Because my life has been turned upside down due to the recent turn of events, I have been forced to come to terms with an issue that used to be only theoretical to me and is now integral to me: fucking daycare.
I always believed daycare was expensive and that the quality is disproportionate to the person’s wealth class. If you make too little money, your are likely covered and may be in an adequate, subsidized program. Or, you are recommended not to work and stay on the government welfare system as this is the only way to ensure care for your children and a somewhat steady flow of income.
If you make lots of money, you can afford and decide upon whatever you want.
If you fall into that purgatory that is the middle class, well, you are SOL. See, I make too much money to get any assistance for daycare, too little to afford decent care in which the caretakers aren’t playing on their phones all day and keeping my kid strapped in a carseat for hours on end. So my options are to sacrifice nearly all my pay for daycare or stop my blossoming career, of which I may never get on track again.
The daycare center I am most interested in is over $2000 per month. This leaves me a negligible profit in salary. Not to mention, there is a year to year-and-a-half waiting list to get my infant into the institution. I looked around, and anything that is remotely adequate for an infant is about that cost and about that long a wait.
Ok, so I’m giving over $24,000 of my pay to childcare a year. Wouldn’t it be better to stay at home with the kid to have quality mommy-baby bonding time?
Well society tells me that if I take off a few years in my career, I’ll never be able to catch up again. Society also tells me, that although I need to give up a large part of my salary, in this day I need to have all the excess income possible.
If I don’t work, I hear the roar of working moms. If I choose to work, I hear the roar of stay-at-home moms.
The bottom line? I want to work. I like working even when I don’t like working. I want to be there for my child, but I know I need adult interactions. I just really started my career going, and getting off the career merry-go-round now means certain career suicide, especially in a city like DC where you have to have it all in order to have any sort of success. For the future of my child, I know I will need to work. For the future of potential more accidental children, I know I need to keep at it for as long as I am able.
Our society prides itself on family values and hard work. What they fail to take into account is that values don’t pay the bills and hard work doesn’t lend itself to perfect nuclear families.
I realize this debate may never have an adequate solution in America. We are a society that doesn’t care if everyone is health insured, because those people deserve to be sick and die, unless they meet below salary standards or have enough money to pay for all the examinations they like. It’s that middle group that seems to be the one destined to get ill and suffer more from the medical bills than the disease itself.
Look, I have no idea what my life decisions will be or where my life will go (obviously, given unexpected recent circumstances…) but I know when faced with the tough choices, I will make one or the other and live with that. I get one shot at my life, and I’m determined to be happy and I’m determined to make the most of it.
My priorities have changed, but I am who I am, and me, my man, and my baby will find our way, mistakes, extravagant costs and all.
For further depressing reading on childcare, check out this recent blog post by The New York Times.