to stay at home, and some data shows that moms who take just 7 years to stay at home with children can lose HALF their potential retirement income. Good childcare with developmentally appropriate activities, etc. can prepare kids well for school, which should matter to everyone since taxpayers foot the bill for public schools.

But to put this article under women's rights, when it's neither a woman's issue, or an issue of "rights" per se, is really backwards to me. Don't marginalize this issue, question the status quo.

Jack T.
Jack T7 years ago

" 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."

My heart bleeds for this woman! A child has to go into a slot in order for it to be a better 'fit' for everyone! If children are so inconvenient, why the hell have them? Whatever happened to motherhood? Jeez!

Juan Pablo de la Torre

Faulty lists, apparently Forbes is not to trust.

jake s.
jake s7 years ago

Hmmm, this article is somewhat confusing. I fail to see why the author chose to have another child whilst she pays others to care for the child she already has, is this article solely to give the author the vehicle in which to bemoan the cost of her childcare & how she cannot afford it for her 2nd child? It would be interesting to know the thoughts & effects of, and on, each sibling once they reach adulthood regarding the different pre-school options that they experienced.

Robin k.
Robin kyle7 years ago

Since when did childcare become a human right.? The people that are supposed to care for children are the people who bring them into the world. How could you possibly think a daycare is better for your child than you? I could understand and even give some validation to this joke of a whine if it was coming from a single parent but for goodness sake my family of 4 does just fine without daycare and I bet you a government subsidy that our combined income isn't as much as either MN mom or her husband. Maybe they are too used to the finer things in life,or got screwed with some bad mortgage situation maybe they are just stupid spoilt whiners, either way I don't know why they are having another kid.

Kimberly W.
Kimberly W.7 years ago

I agree with everything the article has to say about child care in this country, however...if you know you can barely afford to have the one child you already have, why on earth would you CHOOSE to have another. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

Tekla Drakfrende
Tekla Drakfrende7 years ago

thanks for sharing

monica r.
monica r7 years ago

Well, she could network with other work at home moms for play-dates and such to socialize her kids. Home schoolers do this for field trips and stuff. There are options and resources out there. If you've got two mortgages on your house, you should be asking yourself how your child's socialization will progress if you become homeless cause you can't afford all this.

I guess you get what you pay for, too, so if they aren't beating your kid or leaving them to die in the daycare's van parked in the hot sun all day, it's probably worth the high cost.