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How this WAHM is Handling Childcare + Our Childcare Costs

Childcare options for work at home moms that I'm taking advantage of, costs, plus how I handle my day as a WAHM with a toddler.

woman with glasses working on laptop at kitchen table with baby with text overall "childcare options for work at home moms"

After the initial glee and wonderment of finding out I was pregnant, I remember scouring the web looking for people’s digits about how much they were spending now that they were parents.

Well, now that we’ve been parents for 20 months, I wanted to throw my cloth diaper in the ring on one of the biggest expenses/major decisions out there for anyone in my same shoes:

Childcare. How we’re handling it, and what childcare costs are looking like for us.

Childcare While Working from Home (WAHM)

Technically speaking, I’m the primary childcare provider for my baby. And I loooooovvvvveeee that!

Maybe not every moment (let’s be real, how annoying is it when someone tells you, “enjoy every single minute of motherhood?”).

At the same time, I want to, you know, actually work. Not only do I have a passion for what I do – writing relatable personal finance articles for Frugal Confessions, freelance writing finance articles for a bank, and closing the money education gap, one kid at a time over at MoneyProdigy.com – but I make enough each month to make a sizable dent in our mortgage, if not pay for the mortgage completely.

The money I bring in is key to us still being able to save for retirement.

So, it makes sense for me to continue working from both a life-fulfilling + a money sense.

However, I quickly learned that getting focused time to actually write + work on the biz stuff is really difficult with a child under 2 years of age. Heck, it’s probably really difficult for 2+, but we’re not there yet. One road block at a time, folks.

Not only that, but with my husband’s schedule, it means I have the baby to myself for about 11.5 hours a day, 5 days a week. WOW is that a lot of time.

In other words, I need mental breaks as well.

Alternative Options for Daycare — Our Three-Part Childcare Solution

We’ve been very blessed + used our brains a bit in how to keep childcare costs affordable.

Here’s what our three-part childcare solution looks like:

  • JCC Membership (18 hours/month): The JCC has a gym as well as a café, complete with free Wi-Fi. And you can get two sessions of 90-minute babysitting per day (once in the morning, between 8:00-12:00, and once in the evening between 3:30-7:00 pm). I typically drop him off for a 90-minute, baby-free work session about 3-4 times per week.
  • Grandparent’s House (32 hours/month): Twice per week for 4 hours each time, I drive 45-minutes to Mee-Maw and Pee-Paw’s house, drop Conner off, and head to the Starbucks right down the street for some much-needed focused work time. Their relationship is really growing over the last 11 months we’ve been doing this, and that’s been amazing to see.
  • Daddy Daycare (32 hours/month): On Saturdays, Paul and I switch roles. He takes over for the day while I head to a local coffee shop and/or library to get a full days’ work in.

So, we’re getting roughly 82 hours of childcare per month (i.e. when I’m not the primary childcare provider), at the cost of approximately $257. Here’s the breakdown:

  • $100 in Iced Almond Chai’s + food
  • $97/month JCC Membership fee
  • $60 Estimated Gas

And the best news of all? For 64 hours of that time each month, Conner is either with his father, or his grandparents, building the kinds of relationships that make Mommies happy.

Not to mention that with the JCC Membership comes lots of other perks we make use of, such as their splash pad + pool area, their fitness center, and lots of neat cultural programs.

Work from Home, No Childcare — What are We Doing the Rest of the Time?

Great question. When I first started this mommy gig, I was dying to ask people how the heck they spent their days. How do you keep babies and toddlers happily busy, learning, and yourself sane at the same time?

I basically figured out how to divide up my time (nope, I don’t have everything figured out. Not even close. But I do feel much more balanced than I did in that first year so I know I’m much closer).

  • Getting Out of the House: There are a huge number of free events we go to each month, mostly through the awesome libraries around our home (seriously, I’ve been blown away with the offerings here in Houston). Just in the last month, we went to a Discovery Planetarium Dome, Cardboard Creations, a Builders event, Storytime, and a Movie Luau (complete with goldfish…outside of our home is the only time Conner gets any so he was SUPER excited).
  • Super Engage with Conner: Conner and I have several periods of time throughout the day where I really engage with him. These tend to be around different stations (though the stations kind of disappear after they can move wherever they want to…however, I feel they’re making a comeback now that he’s almost 2). For example, we have storytime for about 30 minutes each day near the bookshelf. This kid just loves to hear stories, and I’m SO thankful we introduced him to books so early on. Then we build “buildings” together in the library with this awesome, cardboard block set we have.
  • Mama Time with Less Engaged Activities: This is where I decompress a bit, of course while STILL watching the little guy. It’s tricky to get, but this is what works for us. An example? He’s totally cool with me reading on the couch in our library while he plays (which is strange, as anytime I get near my laptop he’s screaming and whining at me). Now, I might have to get up every 5 minutes to get him a snack or help him with something, but at least for those 5 minutes I can drift off into book land. Bath time is another mini-break for me. Of course I’m still sitting right there, in front of the tub. But he generally plays by himself without me having to play with him. So I count it as a mental break. Same thing with playing in our backyard. I can generally bring a magazine out with me, or a worksheet I’m working on and get a little time while he’s gleefully running around throwing things. Finally, he *generally* (not always) is very good for me when I cook. I’ve begun letting him help me with stirring or “mixing” things, and he usually plays with some utensils. During this time I might even throw on the Serial Podcast or a business webinar I want to listen to, so that feels like some “me time” as well.
  • Nap Time: Fortunately, Conner gleefully takes a nap at around 11:00 and can sleep for about 1.5 hours (rarely, 2 hours). That’s definite decompression time. In fact, it’s often hard for me to figure out how to use it: working around the house, decompress, or working on my biz. So I would say I am using it about 50/50 for decompress/working on biz time. I’m slowly learning that if my brain is completely frazzled from a toddler morning, that I need to just not turn on my laptop. It’s hard, because that’s primo work time. But I end up wasting so much of that time trying to get focused, and then don’t really see the benefit of either the work hour or the decompress.

Sometimes it might not feel like childcare is an option if it means you have to go back to work just to afford it, or staying at home is barely an option because while it means you don’t need to pay for childcare, you can’t exactly afford your life without the pay you used to have. That’s why I wanted to share what we’re doing in hopes that it gives you an idea of what some of the options in your own life could look like.

So, spill the beans for the rest of us. What does your childcare look like? Non-existent? Full-time daycare? Some hybrid in between? What do your childcare costs look like?

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.

Emily @ evolvingPF

Tuesday 18th of July 2017

Thanks for sharing this! The JCC membership sounds like a dream! I recently searched around for gyms that include childcare in their membership fees but they all charge an additional hourly fee.

I'm self-employed and work about 20 hours/week (or that's the goal, anyway) while being the primary caregiver for our 13-month-old. I basically work in the mornings before my husband leaves for work, when she's napping/asleep for the night, and a little when she's awake and playing by herself. I travel occasionally for work, and to this point we've always hired babysitters through a service (pricey at $17/hr plus tip and fees!), but I'm considering putting her in day care 1 or 2 days per week starting in the fall so I can travel on those days and have a regular schedule for client calls when I'm not traveling. We don't have family nearby but I'm quite jealous of those who do!

Mrs. Adventure Rich

Monday 10th of July 2017

This is fascinating, thank you for sharing your childcare breakdown... I love the creative ways you found to continue working as a WAHM. I work remotely but the schedule is a 9-5 M-F job, so our childcare is 3 days/wk daycare and 2 days/wk grandma :)

Amanda L Grossman

Monday 10th of July 2017

You are welcome! I'm glad it's helpful. And thanks so much for sharing yours. How old is your child?