Day care

quicken2.gifA newspaper article about daycare got me thinking about family finances.

Many people have no choice but to use day care.  This post is not for them, at least in their current position.  The last thing I want to do is add to their burdens. 

But many people do have a choice.  This is for them. 

In the early 90’s part of my job was to manage the financial support for the Human Resources department at a Fortune 50 company.  We had some excess space in a building and I asked the Senior VP of HR whether he considered using it for an on-site day care.  He gave his reasons why it might not work out well (What if your kid beats up my kid?  What if an illness spreads and lots of people have to stay home with their kids?  Etc.). 

But the money quote came when he explained why he didn’t think much of day care: ” . . . because there is no G*d-d**n way I’m going to let somebody else raise my kid.” 

It certainly wasn’t the politically correct answer I expected from someone in his position, but I appreciated his honesty.

At the time we had our first child my wife had a successful career going and we could have had a big pile of money on the table if she had kept working.  We’ve made other smart and dumb financial moves, but we have never regretted having her stay home their first 10-12 years, and then having a career that coincided with their school calendar.  Not for a second.

My advice to young couples is to learn to live on one income.  Save the 2nd income.  I give my wife credit for driving us to that.  When we got married she made it clear that she planned to stay home with the kids, at least while they were young.  Kids were a foreign concept to me at the time so I went along with the plan.  We made house and car decisions solely based on my salary, so when she quit her job we had some money saved and didn’t change our standard of living at all.  OK, we slept less and changed lots of diapers, but we didn’t change our spending habits.

If you have young kids and you both work, ask yourself how badly you need the bigger house and fancier cars. 

It is such a basic human concept that you can live with less until you’ve had more.  People think they have to work but they really don’t.  Don’t sacrifice the well-being of your children to maintain material possessions that won’t last. 

The myth is that no one sacrifices.  The reality is that you sacrifice possessions or you sacrifice part of your kids. 

It isn’t that dads have to provide 100% of the resources and moms have to provide 100% of the caring.  Maybe it is more like 70/30 or so.

I highly recommend Crown Financial Ministries and Dave Ramsey.  If you aren’t familiar with them, please check them out.  They have helped transform the lives of many people.

Here’s a final thought that I always share with my departments at introductory meetings: All your money and all your success cannot buy your kids a second childhood.

11 thoughts on “Day care”

  1. I agree 100%.

    We had hoped that my wife would not have to go back to work full time, until our youngest was out of high school. Last year when he was a Junior, we had used up all our resources and just could no longer afford health insurance. So my wife took a job with benefits.

    Our son has been complaining that he has to parent himself.

    Unfortunately in our area, nearly all the jobs available pay so poorly that I don’t see how people raise a family on two incomes. Maybe the senate should take some of the millions they are spending on those pork projects and try to address the problem.

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  2. My husband and I would be making twice his salary if I went back to work. His raises don’t even meet cost of living increases. Going back to my career sure would help not worrying about the bills a little
    The problem is that we’d be sacrificing our children. The school system where we live is awful. Then, most of my salary would go to pay daycare. I know that I can do a better job raising and teaching my children than any school around this area. (Test scores are attrocious.)Plus, they teach things like evolution and treat homosexuality like it’s ok.
    House work would not get done and I’d be even more frazzled than I am now.
    It’s a joy to be with my children and watch the Lord grow them. If I worked, I’d miss out on all of it. It is worth the “sacrifice” of $50,000 a year.

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  3. Neil,
    Crown Financial Ministries and Dave Ramsey are excellent sources of information. I’d also recommend couples to live on one income even if they plan to go back to work.

    My youngest is 17, so it’s been a while, but I vividly recall that our cost of living when up DRAMATICALLY when we added our first (of three) children. My wife planned to go back to work, but she had to go quicker. After number two was born, the story was pretty much the same.

    We planned better for number three and she took a year’s leave of absence, then quit all together. She started working 1-2 days a week at our church Mother’s Morning out program. She slowly expanded her work hours as he grew older. By the time he started school, she was working 3-4 days a week, still making nowhere near her past income.

    All I’m saying is I’ve been on both sides. We could have adjusted after #1 and #2, but decided it was better for her to work. Not just financially, better over all. I won’t criticize anyone on either side of the argument. (we were criticized both ways). Thanks for the honest comments and the non-judgemental attitude

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  4. Hi Neil,

    I agree with this post wholeheartedly! We were young and dumb when we had ours. At least I can say that my maternal instincts kept me home with her as much as was financially possible. Fortunately, we raised our child much smarter that we were raised. If she is unable to stay home with my future grandchildren, I have dibs on the nanny position. 🙂

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  5. Very well said, Neil! I think it’s so unfortunate that so many kids are being neglected and sacrificed just so people can have more STUFF! Does our stuff really matter that much? Now, just as you said, there are obviously some people who have to work but I think there are probably a LOT of people who would put themselves in that group who really don’t have to be. You just have to be willing to give up a lot of material things. In the end, it’s so worth it though. Like you said, kids don’t get a second childhood – we need to be there for the only one they have! 🙂

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  6. I’m beginning to realize more and more the sacrifices I need to be willing to make if I expect my children to have a full-time parent at home. You’re right about being honest about expensive cars and homes, etc. My children are more important than “keeping up with the Joneses.”

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  7. Great post. I think I heard that, beyond about $50,000/year in income, extra money does not bring happiness.

    I will just add two footnotes to your post:
    1) Stay-at-home parents NEED to keep abreast with the work force. Even with professional degrees, it is very, very difficult to reenter after a long hiatus. Take classes. Work from home a day a week. Do pro bono work. If your spouse loses his job, it would be great if you can switch roles and start earning money. Also, if/when you reenter the work force after raising kids, having professional contacts and some marketable skills will smooth reentry.

    2) Apropos of that… IMHO, it’s somewhat of a myth that people choose either financial security or raising their kids. High-school kids who are doing sports don’t need parents home except during non-working hours (I was always at school from 7 am until 5:30 pm). Work when your kids get older. That will also give you some more options to finance college. Your own professional connections, as your kids get older, will be valuable to them. Getting out of the house, conversing with adults, and having interests outside of diapers, diapers, and more diapers is good for both you and your kids. (I’m glad that my ‘rents have other interests. Keeps me from thinking the world revolves around me. 😉 )

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  8. After her divorce, my wife had no choice but to use day-care and after school care. She spent time with her two girls, and then I entered the picture. During our seven year courtship, she continued using these resources and because of the quality of the time spent when she was with the girls, they seemed to turn out fine. We did not quite have every base covered when she was pregnant with our girl (her third child), so child care was still an issue. We lucked out in finding a local woman who took in kids and it became like our kid was spending the day with relatives. Even now, with one of the woman’s daughters getting married, our kid is one of the only kids allowed to attend the reception because of a sisterly bond that formed.

    Had my wife wanted to stay home (she didn’t after her success with her first two), I would have dealt with it. Once again, we got lucky with the quality of people our three have become.

    My advice to our kids now, is that they spend their childless years busting it to develop other streams of income that would not require them to be away from their kids when they have any. Unfortunately they are too focussed on their present gigs and doing what most people do in terms of buying crap they don’t really yet need, but they are saving at a faster rate than did their mother or me. It’s something.

    But having gone through it, I’m now in the camp that believes creating the best life possible in financial terms is the duty of the parent. To invite a new person into the world and not be willing to provide as many possibilities seems a bit less than honorable. In some cases, that may mean long hours even when the kids are young. Life carries too many risks not to be as prepared as possible, and the notion that the kids suffer without constant exposure to the parents is not entirely true, if the parents are truly committed to meeting their parental responsibilities. They can’t be ignored in the hunt for a wealthier existence, but they can deal with fewer dates with Dad (or Mom) if the time that is spent is of high quality.

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  9. When my wife and I married we always budgeted on my salary so she could quit when we started a family. We did and have never regretted it. Of course we do without “things” we could have if we’d have done differently, but we have never regretted the “things” we miss, and cherish the “things” we have as a result.

    What surprises me is the disdain we get from people who make the other decision. It is almost like we are judging them for making the decision we did, even without saying a word. Guilt?

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