Parents use babysitting, co-parenting and YMCA amid childcare shortages

Parents use babysitting, co-parenting and YMCA amid childcare shortages

  • Parents are having a hard time finding and paying for childcare.
  • They are turning to a variety of options to get by, including sharing babysitters and co-parenting.
  • But most of these options come with their drawbacks.

When Brittany Wilson-DeMarco, 27, started looking for daycare for her two-year-old son last year, the most affordable option she could find cost $1,200 a month.

It would have allowed the New York mom to find a full-time job, she told Insider, but she wasn’t sure if the financial compensation was worth it.

In less than 24 hours, the decision was made for her: the daycare space was filled. To help pay the bills, she began working approximately 35 hours per week at two part-time remote jobs: managing catering sales for a restaurant and an account manager position at an influencer marketing agency. She did all of this while caring for her son full-time while her fiancé worked and says she began to “suffer physically and mentally from stress.”

Wilson-DeMarco began searching for any life preservers she could find. He turned to his local YMCA, which he says offers childcare at $2 an hour for up to two hours a day, in addition to his monthly family membership fee of $93. She would spend these couple of hours working at a table in the lobby or taking her laptop to a treadmill.

“Those 2 hours were my absolute saving grace,” he said. “I would have lost my mind without two hours to focus solely on work.” Though her fiancé talked her into working less, she says she still frequently uses the YMCA for a few hours of babysitting and a “great mental health break.”

Wilson-DeMarco is among the many parents in the US who worry whether pursuing a career makes financial sense for their families as they struggle to find and pay for childcare. In 2018, the left-leaning Center for American Progress found that more than half of Americans lived in an area where childcare was in short supply, and the shortages only worsened during the pandemic. When families do find child care, it is often expensive. National child care costs average between $9,000 and $9,600 annually, according to the advocacy organization Child Care Aware, and the cost could skyrocket further over the next year.

While many dads are also involved in the struggle to find childcare, the onus generally falls on women in heterosexual couples. According to 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average mother with children ages 12 and younger spends eight hours a day caring for children and also works six hours each weekday. Meanwhile, the average father spends five hours a day caring for children while working eight-hour days.

Unable to find or pay for child care, many parents are exploring all the options on the table. This is how some manage.

Many parents are finding ways to get by, but there is no perfect solution.

After getting stuck on three daycare waiting lists, Nancy Clancy found a friend of a friend to watch her daughter on the days she works, she previously told Insider. However, the delivery adds nearly an hour to her commute, and the Michigan mother said the cost nearly exceeds the amount she earns while she works.

“It’s almost a wash. I only do it to get out of the house, really,” she said.

Allison Ellsworth, a 28-year-old from Michigan, turned to part-time private care when daycare centers couldn’t accommodate her and her husband’s schedules. While she told Insider this meets most of her child care needs for now, it’s costing them $1,000 to $1,500 a month.

Some families have tried “baby-sitting,” where two or more families hire a nanny to care for their children in one of their homes and split the costs.

“It seems to ease the cost a bit,” said Wilson-Demarco, who says she knows of some families who have shared babysitting. “And kids can play with other kids and still get that socialization aspect that many parents look for.”

However, it is not always cheaper. Michael Grady and his wife took her daughter out of daycare last year because he was concerned that she might be exposed to COVID, he told Axios. They joined a nanny fee with another family and began paying $2,000 a month, more than the $1,200 a month they had spent on daycare.

However, there are also less formal options for sharing childcare.

Some parents within a community have organized shared child care with another family or have established a parenting cooperative, an arrangement of between three and 20 families, to rotate child care responsibilities among a group of parents.

“Talk to other moms and try to work something out with them,” Clancy said. “Maybe watch each other’s kids when they go to work part-time or on trade days. I have a few friends who do that, and I’ve helped with that, too.”

There is no place like home

When all else fails, some families are willing to move for help.

Hannah Cases, 31, became a mother while living in San Diego, where she and her husband had “no family,” she previously told Insider.

Eventually, however, they realized that they needed additional help. Last fall, they moved across the country to St. Louis to be closer to their parents.

“Now that we have family around, it makes a world of difference,” she said, and she’s far from the only millennial staying close to home to help with childcare.

About 60% of young adults live within 10 miles of where they grew up, and 80% live within 100 miles, according to a July study by researchers from the US Census Bureau and the University from Harvard. The study focused on people born between 1984 and 1992.

Many people even live with their families. Nearly one in four millennials lived with their parents last December, according to a survey. Since the 1970s, the proportion of Americans living in multigenerational households has more than doubled to nearly 20% as of 2021, according to Pew Research data. Economic and childcare needs have likely contributed to this change.

Some people are even moving in with other families. In 2016, Maria Pfefferkorn moved in with her friend and her friend’s two children after her friend got divorced, she previously told Insider.

“It’s a model of co-parenting, it’s a model of co-economy and it’s a really great model of friendship and support,” Pfefferkorn said.

She is not alone in this thought. According to real estate analytics firm Attom Data Solution, the number of home share buyers with different last names grew 771% between 2014 and 2021.

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