One of the interesting issues that arose before my son reached school age was that of me having enough time to work from home. The main thesis of working from home is that, since you work from home, you don’t need to pay for childcare. Because so many people assume this, I got a number of odd looks when others found out that my son was attending a little day care twice a week for a couple of hours by the age of 2 1/2. As soon as we was old enough, my son began attending preschool. Many were baffled by our decision to pay for childcare when my son could just stay home with me all day.
For us, though, paying for childcare — a few hours a week — was worth it. With my husband working on his Ph.D., our only time together is really in the evening. For the sake of our relationship, we decided that it made sense for me to get as much done during the day as possible. That way, I wasn’t working in the evening after our son went to bed. In order to make it work, we decided that paying for childcare was the way to go. Our son started in childcare four hours a week, and gradually worked up to nine hours a week by the time he was ready to start in elementary school.
This time that my son spent in childcare was not terribly expensive (childcare in our town is quite cheap), and it provided me with a concentrated block of time to be more productive without distractions. I was actually able to make more as a freelancer — even after subtracting the cost of childcare — with my son gone for a few hours a week.
Deciding Whether Childcare is Right for Your Family
Whether you work from home or not, there is a good chance that your family has to decide whether or not paying for childcare is worth it. My brother’s family is discovering adding an extra part-time job is hardly worth it; childcare in their town is so expensive that nearly everything made from such a job, after taxes, would go to daycare/preschool expenses for their daughter.
Deciding whether childcare is worth it in your situation requires that you consider alternatives, and run the numbers. Find out how much childcare costs in your area, and whether or not there are low-cost alternatives (such as a subsidized preschool or Head Start program). Figure up how much you could make with a job, or by having more time to work from home uninterrupted. Subtract your childcare costs from that total to determine whether or not it is worth it. Of course, money isn’t everything. Other factors to consider include:
- Social development of your child
- Whether you could use a break
- Quality of care available
In some cases, it is possible to hire someone to come into your home and care for your children for a two or three hours a day while you work. You are still on the scene, but someone else is helping you take care of your children and entertain them. Others feel that working outside the home, or having a couple hours of quiet every other day, is worth it. As long as you are breaking even (or can afford the loss), this can be an acceptable arrangement.
Evaluate your options, and your family’s financial situation. You might find that a few hours a week of childcare might actually be a boon to your family, even if you work from home.