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Child Care: The Limiting Factor

Having a baby is one of the most amazing and confusing things you will ever experience.

So Many Decisions

Will you see an OB or a midwife? Home delivery or hospital? Breastfeed or use formula? Stay home or go back to work? Most of these decisions hinge only on personal preference, whatever is best for your family.  But for many new moms, the decision to stay home or go back to work is essentially taken away due to economic constraints.

Your whole life you hear about saving for your kids’ college education, so they don’t incur huge student loan debt. Parents plan to put money in college savings account, but you have 18 years to save for their college education.

If you choose to continue to work, you get only months to figure out how to pay for child care. And in many states like Colorado, the average cost of daycare exceeds the cost of college tuition.

Welcome to parenting! Hold on to your boot straps ladies, these kids are expensive.

My Story

Six years ago, when my husband and I found out we were expecting our first, we found ourselves in an interesting situation. At 8 weeks pregnant, I was laid off from my position with a consulting firm. I spent three months haphazardly searching for a new job.  

I resigned myself to the fact that I likely wouldn’t find a new job until after the baby was born. There was an elephant in the room that no one could legally ask about, but that no one could ignore either. 

When I did finally get an offer, I was barely showing so I signed all the papers and then said, “Oh by the way, I will be needing some time off in four months.” Let’s be honest, it was a super uncomfortable conversation. Due to the circumstances, I only took 6 weeks of maternity leave.

My position was not covered by FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). A company must have more than 50 employees and you must be employed for at least a year before your job is protected. I had almost no paid time off accrued.  

But I wanted to prove hiring me was a good investment for them—not a waste of their time.

Finding Child Care

During the first few months at my new job, one of my main priorities was to find a daycare facility that would allow me to return to work and make good on my commitment to the company.

For multiple reasons, my husband and I have only ever considered licensed facilities or nannies legally hired as home employees. I understand some people can find more affordable options by paying “under the table” or relying on generous relatives. Those simply were not options for us.

So, we toured different locations and weighed the pros and cons of in home daycare vs. child care centers vs. nannies. In the end, we chose a daycare center we liked, located halfway between our offices. This was convenient for several reasons:

  1. Two minute drive from my office so I could go there and breastfeed my son at lunch time.
  2. Close to our offices so we could all commute together.
  3. Affordable. I think we paid $185/week for infant care. (2011)

As our child grew older, the cost went down even though the rates went up.

But I didn’t appreciate how grand of a deal we had (especially with a sibling discount later on) until that facility closed unexpectedly. I had to find new arrangements on the first day of summer for three kids.  

The struggle to find child care is a constant battle and can cause major stress. It’s a challenge to balance a convenient location, the number of facilities you have to pick up and drop off from (why do so few facilities take infants?!?) and the cost of care for multiple children.

Sharing what I Have Learned

So I thought I would share with you some of the things I have learned over the last six years about finding daycare in Colorado Springs through a series of posts that break down the advantages and disadvantages of all the options.

My hope is that you find something useful from our experience and feel better prepared to make that decision for yourself. Let me know in the comments if I missed anything or if you find I something I am wrong about. I am an engineer, not a child care expert. My observations are simply the result of years of trial and error. 

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