- Parents are having a difficult time finding and affording childcare.
- They’re turning to a variety of options to get by, including nanny sharing and co-parenting.
- But most of these options come with their drawbacks.
When 27-year-old Brittany Wilson-DeMarco began looking for daycare for her two-year-old son last year, the most affordable option she could find cost $1,200 per month.
It would have allowed the New York mom to pursue a full-time job, she told Insider, but she was uncertain whether the financial tradeoff was worth it.
In less than 24 hours, the decision was made for her — the daycare spot filled up. To help pay the bills, she began working roughly 35 hours per week at two part-time remote jobs — running catering sales for a restaurant and an account manager position with an influencer marketing agency. She did all of this while also caring for her son full-time while her fiancé worked and says she started to “suffer physically and mentally from the stress.”
Wilson-DeMarco began seeking out any lifeline she could find. She turned to her local YMCA, which she says offers $2-per-hour childcare for up to two hours per day, in addition to her monthly family membership cost of $93. She’d spend these couple of hours working at a table in the lobby or bring her laptop to a treadmill.
“Those 2 hours were my absolute saving grace,” she said. “I would’ve lost my mind without two hours to solely focus on work.” While her fiancé has since persuaded her to work less, she says she still frequently uses the YMCA for a few hours of childcare and a “great mental health break.”
Wilson-DeMarco is among the many US parents agonizing over whether pursuing a career makes financial sense for their families as they struggle to find and afford childcare. In 2018, the left-leaning Center for American Progress found that over half of Americans lived in an area where childcare was sparse, and the shortage only grew worse during the pandemic. When families do find childcare, it’s often expensive. National childcare costs average between $9,000 and $9,600 annually, per the advocacy organization Child Care Aware, and the cost could shoot even higher over the next year.
While many dads are also involved in the struggle to find childcare, the responsibility typically falls on women in heterosexual couples. According to 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average mom with children age 12 and under spends eight hours per day on childcare while also working six hours each weekday. The average dad, meanwhile, spends five hours per day on childcare while working eight-hour days.
Unable to find or afford childcare, many parents are exploring all their options on the table. Here’s how some are getting by.
Many parents are finding ways to get by, but there’s no perfect solution
After getting stuck on three daycare waitlists, Nancy Clancy found a friend-of-a-friend to watch her daughter on the days she works, she previously told Insider. The drop-off adds nearly an hour to her commute, however, and the Michigan mom said the cost almost exceeds the amount she makes while working.
“It’s almost a wash. I only do it to get out of the house, really,” she said.
Allison Ellsworth, a 28-year-old from Michigan, turned to private part-time care when daycare centers couldn’t accommodate she and her husband’s schedules. While she told Insider this is meeting most of their childcare needs for now, it’s costing them $1,000 to $1,500 per month.
Some families have tried “nanny sharing” — when two or more families hire one nanny to watch their children at one of their homes and split the expense.
“It seems that it eases the cost a bit,” said Wilson-Demarco, who says she knows some families that have nanny shared. “And the children get to play with other children and still get that socialization aspect a lot of parents are looking for.”
It isn’t always cheaper, however. Michael Grady and his wife pulled their daughter out of a childcare center last year because they were worried about her being exposed to COVID, he told Axios. They joined a nanny share with one other family and began paying $2,000 a month, up from the $1,200 per month they had spent on daycare.
There are also less formal childcare sharing options, however.
Some parents within a community have organized shared childcare with another family or established a parenting co-op — an arrangement of anywhere between three and 20 families — to rotate childcare responsibilities between a group of parents.
“Talk to other moms and try to work something out with them,” Clancy said. “Maybe watching each other’s kids when you go into work part-time or trading days. I have some friends that do that, and I have also helped out with that.”
There’s no place like home
When all else fails, some families are willing to move for help.
31-year-old Hannah Cases began motherhood while living in San Diego, where she and her husband had “zero family around,” she previously told Insider.
Eventually, however, they realized they needed extra help. Last fall, they moved across the country to St. Louis to be closer to her parents.
“Now that we have family around it makes such a difference,” she said, and she’s far from the only millennial sticking close to home for childcare help.
Roughly 60% of young adults live within 10 miles of where they grew up, and 80% live within 100 miles, according to a July study conducted by researchers at the US Census Bureau and Harvard University. The study focused on individuals born between 1984 and 1992.
Many people are even living with their families. Nearly one in four millennials were living with their parents as of last December, according to a PropertyManagement.com survey. Since the 1970s, the share of Americans living in multigenerational households has more than doubled to nearly 20% as of 2021, per Pew Research data. Financial, as well as childcare needs, have likely contributed to this shift.
Some people are even moving in with other families. In 2016, Maria Pfefferkorn moved in with her friend and her friend’s two children after her friend got divorced, she previously told Insider.
“It’s a co-parenting model, it’s a co-economy model, and it’s a really great friendship and support model,” Pfefferkorn said.
She’s not alone in this thinking. According to real-estate analytics firm Attom Data Solution, the number of co-home buyers with different last names grew by 771% from 2014 to 2021.