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Has the Cost of Parenting Risen During the Pandemic? Yep.

By Lane Kareska
Updated on March 29, 2021
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According to our recent survey, childcare costs have increased since the onset of the pandemic for 60% of families.

School is most decidedly back in session, but certainly not the way we remember it. If you’re a parent, you’ve likely had to make incredible adjustments since the school year began. For many, this includes rearranging schedules, finding and paying for new child care options, and otherwise navigating a totally new normal.

We worked with our friends at The Smart Wallet and surveyed nearly 6,000 respondents that are using any child care services to see how they (and their school-aged children) are navigating this unpredictable time.

Here’s what we learned from our respondents (in addition to our staff):

Childcare costs have increased since the onset of the pandemic for 60% of families.

  • Overall, most families are satisfied or very satisfied (68%) with their childcare options.
  • 10% are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their options.
  • 22% remain neutral.

Lindsay Anderson, lead project manager for The Smart Wallet, shares her experience with juggling a 1-year old and a full-time job: 

In Florida, many day cares remained open as ‘essential services,’ but we felt it was the right decision for us to pull our son from full-time daycare to stay home. We’re both full-time working parents, so the transition to having a 1-year old home with us all day was quite the change! 

After about 3.5 months of juggling our son between the two of us, we were totally drained. We made the decision to hire a part-time nanny from morning to afternoon and it was definitely a game-changer. We felt that the risk of adding one more individual to our circle was worth the increase in mental health and overall productivity.

But that came at a cost too. We’re currently paying more for our part-time nanny (about $500/week) than we were for our full-time daycare (about $300/week). Though I am sure there’s a range of costs for both daycare and nannies, depending on hours, where you live, and the quality of service, generally, private 1-to-1 care is a more expensive option.

Prior to the pandemic, we would have our son in full-time daycare from 8 a.m.—5 p.m. daily (with flexibility, as the facility is open from 6 a.m.-6 p.m.). He was in a room with seven other children his age, with two teachers at all times. His meals and snacks were provided by the daycare. Now, with a nanny, we have care from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. His meals and snacks are now prepared here (another time and money commitment), and he is less socialized as there are no other kids around. It’s a huge difference for our son socially and a huge difference for us timewise and financially. That said, we are thrilled with our nanny and feel incredibly lucky to have found her. Though we must work some strange hours and sacrifice some of the perks that daycare was providing us, we’re very content with our decision and current routine given the circumstances.

43% of children are returning to school entirely remotely this year.

  • 61% of families are shifting or reducing their work hours to accommodate for new childcare and education needs.
  • 23% of families had a parent leave a job to accommodate.

OppLoans Editor-in-Chief Kelly Zimmerman certainly has some direct experience in this area:

When my son’s daycare initially closed back in March, my husband and I were at a loss for how we were going to make our full-time jobs work. I have vivid memories of making macaroni-and-cheese on the stove for my 4-year-old, while simultaneously presenting to my team on a Zoom call.

There is definitely a difference between “doing it all” and “doing it all at once.” I would say either way, I felt like I was failing at both. On my best days, I would wake up early, squeeze in an hour or two of work before the family woke up, take a business call or two outside while my kid ran around in the sprinkler, and then squeeze in whatever work I could while my husband took over child care duties in the afternoon. I was fortunate to have supervisors who understood and gave me the flexibility I needed, but I truly felt for other families out there that didn’t — or still don’t –have that option. To me, it became very apparent that essential workers and employees with fixed schedules were probably bearing the brunt of this pandemic.

We were fortunate to have access to a part-time babysitter for a short period of time before my son’s daycare finally reopened at the end of June, but the added cost was debilitating to our finances. We basically had to make a decision: Do we shell out the cash or do we risk months of drowning in missed deadlines?

Men are more likely to have shifted work hours or reduce their hours while their female counterparts are more likely to have left a job.

  • Younger households are more likely to shift hours.
  • 12% of families are using childcare services with another 8% still exploring.
  • Most families are paying less than $200 per week for childcare.

Speaking for myself, (Lane Kareska, a digital marketing director at OppLoans — hi!), I can definitely relate to those respondents in our survey who have shifted their working hours. Here’s my take:

Getting almost two hours a day back in commuting time has been one silver lining during this time, but — as I’m sure many of us can attest — it’s arrived with the total erosion of the boundaries between work and life hours. As someone else observed, “This isn’t really work-from-home. It’s more like live-at-work.”

When this all began, I  read up on how to work from home successfully since this was new to me. A lot of the general tips were very helpful. But one thing I’ve found that’s been particularly useful is to (if you can) shift your dedicated work hours to favor your periods of highest productivity. For me, this means carving out a significant chunk of dedicated work time early in the morning. 

This way, by the time my 18-month-old is awake and ready to throw breakfast at me, I’ve already gotten a jump on work with few to no interruptions.  

The challenges and costs of parenting during this time certainly feel outsized. If you’re dealing with financial strain (and who isn’t?), be sure to check out these helpful articles:

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