There was a story in the New York Times recently about the crushing cost of childcare. It’s affecting not just poor families but middle and upper class families as well. It’s something that my friends and I talk about all the time. Is the small percentage of the money left over after paying childcare worth it? Especially if you have more than one child?
The childcare dilemma isn’t just about having someone watch your kids during work hours. Getting a babysitter to go out at night can be too expensive to be worth it. And it’s having an impact on our relationships. I would love to spend an evening out with my husband, but we have to really think about how much we want or need that night out alone together. It can cost us $15 to $20 an hour for a babysitter plus the cost of dinner and a movie. We live in Los Angeles, which means we also have to factor in the cost of parking and traffic that could add on hours to the babysitting bill.
Don’t get me wrong; we do fine financially it’s just that the babysitting money on top of the cost of dinner and a movie makes us stop and think. Can we afford to spend that kind of money to have an uninterrupted conversation over a meal? Is it worth paying someone so we can go on a walk and hold hands?
Sadly, it’s usually not. We’ve become creative in finding ways to go out alone together. We do babysitting trades with friends where our two boys will go to their house and we’ll take their two boys when they need a night out. We don’t do it often because they have family in town to help watch their kids so they don’t really need us. We are definitely getting the better end of the deal.
I know that there are worse problems in the world that I can’t have an uninterrupted conversation with my husband, but I don’t remember the last time that we had one.
My blog partner and I even started a new video series on our site MomsLA.com called Is it Worth a Babysitter? We rate experiences – restaurants, movies, and outings- as to whether they’re worth the cost of a babysitter. We’ve both missed many fun nights out with friends AND work functions when there’s not a friend or a spouse available to watch the kids.
Even though the money is always in the back of our heads so is our relationship. As our kids get older they are demanding more of our attention. They go to bed later (I was not prepared for that) so we don’t even much time at the end of the night. I’m not sure if the answer is to take more freelance work to pay for babysitting, or a babysitting coop for the group of us whose extended families aren’t nearby. I do know that the cost of a babysitter is much cheaper than couple’s counseling, which is where we’re heading if we don’t have some quality time alone. Ironically, we’d have to pay a babysitter to go.
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