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