The crazy cost of daycare

I used to wonder why so many women (and a few men) disappeared from my workplace after having kids. Was parenting more satisfying than bringing home a paycheque? Did their partners make so much money that the second income wasn’t needed? Did they hate working with me?

The answers to these job-related baby questions came careering back at me the year we adopted Chloe and Carl returned to work after his parental leave ended. Since I now work from home, my freelance career took a huge hit because I was the parent doing the bulk of parenting.

daycare

To keep my customers happy and myself paid, I needed to get back to work. I needed daycare.

My first inkling that something was crazy with daycare in Canada was the serious lack of spots available. Wait lists for youngins’ were epic, with some licensed childcare centres boasting year-long estimates to mind your spawn. If you were lucky enough to win the daycare lottery by securing a spot earlier, then the second shock to your system would be the cost.

In rural British Columbia, where I first teethed on child care’s costly bite, the fee for my toddler at a licensed daycare centre was a flat rate of $930 per month. That’s about $44 per day, including statutory holidays. Yes, parents pay for stats even though daycares are closed and you may not get the paid vacation day to stay home with your kid. Chew on that cost for a bit.

Moving to Toronto made daycare so much more fun to afford since my daily rate is now set at $70 for a coveted spot. No more flat rate cheques for me — I now need an algorithmic approach to see the monthly budgetary damage. This is the math that makes working parents cry.

Toronto Childcare Cost:

Number of Weekdays X $70 = Total Monthly Daycare Cost

Monthly Cost: ~$1,517
Annual Cost: ~$18,200

Most months I pay around $1,517 for simple licensed childcare in Toronto — there’s nothing posh about this place, but it’s safe and clean and I like the staff. That’s around $18,200 per year, or all the after-tax money you thought you earned by working full time.

Have a mortgage or pay rent? Good luck putting food on the table, ’cause working for a living will cost you. Good thing I cut the landline, broke up with my cable company, have an unlocked cell phone with a cheap plan, sometimes shop at Value Village, and paid off my student debt eons ago because these average day-to-day childcare expenses can often sink the savings any couple working hard in their 30s might aspire to bank.

I’d like to have a glass of wine to numb the pain, but I’m living the unfancy lifestyle by soaking dried beans and cooking with a slow cooker to save money. Go me.

Turns out working for a living is the most expensive life decision I’ve ever made.

After doing the daycare math, I treated myself to a new bite guard to prevent the grinding cost of dental care, sucked on my own spit up, and contemplated not returning to work. No wonder so many women (and a few men) disappear from the workplace after having kids — the cost of childcare in Canada is financially crippling and unaffordable.

daycare center

I’m not the only parent to throw a toddler-sized tantrum over daycare costs. Seems a lot of parents want to go back to work, earn a living, and you know, pay those taxes the Canadian government loves to deduct from our paycheques before the money hits our bare bank accounts.

Screenwriter Trevor Finn voiced his grief to The Globe and Mail in We earn more than $100,000 a year. Why can’t we afford daycare?

I choked on my bite guard while reading the piece. I understand all too well when he asks: “Why aren’t the provincial or federal governments helping to lighten the load for our young families?”

In 2012 the maximum child care income tax deduction was $7,000, and deemed “out of touch with reality” by Tammy Schirle, an Associate Professor of Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University.

The monthly $100 Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) is adorable, really. I’m not shunning the C-Note — I’ve been known to stoop for smaller denominations — but if the UCCB is truly “designed to help Canadian families, as they try to balance work and family life, by supporting their child care choices through direct financial support” then it probably should aim to cover more than 1.4 days of daycare each month. Sorry, my math is too generous. The UCCB is taxable, you have to report it on your income taxes, so after tax it covers almost a single day of daycare in Toronto. Very helpful, thanks government guys.

It’s not like all Canadian provincial governments have ignored childcare costs. Families in Quebec pay $25 a day for private and $7 a day for public subsidized daycare. Makes having a second kid and going back to work a no-brainer, non?

Governments around the world seem to want families to grow and parents to prosper at work too. In Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting I learned of France’s public daycares, called crèches, costing around 50 cents a day.

The Netherlands and Denmark also boast affordable daycare options for working families, which makes me want to move where the grass is greener. Being able to afford lawn care and daycare would be lovely, really.

stroller

When squawkin’ about families and governments and countries around this planet we call Earth, it’s always fair (and mostly expected) to cite a study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). So I shall. In Doing Better for Families the OECD says “Canada could step up its efforts to provide more support to parents with young children.”

“Affordability and quality in childcare overall in Canada is an issue. For example, after childcare costs in a typical family with two working parents who earn a total of 200% of average household earning with two young children in Ontario, just below 40% of gross earnings is effectively available for consumption; for a similar typical OECD family
this just below 50%.” — OECD

I’m not asking for a handout, but I’d high five any proposed (and passed) CRA income tax update that reflects the realities of families today. Thanks, government guys.

So where am I going with this?

Not far from my work desk, obviously. After bathing Chloe and putting her to bed I’ll spend the rest of my evening writing a pithy financial article to sell. I may gnaw on my bite guard and debate my choice to earn a living, but I’ll probably pour a shallow glass of wine to serve as a needed pallet cleanser.

Now excuse me while I get back to work, I need to pay for daycare.

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. Sandi August 18th, 2013

    When we were calculating the cost of my going back to work after, we realized that daycare was going to cost more than our mortgage payment. Mmm-hmmm.

    I was going to net -$2 a month after the cost of transportation to work and the cost of putting the kids in daycare. -$2 to leave home, work for a company I didn’t agree with, and try and squeeze the rest of my life into evenings and weekends.

    Moan.

  2. Bob DeLoyd August 19th, 2013

    My goodness, at that price you could maybe hire someone, maybe a friend or teenager, part time to babysit… then again maybe not; I really don’t know how the labor laws work in Canada.
    Good piece of writing :)

  3. Rob August 19th, 2013

    Isn’t daycare (and a mortgage for that matter) a tax deduction? $18K/year is an impressive amount of money to pay for babysitting but it’s less painful as pretax money. For that matter, can’t you make it a business expense?

  4. Jules August 19th, 2013

    Haha, day care in the Netherlands is affordable…oh that’s a good one. What’s next? That labor isn’t painful?

    In all seriousness, daycare costs are why I can’t work. I want to, but the jobs in my area pay just about enough to send the kidlet to day care, and that’s it. If we lived in Amsterdam, it might be a different story, but then our costs-of-living would also be substantially higher (and plus we don’t like Amsterdam).

  5. Christine S-P August 19th, 2013

    As someone who does stay home, I would also like to see some tax benefit to that. For example, the higher income earner delegating $25 or 30K of their earnings to the lower earner to get some tax relief when families do choose to forgo the higher income in order to be at home with kids. Long term, this increases the number of available jobs for people who want to be working as well (reduces pressure on social welfare programmes) as encourages more children since it becomes economically less un-feasible.

  6. Fannie August 19th, 2013

    The creches in France is a great system, then the public school starts at 3 years old. Let’s not forget we only have 3 months maternity/parental leave. Maybe reducing the parental leave could be part of a solution in forcing the creation of more daycare structures ? Btw I waited 3 years for a subsidized 7$ daycare in QC, the private daycare is $40 now.

  7. Natalie August 19th, 2013

    Rob,
    Mortgages in Canada are not tax deductible. Only $7000 per child for daycare is tax deductible. That still leaves Kerry out $11,200 of after tax dollars.

    Kerry is lucky to have found a day care. We have three kids and are fortunate enough to have a live in nanny that costs us about $21,000 per year, the max allowed under the deduction. We are sweating bullets about the future though. The new rules to the live-in caregiver program have just made it more difficult to get an employee, never mind more expensive (+275 application fees and $400 WCB payment.) The government seems to think that we should hire, if we could, a local person. That’s a nice idea but it would likely mean replacing a nanny on a very regular basis, even if we could find someone who would work for the $21,000 a year. Yet another reason for people to choose the child-free life. Governments really don’t care about families, just taxes!

  8. april August 19th, 2013

    $44 or 70 a day to raise a child. Bargain. The higher it gets the better for the child. Where would a child under 5 rather be…at home with mom or dad or with a room full of other children and a few paid adults who are not related to them. I am sure some people have wonderful satisfying jobs, but raising your own children is extremely satisfying as well and it seems most adults aren’t that satisfied with their 9 to 5. I would rather see help for the parents who choose to stay home. Staying home gives you more time to get creative with money saving too. Let’s not ignore another, maybe better, option than day care. I am sure the kids will be happy we did. And yes, if you constantly drop the kids off for someone else to take care of them, like anything they will get used to it. That does not mean they are happier there than with you.

  9. Lyn August 19th, 2013

    I stayed home with our kids as it was the most cost effective for us. But lots of my friends have come up with creative solutions. Some nanny-share, several friends work at night and their husbands work in the day, others who work from home hire teen babysitters for the afternoon (3:00-6:00) so they get some hours of uninterrupted work time, some even babysit share with friends, (if they are both part time workers.)
    It isn’t easy, but more subsidized daycare means more taxes. And less income in the end.

  10. Jade August 19th, 2013

    @April, I haven’t been a child in a while but I can faintly remember that at the time, I would have MUCH rather played with a bunch of kids all day than stay at home!

  11. Rob August 19th, 2013

    @Natalie: Both this article and the comments confirm a decision I made when I was a teenager – kids are too expensive a luxury for me. I remember (a long time ago, some 30+ years) a CBC Radio report that said it cost $100K to raise a kid to (or through) university. I turned to my dad and told him that if he wanted grandkids he should start lobbying my (then 10-year old) brother, because I was keeping that money for myself. He didn’t believe me for some reason. And I don’t think he had ever considered the cost when they had decided to have kids. He came from a generation where you got married and had kids, without thinking about it. As do I, I suppose, as virtually all my high-school friends are wallowing in grandkids now.

  12. Marcia August 19th, 2013

    Oh yes, the cost of daycare. While So Cal isn’t as bad as Toronto, it’s still not great.

    Infant care (up to age two) is $1200-1400/month in a licensed center. My home daycare (also licensed) is still $250/week or $13,000 a year.

    My neighbor once had three children in preschool or childcare and at the end of the month netted $100, but she was basically working for the health insurance.

  13. Nicolae August 19th, 2013

    Yes, the daycare is expensive. But, for families with middle income the municipalities usually offer subsidies (as they do in Toronto) and in some cases they might pay 100% of your daycare cost. So make sure you check with your local offices about this.
    From other side, I cannot afford the daycare too, but I do everything I can to send my kid to the daycare, because he socializes there, he learns how to take care of him self, and lots of other things and skills that at home I will never be able to teach him. Or at least not as fast as he could learn there.
    I always compare my son with my friends’s son, who stays at home, and I can see that the other boy do not know how to interact with other kids. It takes time, by staying at home to teach your children all those social skills.

    And to those who decided to not have kids, I understand you, but, believe me, there is nothing more amazing than when you son comes to you and says that he loves you, than you see his smile and running towards to!! I would never change this for any money in the world!!!

    But you all are right, the government has to do something about these costs, as getting few backs every few months don’t save you.

  14. DebbieT August 19th, 2013

    I always cringe when this discussion comes up because I’m waiting for the stay-up-home versus working parenting comments to turn bitter. Maybe because I honestly feel bitter myself at times? I’ve been a daycare center worker before having children (never again! very little respect and high expectations from most parents, no sick pay, and terrible pay) and an at-home daycare provider in the earlier days of the first 2 of our 4 children (that was very difficult for our children and a shift working husband and much of the same problems I cited for center working). I’ve now been a full time stay-at home mom for 19 years, and am glad we’ve managed to make it work with a lot of humor and frugality; incidentally, our kids have always been thankful for it. I find it frustrating and amusing that schools/people expect stay-at-home moms to provide more help (PAC, school field trips, hot lunch help, other volunteer activities) and often feel like bringing up the idea of asking the working ones to provide more money for all this stuff. Yes, I know — I see that doesn’t add up either! So, my point? I guess just that there seems to be no end to the quagmire in parenting decisions these days. (Also, doesn’t all that paid for or subsidized daycare in other provinces or countries make taxes alot more expensive for everybody?!)

  15. Kerry August 19th, 2013

    @DebbieT I think that debate is being emailed straight to my inbox, mostly by people who I suspect rarely read my blog. I’m happy with public debate. We all make choices. This post is about laying down the financial facts of working and paying for daycare. I did the math.

  16. Cheryl August 19th, 2013

    Another cost… hard to calculate but hugely important. The cost of being out of the work force for X numbers of years. Mothers (yes, it’s usually women) miss the promotions, the building of clients, the establishing of seniority. Time away from work is a huge financial blow in this day and age.

    HOWEVER… saying all that, there is also a cost of not having a stay at home parent, or at least ONE parent who puts their career second – children coming first. Really seriously folks, you can not have it all. Every successful PM, President, CEO, with balanced children at home HAS to have a partner who makes career sacrifices (at least for a while). If they don’t, then I totally believe they will have an “official” mug shot of their kids in HELLO Mag.- wouldn’t THAT be nice on the fridge? Or how about – for once – we define successful as a HAPPY PERSON! I’m thinking this HAPPY PERSON most likely had at least one parent who saw them as more important than their individualistic career. They had time to make them healthy food, watch all their sports games, see thier school plays, help them with projects, y’know get to know them. Now calculate the economic benefits of having happy people on this big ol’ planet!

    I know, I know, money is nice but time is irreplacable. Now to scour the job ads and find a “career” to make some money but doesn’t take too much time away from my family, HA!

  17. Steph August 19th, 2013

    1. Gahhh!! Sending your child to a childcare facility is not the same as getting a “babysitter” My partner went to school for 2 years to become an Early Childhood Educator and has numerous years of experience. He works a 9 hour day each week day and puts his heart and soul into providing a nurturing learning environment for the kiddos he works with. He changes lives every day. He does not “babysit” :)

    2. The daycare prices ARE crazy in Canada. Especially because the high costs are not providing the ECE’s with a decent living. We need to kick up more fuss about Early Childhood Education opportunities for our kiddos! We need more support for parents and families as well as more opportunities for ECE’s. (Most of whom have a college and/or university education and barely make above minimum wage- at least in Nova Scotia)

    3. I’m struggling to empathize with the guy making 100 grand a year who “cannot afford daycare” :P

  18. Connie August 19th, 2013

    Kerry, my heart goes out to all mothers of young children. I don’t know how you do it and I have nothing to contribute on the how to side. But I was thinking about the value in dollars of the services of an at home mother. If one child’s day care cost $18,200 annually for 8 hours, 5 days a week then 24 hours, everyday of the year would be valued at $69,000 or there abouts.
    Can this be right? Is a stay at home mom really worth that much?

  19. Genevieve August 19th, 2013

    I chose to stay at home with my kids, not because of the cost of childcare, but because I wanted to spend the first years raising them myself, until they go to school. This was possible thanks to long-term planning, and some sacrifice.

    There is no doubt, daycare is costly, and it eats up a good part of the budget. However, let’s break it down. Can we really say that 40, or even 70 dollars, for someone to care for your child 9-10 hours a day, provide food, and security, entertain them, etc. is too much? I have been at home for nearly five years, with my own two kids, and I can say, it’s hard work. And I can guarantee my kids are no less social than kids who go to daycare, because I make sure they have opportunities to socialize through playgroups, story time, etc.

    So how can we alleviate the cost of childcare for parents while paying those childhood educators their worth? Or how can we help parents who do want to stay at home, but are afraid of losing that second salary?

  20. Candy August 19th, 2013

    Don’t forget that childcare costs in Canada must be deducted from the spouse earning less regardless of who actually pays them. If your business doesn’t turn a profit neither spouse gets to claim anything. Double whammy!

  21. Rob August 19th, 2013

    So, I have no dog in this fight as I don’t have kids. And don’t live in Canada any more for that matter. But given this is a blog about frugality and finance I have to wonder whether it’s even all that legitimate to write about the crazy cost of daycare.

    If you’re going to buy a car you investigate prices, maintenance cost and assess whether you can afford it. If you want a horse you figure out if you can afford it. If you want to buy a house you investigate and make sure you can afford it.

    Why is having a kid any different? It’s not like people can’t investigate what it’s going to cost in advance. I have sympathy for people who decide to have one kid and get twins out of the deal but someone who is “frugal” should be able to figure out the costs in advance for one kid and decide whether it’s worth it. And if it *is* worth it, why would one then declare the cost outrageous?

    I’m not trying to start a fight – I really don’t understand the merits of the discussion.

  22. Connie August 19th, 2013

    I can sympathize with your “Catch 22.” Daycares everywhere are full to bursting and not all home daycares are licensed…so even finding a spot, let alone one that is affordable or quality care is very difficult. As my marital and my financial situation changed as my youngest was two, I have seen this dilemna from three positions: 1) Stay at home Mom for 3 years with first two children ; 2) Dual income family with no subsidy and taking home very little and lastly; 3) single parent with limited income that qualified for subsidy, but working a job with no future and not great pay. So I waited until the little ‘un went to kindergarten to go back to school myself. Tough go and not the best for kids, but little choice. It seems to me that our social progams and tax credits help the lower and high income families more and leave the middle income families in no man’s land and paying for a lot of the government’s projects. It should be more financially attractive to stay home if that is what one chooses, or financially feasible to return to work and maintain our careers if that is our choice. Don’t the economists that advise the mininsters creating programs that is is difficult to “stimulate” the economy with our spending if we have no disposable income after bills ??? !!!!!! If daycares could provide more half time spots at half price, Moms and Dads could keep our feet on the career path and not loose ground when we choose to do most of the childcare ourselves…..

  23. Cheryl August 19th, 2013

    @Rob… No, it is not worth it financial to have children. It hasn’t been since Agricultural era where farm familes breed their own workers (true, there are still families who do that, moving on). Since we mostly don’t live on family farms these days, lets just say we live in a village, an interconnected village called Earth. That would mean all the “Child Free” people out there, if you happen to become ill, disabled, and um old, you will be relying on a whole lotta OTHER people’s children. I guess you better hope all those poor “modern” parents out there are raising smart, honest, and gentle children. Trust me, you will want them to be smart, honest and especially gentle when in the future you are getting certain invasive procedures done – oh it’s a comin! But since you don’t have any children and you are aware that it costs SO MUCH in money – and time – to raise these smart, kind, and gentle human beings… think of us poor parents who choose this expensive path of parenthood. Send a little of that singlehood moola our way, support schools, subsidize childcare, forgo the trip to Peru and build a playground? If you’re still gonna be greedy and keep it all, please STOP smugly FLAUNTING the $243,660 you will save by NOT having a child OR there will be no one dumb enough to make babies, then there will be no one to wipe OUR bums.

  24. Nathan August 19th, 2013

    All those other places with subsidized daycare rates sound great… but don’t forget to analyze the tax regimes. For example, Ontario’s portion of personal income taxes are as follows: 5.05% on the first $39,723 of taxable income, + 9.15% on the next $39,725, + 11.16% on the next $429,552, + 13.16 % on the amount over $509,000.

    Whereas in Quebec with that $7/day public daycare you’re looking at income tax rates of 16% on the first $41,095, + 20% for amounts more than $41,095 but not more than $82,190, + 24% for amounts more than $82,190 but not more than $100,000, + 25.75% for amounts more than $100,000.

    Changes the Utopian daycare rates a tad.

    The European countries you noted also have much higher tax rates than here in Canada, but I won’t bother to dig those up here.

    Info source: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/fq/txrts-eng.html

  25. Kristine August 19th, 2013

    As a single mom, I would have had to have quit my ok-paying job and take welfare if it were not for the daycare Centre at my work, and the city subsidy. I got on the waiting list when I was four months pregnant, and finally got a spot in the Centre when my son was one. Lucky for us, because it was not long after that that his father left town. I guess I should have planned well in advance for that too? I think I made the right choice between welfare and returning to work. Four or five years out of the workforce means that I would now be qualified for making minimum wage, instead of the nice middle-class income I currently earn.

  26. rob August 19th, 2013

    @Cheryl:

    Well, as I said when I asked my question – I’m not trying to start a fight. Nor am I “smug”, nor am I flaunting anything. While you make fine points about the likelihood of my relying on other people’s kids if I get old and frail, you’ve still not addressed my question. In fact it seems you’re annoyed that it was asked.

    I’ll also point out that you have no idea what I do with my money and time. How do you know that I don’t already contribute to schools and otherwise support other people’s kids? The fact that I’m asking the question and the fact that I chose not to be tied down with the costs of raising kids doesn’t mean that I’m not supportive of the society in which I live.

    But I still wonder. Why are people getting upset at the cost of daycare when they know in advance what the cost will be and still decide to have kids?

  27. Anne August 19th, 2013

    When comparing the cost of working and paying for day care and not working, I think it is important to calculate the long term costs of being out of work for 3-5 years. It isn’t easy jumping right back in, especially at the same pay level. Sometimes it can be difficult to come back at all, in a highly competitive market. Also you lose the interest you would have made on any retirement savings, as well as not being able to save for retirement during that time along with valuable networks and knowledge that you gain while working in an ever changing economy.

  28. Tina August 19th, 2013

    I think this article has absolutely nothing at all with being frugal. It’s more of a ‘woe is me because I am paying for daycare.’

    And for the record, yes, my kids were in daycare from 18 months to kindergarten, and yes, it sucks, so I can empathize. But a more worthwhile story here would be more like WHAT ARE OTHER FRUGAL IDEAS/OPTIONS FOR DAYCARE (other than being a stay at home parent).

  29. Cheryl August 19th, 2013

    @Rob Only the first 3 sentences were directed at you. The rest was a generalized rant about the “Child Free” people who – knowingly or not – do affluent dances in our tired, overworked, unpaid, underappreciated, motherly faces. I just wanted to make it perfectly clear that we raise your future dentists and proctologists. Be generous to parents.

    So now to answer your question er um Data. I did rationally calculate the cost of daycare before I had children, found out that it would be expensive, voted for the Canadian Political Party that was going to bring in Universal Childcare (they lost), still wanted children, tried to get rich, didn’t get rich, figured being rich doesn’t make you a good parent, made some tough financial decisions, had children. So there you have it, the decision to have children should not be decided because you can’t afford daycare – daycare should be made affordable!

  30. Rob August 19th, 2013

    @Cheryl:

    I’m curious – given that you spent a while (years?) after making your cost calculations, did you spend those years saving the money necessary to raise your kids? 5-6 years of putting away the $18K/year for daycare will take you a long way. There’s something to be said for wanting something badly enough to save for it in advance, that being the theme of this blog.

    Not being a parent I don’t actually know if other childless people “do affluent dances …. ” but I know as someone without kids I have heard lots of complaining from parents about how easy I have it and how unfair it is that I get to spend my money on me rather than “having” to raise kids.

  31. Sandi August 20th, 2013

    @Tina: That’s because there aren’t any. It’s an enormous expense that frugal people should know about well before they have to make the choice to pay it or sacrifice income.

  32. Lolly August 20th, 2013

    Maybe children and their shaping into the future responsible young people and finally adults of tomorrow, isn’t something that can be run through a simple financial equation like insurance rates or the costs associated with the maintenance and operation of a car. Yes, children are “expensive” in terms of time, energy and money, but these are human beings, our human beings, a part of our soul walking around outside of our bodies. So I just don’t think that you can put a price on caring for them or ask the government to go out to the “money tree” behind the parliament building so “they” can pay for your child’s care. Life is full of hard choices, you either cough up the dough to have your child cared for by responsible adults while you do what you think you need to do without them (and possibly only clear a hundred bucks a month), or you “sacrifice” in your career to care for them 24/7 yourself. Personally I rode the elevator down from the executive offices of a multi-billion dollar company, traded in my BMW for a Chevy, my power suits for yoga pants and now our family lives on my husband’s tradesperson’s income. I have never. looked. back.

  33. L August 20th, 2013

    I think in Ontario, anyway, All Day Kindergarten is the government’s attempt to help with Daycare costs, but it does nothing for the younger ones. And of course, the daycare issue doesn’t end when they are in school unless you are lucky enough to have flexible hours/work-from home options at your job…they need before and after school care.

    @Tina, my family stayed in the same area, so a lot of the “daycare” could be pooled/covered by extended family. We worked in shifts! Sometimes that meant the kids were with their mother until 2pm (she took evening shift work), their grandmother watched them till 5pm, and then I had them for the evening!

    A friend of mine has her parents watch her son two days a week, her husband’s aunt watches him another day, and two daycare every week. They looked at the math, and they couldn’t do full-time daycare.

    That’s about the only frugal option for daycare I can think of, but it depends on staying in a close geographic area…and that can limit your job opportunities!

  34. Jen August 20th, 2013

    Yes it is expensive. I am about 2hrs from Toronto and the cost is roughly in the same range. One good thing to note is that once the baby reaches 18mo they change from “infant” to “toddler” status and the rates decrease dramatically since the caregiver-to-child ratio goes up. I was paying $1425/month for my 1-yr old but at 18mo it dropped to $1200/month and by 2.5yrs it was down to $850/month.

    Home daycares are cheaper too if you can find someone you trust like a neighbor or friend. We switched to a home daycare when our second child was born. The total cost for BOTH kids is about $1600/month but they do not provide food and the hours are more limited than a daycare centre.

    If you have more than 2 kids, you’d have to be making about $120K/yr or have a grandparent watch the kids for free to make it worthwhile to have both parents work.

    It’s funny, a friend once commented that it’s cheaper to send your kid to university than it is to send them to daycare (in ontario). It’s so true!

    What’s amazing is that people spend close to that amount to board their pets while away too. A friend paid about $1000/month to board their dog at a doggy daycare. If people are willing to do that, then I’m not surprised people are willing to pay a bit more for their kids.

    Good luck with your choices everyone. At the end of the day, the amount of time we pay for daycare is limited to a few hard years. Unfortunately it’s at a time when people are usually in their 30′s, have big mortgages but lower incomes.

  35. Connie August 20th, 2013

    Strange the topic brings out attacks of others’ choices on here….. emotionally loaded topic…or some aren’t happy with their choices……… why question Kerry for bringing it up? She has also brought up issues where the pros and cons can have emotional weight, too…. home ownership vs. renting…clinging to that real estate when all things point towards renting being the more frugal option. But we choose ownership for how it makes us feel.
    This is a new problem……..when our mothers made this choice, the daycare options were few, but did not eat up the majority of our earnings… and that seems to be the “tipping point.” How darn much it costs and how it makes us re-think our career plans.

  36. Kerry August 20th, 2013

    I really love you guys. This is an emotionally charged issue requiring many tough choices. A very hard post for me to write.

  37. Laura August 20th, 2013

    We live in Atlantic Canada in a more rural area where in home licensed care for an infant will run you about $30 per day. Sounds inexpensive right? Check out our tax rates. My take home pay making 100K is a lot less than someone in Ontario.

    I have three children, one is finishing law school this year, one is finishing undergrad and one is in high school. I paid over 80% of my take home pay in Ontario for two years for the older two for daycare along with travel etc, before returning to NS and becoming a stay at home mom.

    We went into debt, didnt live large, my husband worked overtime and was rarely home more than a day a week to try to maintain a decent lifestyle for our family, until our youngest started school.

    Do I regret not planning ahead, not doing a cost/ benefit analysis of having THREE children starting at 21? Somedays when I look at my bank account I do. But some things you dont plan or analyse. You have to do it. Not everything can be planned.

    I will say that we stopped at 3 because we knew the cost would be more than we could bear with more and I needed to go back to work to contribute some income. For what its worth, I know day care is expensive, but its honestly nothing compared to the costs as they get older and more involved in sports, activities etc. So the fourth did not happen. It was a decision we consciously made. We had a good idea of what the next 20 years or so were going to look like financially, so it was a smart decision for our family.

    However, you cannot predict divorce, job loss, illness or death. Many things about life cannot be planned or put into a spreadsheet of pros and cons. Sometimes life is about going for what you want, flying by the seat of your pants and doing what you have to do to make life happen. For us, we moved to NS, we both worked hard, tried to live within our means and made life happen for our family. I cant IMAGINE not giving birth based on daycare costs or anything like that. Had I waited until we could afford it, my children would never have met their grandmother, they would never have had me or their father at our healthiest, and in fact, they most likely would not even exist, due to the curveballs life has thrown at us.

    So to the gentleman who made this calculated decision about children based on a dollar figure, I can ASSURE you, that many people have raised happy healthy educated children on less than 100K per child and have no regrets or complaints.

  38. Rhonda August 20th, 2013

    First off, I’ve been on BOTH sides. Childcare cost is a reality. I NEVER ever not paid my caregiver for Stat holidays and I did not EVER complain because it makes the caregiver feel unappreciated for all she does not only for your child, but for the other children in her care. Then I decided to stay home when my son was 5 years old. He has a peanut allergy. No other home care wanted the liability and the center was full of more policies than programs, so I opened a home daycare for children with allergies. I was treated badly the first two years. Don’t want to pay if they came early. Don’t want to pay if the child had to go home sick. Sent kids in deathly ill while they stayed home and had a bubble bath. Let me tell you, everyone wants everything for free. There are a lot of middle-class parents taking these spots who make an average of $60 – $70 EACH. That, according to MY MATH is a good $120-$140K a year pre-tax. Post tax, I’m still guessing they are bringing home some good money. If the average pre-tax per-day salary is $300 per day, then pre-tax daily childcare expense is $45 (where I live). That’s a steal!

    Don’t forget, the caregiver works an AVERAGE of 10 hours with as little as 15 minutes break to herself with as little as 2-3 weeks vacation (unpaid) per year with NO sick days, NO personal days AND no respect.

    Your math is your math. This is a subject that will always be touchy for both sides but in the end, NO ONE is doing ANY job for free and child care providers DO NEED to be paid and compared to ONE parent’s salary, a care givers’s salary about 50% of that.

  39. Tracey August 20th, 2013

    Kerry, Thank you for such a good post! Living in California ,as a childcare provider and preschool teacher for over 25 years, I have NEVER been paid the outrages amounts paid in the areas of Canada you’ve spoken about. I do live in a rural area, so childcare costs are less around $25-$40 per day. This being said, I have had many people tell me that I must be making a lot of money in this field, because of the cost.This is simply not true. Being licensed for 8 children, The max income for one day is $200-$320 per day. After taxes, food, and many other expenses, I receive about half for myself. I do not get health insurance, retirement, paid vacations, sick leave or paid holidays, and work 10.5 hours a day with no help or breaks. I’m not complaining. The reason I do it is because I love my job. I have been on the other “side”, paying for childcare for my children when they were very young. It was tough, but they were at a wonderful facility and very happy and it was worth it. The cost of everything these days is expensive, but it is all relative. I chose to have a home daycare instead of going out in the workforce so I could stay home with my children which has been the best of both worlds. I am a well educated person and chose to take many years to finish my degree in Early Childhood Education so I could do it all. Now that my children are out of the house I can concentrate on myself and a career. It’s all doable. It is a very emotional topic because it’s dealing with families and what more of an important subject can be talked about. There are many things people spend lots of money on that I would not, expensive cars, houses, etc. But that is my choice. Everyone has the choice to make their own decisions with their lives and should never be put down or criticized for it. We all should be afforded a living wage no matter what our profession.

  40. Cheryl August 20th, 2013

    @Rob Let’s see… saved to explore the world, check. Saved and paid for my University education, check. Vehicle to get to work, check. Living quarters, check. Secured reliable parental partner, check. Kids daycare, crap! I knew I forgot to save for something. *shakes head* I guess I better shove them back up there and wait for my 50′s, oh wait, menopause. Damn it!

    Now excuse me, for how much I have enjoyed this banter (I don’t talk to grown up like people very often), I am now going to go and get some hugs and kisses from some little people. Nobody could possibly understand how priceless these little people are until you hold your own. You should try it one day, truly amazing. Just make sure your save for daycare first, and I know you will.

  41. Sprocket August 20th, 2013

    I stayed home to raise a daughter, working part time in bits and pieces to make ends meet. I did the same math as you, Kerry, and decided it just made no sense to opt for full time childcare when I could, and wanted to, do the job myself. She’s now in university, and it was more than worth the sacrifice – and there’s no question, it is an economic and career sacrifice. I’m starting my career all over again now. But it’s a totally personal choice that everyone needs to make for their family according to their situation – do your own math according to your values and your economic reality.
    Canadian readers interested in the bigger picture might want to check out this link:
    http://gensqueeze.ca/
    Featuring the research of Paul Kershaw at the UBC Human Early Learning Partnership, he and others make a compelling case for giving relief to current (child raising) generations through economic policy that responds proactively to current national / global realities. In other words, the pinch goes deep and far, and it’s not just childcare. This is why you’re feeling squeezed!

  42. Melissa S August 20th, 2013

    The only way we ever made it work was my husband worked days and I worked nights/weekends. Living in Southern California is expensive too.

  43. Lori August 21st, 2013

    @ Cheryl, I’m going to second what Rob said (being a woman who does not want to have my own children even though I think children are fabulous). In your post you wrote that, “Nobody could possibly understand how priceless these little people are until you hold your own.” That says it all: for most parents the benefits of having children outweigh the costs (daycare, education, etc.). That said, Rob and I made a choice not to have children and you made a choice to have them. It’s as simple as that. Rob and I are already paying taxes that support other people’s children. How much more should we have to pay? Where does society draw the line?

  44. gina August 22nd, 2013

    as a childcare provider in the USA Ca I am paid $35 I start at 530am last child leaves a bit after 6pm (clean, cooking books to balance too) I can only have 8 children I have a BA work s days a week feed change cuddle teach children the wear and tear on their home, the toys and barley make enough to survive. Before you complain learn how your child care provider survives. Appreciate the hard work that a provider does Stop complaining

  45. Lisa August 22nd, 2013

    @Cheryl I agree with Lori and Rob. As a woman who is planning on having children, daycare is something I’ve looked in to. Yes, it’s expensive but it’s my choice to put myself in that position. My husband and I choose to have children at a time in our lives that we were financially stable to do so. Rob and Lori are not saying that people shouldn’t have children. If I understand correctly, they are simply making the point that people need to make choices that include their financial reality.

    With regard to your comment: “Nobody could possibly understand how priceless these little people are until you hold your own”, I think it’s grossly unfair to make these assumptions. There are many people that love their [fill in: adoptive children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc.] just as much as their biological parents.

  46. Jules August 22nd, 2013

    @ Lisa and Lori and Rob: In principle, I agree with you–if you want children, you should look into daycare costs before you have them so that you can make decisions accordingly.

    However, if the numbers don’t work out and you’re already pregnant (in our case, it was a birth control fail–and about 50% of pregnancies are unplanned), what are you going to do? Have an abortion just because you can’t afford daycare? I mean, I’m cold and heartless when it comes to this topic (I’m pro-choice) but a kid isn’t a luxury item you can take back to the Great Counter in the Sky when you realize the price isn’t right.

    Sermonizing about the consequences of our actions is all very well and good, but it doesn’t help fix the problem NOW. And the problem now is that daycare costs eat up way more salary than is good for the people making the money or the economy (because they can’t spend it on stuff).

  47. Christina August 22nd, 2013

    The Fraser Institute came out with a report today claiming that a child can be raised on $3,000 – $4,000 a year ‘if parents only include necessary expenses and are careful with their dollars.’ They then disclose that their calculations exclude the cost of child care as well as the lost income opportunities if one parent decides to stay home to raise said children.

    Now I wonder how many parents are able to work without incurring child care costs while maintaining some semblance of sanity? Let’s see – you could work opposing shifts, work with children hanging around, rely heavily on family and friends. There are not many scenarios that include both parents working without having to pay for child care. Hmmm…

    As for the discussion above regarding the financial viability of having children, I believe it has been much too black-and-white. I do not think that many people decide to have children without considering some of the resulting costs, from child care to lost income opportunities to splitting one income multiple ways. I think a much more productive discussion would center around the balance of how much as a society we support following generations and the generation raising them. For example, how much of our tax dollars should go towards supporting children and their families?

    Let’s look at a few facts. Based on the 2011 census, the Canadian population can be broken down as follows:
    14.8% – seniors over 65 years
    68.5% – working ages (15-64 years)
    16.7% – children under the age of 15

    Furthermore, the Canadian federal government released some data showing in percentages where our tax dollars were spent in 2010 – 2011:
    25% – Transfer directly to persons
    13% – elderly benefits
    7% – EI benefits
    5% – children’s benefits
    34% – Transfer to provinces & territories
    10% – health care
    4% – post- secondary education, social programs for children
    6% – cities & municipalities
    14% – other transfer payments (First Nations, agriculture, foreign aid, R&D, infrastructure)
    30% – Federal Gov’t Operations
    8% – defense
    3% – public safety
    3% – CRA
    4% – crown corporations
    12% – all other operations
    11% – public debt charges

    Based on the above numbers, children receive only 9% of every tax dollar spent when they comprise close to 17% of the population!!!

    If the above data had more detail, one could have included some health care costs (though children under 15 use roughly only 9% of total health care spending per CIHI) and excluded the cost of post-secondary education (as it does not apply to most children under 15).

    The point is, that based on how our tax dollars are spent, Canadian parents have a good basis from which to argue that as a society we should be supporting our children more. Parents that worry about the cost of child care and hope for more support from society, should not have to defend their choices against accusations of financial irresponsibility or any other personal attacks. This debate should center around what our values are as a Canadian society and how we balance the various needs of different generations in a fair and equitable manner.

    PS: Disclaimer after this rather long post – I am a very well-earning finance professional with three children who has always planned, budgeted and saved and sees raising children in today’s society as a very challenging juggling act!

  48. Christina August 22nd, 2013

    My formatting did not pull through on the post. The main categories of federal gov’t spending are as follows:

    25% – Transfer directly to persons
    34% – Transfer to provinces & territories
    30% – Federal Gov’t Operations
    11% – public debt charges

    All the other percentages are break-downs of the categories above.

  49. Zach Beall August 22nd, 2013

    It seems clear that maybe taking care of a few more children might be the best solution of all! Make some extra money- maybe even a lot of extra money and get the added benefit of continuing to take care of your daughter!

    Not really a suggestion so much as a tongue and cheek response.

    Have a nice day!

  50. wayne August 24th, 2013

    Of course we could have free daycare, we could also have a Police Officer on every corner, and everyone could have their choice of Doctors, but who is going to pay for it? It costs us about 3 dollars for every dollar the Government “gives” to us.
    I pay enough, so don’t ask the government for more!

  51. Andrew August 27th, 2013

    You meant “palate” right? We were lucky, our kids came 7 years apart so for the few years they each did need child care there was only 1 to pay for at a time. Another plus was that my schedule was never 9-5 mon to fri, so often I was home to look after them while my wife toiled at her mon-fri job. Of course, that meant I was often absent for family dinnertime, kiddie bath time, etc. Another reason for being lucky was that with both kids we found individuals in the neighbourhood who were willing to look after them in their home for some $ (but less than the cost of licensed daycare). No, these were not licensed daycares, but we knew them through the community and trusted in their abilities. Finally, yes we did make use of licensed facilities a bit too. We live in Quebec and all of this happened before government mandated cheap daycare! BTW, have you asked any Quebec parents how easy/difficult it is to find government-subsidized daycare? There is far more demand than spaces available. And finally, oh-oh, what about elder care? Maybe time for a post on those costs too! Thank-you Kerry for a stimulating discussion!

  52. anexactinglife September 2nd, 2013

    The current federal tax structure gives a small deduction for childcare expenses, and a small credit for all parents, which can be used for either childcare or other children’s expenses. A deliberate choice was made to emphasize the Child Benefit rather than increasing daycare deductions. It’s probably not much of a stretch to say that the current administration would like to see more mothers at home and out of the work force.

  53. Andrew September 7th, 2013

    My wife and I know and understand this whole issue all to well. After our first child was born and she went back to work until # 2 was born, my wife worked at a licenced daycare facility. For her to work there and have our child there, she would wind up in a negative income ( no staff discount ). For those of you out there that think childcare is well paid, think again. For 8 hours work she earned only $95 a day. Thankfully her mother and sister in law stepped up to help us out. Now with child # 2 here there was no way to return to work. Our decision was for her to stay home and run a small 4 day a week daycare service. She runs it as if it were licenced, has a maximum of 4 children, keeps up with her annual training and licencing and charges $ 45 / day for 3 and over and $ 55/day for 1 to 3y.o. Now we have her income, she stays home with our kids, we have a fantastic and loyal group of parents and a tax write off to boot.

  54. Jim October 22nd, 2013

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and many of the comments. I understand the difficulty in making the difficult decision between work and daycare. However, I am dismayed at the amount of people who are insisting the Government should be paying the costs. To me, that means you want your friends and neighbours to pay for your daycare through taxes. I cannot believe how selfish people are.

  55. hotcommodity October 22nd, 2013

    If you don’t like taxes, you won’t like Denmark. The whole reason they have all that free / cheap childcare (‘bjornhavn’ – child harbour) is because the average income tax is 50%. The upper range is topped out around 63% I think. So either way, you’re paying for it. When you factor in the extremely high cost of living – Copenhagen is the seventh most expensive place to live in the world and Toronto is not even on that list – you would likely reconsider how ‘affordable’ child care is there. Plus the weather is shite. Oh, and if your child is any other color than the palest of whites, they are sure to be segregated with all the other ooga-boogas (people of non-danish ethnicity). Anyways, just wanted to break through that whole ‘everything is so much better, easier, and less expensive in Scandinavia!!!’ Myth. Sweden, Norway, and Finland are about the same.

  56. sam October 22nd, 2013

    Apologies if this is a duplicate on tax deductions. One of the little shockeroos CRA deals some patents is that daycare costs can only be deducted by the parent with the lower income. We have one child. I net about $5,000/month, which barely covers our costs living in Toronto. My wife was in an apprectice program last year netting $1,500/month (she’s a struggling freelancer now). We were doing ok, but not great. Come tax time, I thought I’d have a nice fat daycare deduction, but nope. Only my wife could claim it and she didn’t need it, so instead of a deduction, I took a hit on tax that we could I’ll afford to pay. Thanks to CRA for supporting families!

  57. Larry C October 22nd, 2013

    Daycare is expensive because it is labour extensive. And that labour isn’t paid very well, so it isn’t going to get any cheaper.

    If the government of your province introduces a Quebec style daycare subsidy, it doesn’t get any cheaper. In fact, it probably increases the cost, but the cost is shared by all the taxpayers of your province.

    Your province needs to decide whether that’s an important way to spend its money. In Ontario, kindergarten is full days and starts at age 4 (when fully implemented) so new parents will have to pay for 3 years of daycare only.

    I suppose there are pros and cons to subsidized daycare and it’s good that people are talking about it. Hopefully, we can reach some middle ground that helps parents because I’m pretty sure we want to encourage people to have children.

  58. Brad October 22nd, 2013

    Kids are costly to raise. Are would be parents ready for this? Seems a romantic dream to raise a couple of kids, have a nice car, house, save some money for retirement, etc. I am 43. My wife and I did it. We raised a son, put him through college so, he has not debt. We earned about 85,000.00 a year averaged out over his lifetime. I had a side gig which was not fance but, allowed us to put some extra money in our pockets. We did not take fancy vacations, we drove older vehicles. We did it. Everyone has a choice. Day care has a cost. Sometimes, it is a large cost. For many of us, we can’t have our kids and a fancy car, extravagant home, and a vacation each year too. At one point, our son did not need day care anymore. Our pennies freed up a bit. We could breathe. Anyone suggesting that the government pay for daycare or heavily subsidize it is asking for me and those without children or those who raised theirs already to pay for it. Having children is a decision not to be taken lightly. I have paid my share already.

  59. Jerry October 22nd, 2013

    Yes, this debate always pits families with a stay at home parent versus others. It shouldn’t because the facts are objectively clear.

    Income tax payers are allowed to deduct expenses to earn an income. The limitations of the child care deduction from income tax is a scandal. That is clear discrimination against one group of people. The application to the lower income rather than the average is also wrong and discriminatory.

    I can’t understand how this is allowed to continue. Voter apathy? Too many people not paying income tax or low income tax? Too many voters not having childcare years children

    If this is a case of minority discrimination by the majority, why are we not attacking the child care deduction in court?

  60. Ela October 22nd, 2013

    The one thing that could change without subsidies is WORKING HOURS so that you get off at 3:30pm like in the Norway and other nordic european countries – they start a little earlier but end much earlier so it’s easier on families. You don’t pay for 30 minutes of aftercare – they have sports/arts classes at school. Also the high schools get out earlier so they can help pick up the younger kids from schools.

    We were so broke when we had all 3 kids in childcare. We were short for cash every month and physically exhausted.

    Now it’s eased up now that they are in school.

    The reason this is an issue is not just because people like to whine but because it’s NEW territory – for people to pay $2600 a month for childcare is not a long standing tradition that we have been raised to expect from past generations.

    The thing is most people can afford one kid in daycare and scrimp to get by. But THEN you may see that you want another for the good of the family. So then you are winging it and going into debt. Maybe it’s stupid and it’s very hard but it’s worth it. When people are working really hard at home and work, they need encouragement – it’s more than tiring to never get sleep over a decade.

    Most people I know live modestly and are afraid to live on one income in this economic climate. They want to help with university fees and be able to retire one day.

  61. Bill October 22nd, 2013

    I am at home during the day looking after my almost 2Yr old boy. I work evenings and my girlfriend works days. I dont think anyone is calculating the real damage caused by the poor standard of care/choices in canada . When people are away from their careers for extended periods one might consider their career gone. Who is going to pay for the lost years of pension contributions perhaps leaving people to suffer even more. Im not going to harp about whats taking place in this country. All of you are responsible for allowing
    The government to take away your rights and abilities stop
    Talking here and start writing in multiple all of the politicians
    And start petitions.. Flood them with petitions snd demand an end to unfettered immigration that allows the undermining
    Of decent wages for people that are not as skilled because our governments didnt want to fund training programs before the demands arose. Demand tax cuts across the board because that is where money can be had where its being wasted. Anyways im probably wasting my breath… And the little guy is crying

  62. Rob October 23rd, 2013

    As a person who’s decided not to have children – why am I expected to subsidize everyone else? Do I get any tax break for not having a child in this overpopulated planet – NO. I calculate Because I’ve owned my own home I’ve forked over 50K+ in my lifetime to support school boards that I’ve never sent a child to. Now you want to get another government hand out that I have to pay for so you can get a free ride.

    Rob
    Overtaxed Canadian.

  63. hotcommodity October 23rd, 2013

    Rob, you’re pathetic. If you think taxation is so horrible, maybe you’d like to privately subsidize the badly needed infrastructure that Canadian cities need from your own pocket. If you’ve ever walked on a sidewalk, driven on a road, been thankful for street lights, needed a doctor, or gone through school yourself (unlikely, based on your troll-like comment), then you should thank your lucky stars you live in a place that puts at least some of your taxes to use for public good.

  64. alison October 23rd, 2013

    When I went to my 10 year law school reunion I found that not one female attendee who had children was still in private practice – including myself. All were employed in government, part-time or not working at all. The other day I read an article profiling the top dozen female lawyers in Toronto. Once again, almost none had children. The costs of daycare, the brutal expectations of clients and employers and the general prejudice of Canadian society and policy against working women makes it almost impossible to be professionally successful and still have children.

  65. jj December 3rd, 2013

    Late to the conversation, but I wanted to bring up some tips/ideas that enabled my husband and I to afford kids on a lower middle class income in the Los Angeles area.
    1) We have nearby family who are willing and healthy enough to help care for our kids (thanks mom!) We know that not everyone is so fortunate. We have paid for p/t nanny help which is also expensive..
    2) My husband freelances, which means a lot of time at home with flexibility. For him, giving up a career was not an option.
    3) We don’t own a house! I know that rent isn’t cheap either, but if you factor in maintenance and property taxes (and renovations), it really adds up. I think all the money we would have used for a down payment are being funneled to the kids. I would love to own a home, but we wanted kids more.
    4) No plans to pay for college. We’ll save what we can but our kids won’t have much help in that area.

  66. Autumn Cabral March 5th, 2014

    In the US, we get no monthly stipend, even piddly ones to pay for our daycare. I pay, literally, HALF of my paycheck every two weeks to child care for two, but the fact is, we need that other half. At one time, when it was a relevant concern at my workplace, we calculated that if I got laid off, and qualified for “unemployment disbursements”, then took the children out of daycare, I would actually be making $200 extra a month. Sadly, I did not get laid off, and that is not a good long term solution anyway!

  67. Katrina June 3rd, 2014

    So, I had to quit my job recently because I can’t afford daycare anymore. Awesome! The government decided my common-law partner makes too much money for me to qualify for anything other than a measly $100/month. As it is, we barely get by between rent, bills and food. Despite the $500/month I was initially receiving in benefits, I was still just barely making money at the end of the month – and I was in a dayhome, not a big fancy daycare.

    So now, I’m being forced to be a stay-at-home mom while we (attempt) to buy a home here in the wonderfully expensive housing market of Calgary. What fun! Thanks, government. :)

  68. Michelle November 10th, 2014

    Daycare costs are outstanding. I don’t know how people can even afford to do it. It’s either you go to work because you can’t afford to be a stay at home mom, or you work and end up paying nearly half your salary for other people to watch your children.

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