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Why I Paid $50,000 for a Year of Child Care


Every choice seemed destined to complicate our lives, making us late to work and more stressed out than we already were. So we bit the bullet and found a nearby family to split the cost of a nanny — which was still a lot of money. We kept Everett in his day care.

Brad and I agreed we wouldn’t cut corners to save money, because high-quality care was important for the kids. And when I say high-quality care, I don’t mean we only wanted to hire Mary Poppins (although our nanny, Alicia, came pretty darn close at times) or enroll our youngest in the most expensive Montessori day care with a two-year waiting list and organic food. Research shows all these bells and whistles don’t really matter, anyway.

Even though most families don’t pay as much as mine did, and could not afford to, there’s no denying that the annual cost of child care is a huge burden on most American households, where the median income tops out at $63,000. Annual child care costs are higher than the average cost of college tuition and monthly rent, according to the think tank New America.

[Kids are expensive: Here’s how we’re managing.]

“Very few families can actually afford to pay the true cost of child care,” Simon Workman, director of early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress, said. “For so many families, that’s not even a decision. They’re putting their child in whatever child care they can afford, which doesn’t have all of the developmental, high-quality, well-skilled and well-paid teachers, teachers who aren’t worried about their own economic stress. It’s a really fundamental issue in our society right now.”

Surprisingly, the cost of care in New York isn’t even the highest in the nation. Washington, D.C., can claim that honor, with parents paying annual child care costs of $24,243 for one infant, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In New York City, it’s $15,394 for one infant and $27,752 for two kids annually. In the least expensive state for child care, Mississippi, parents still pay $5,436 a year for one infant.

Personalized attention from a nanny costs much more. An informal 2019 survey by Park Slope Parents, a community group in Brooklyn, found the average nanny earns $19.94 per hour to care for two kids; at 50 hours a week, that’s $51,844 annually (though, sadly, the majority of the caregivers who lovingly watch our children live in poverty themselves).

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