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Back-to-School: The Hidden Financial Bonus For Parents

I'm headed toward one of those parental milestones to which many of you with multiple children either remember fondly or look forward to with something like desperation: all of my boys will be in public school as of next Monday. September 10th is my independence day.

I'm of mixed feelings about this coming date. I, rare among work-from-home moms, love summer and having my kids around all the time, but it is true that managing my new magazine and my literary writing life will be so much easier with all my boys out of the house six hours a day.

And then there's the financial windfall.

Having three kids in school will save me a few hundred dollars a month in child care costs. That, by far, compensates for expenses associated with school, like lunches and supplies and PTA dues and activity fees. But this is tiny, really; most of my child care expenses are in the evenings. I'm a rare case.

Some parents save $1,000 a month or more in child care in September as compared to August.

They'll save up all year to pay for the cost of summer care, which, depending on the family, could include “camps” each week often costing $300 per child, or nannies that make $12 or more an hour.
  • Ben, an editor, and his wife, an adjunct professor, are looking so forward to the school year; they both have somewhat flexible jobs, and will only pay for a nanny two afternoons a week after school. They'll save $1,200 a month in child care. After costs for lunches and school supplies and fundraisers, they'll save about $900 a month.
  • Andrea, an executive director of a political action committee, and her engineer husband pay so much each summer that they've created flexible jobs. They each take off one day a week and that saves them as much as $2,000. Still, and even with help from one of their kids' grandmothers to pick up after camp ends each day, they spent over $3,000 total for the summer. Thanks to those flexible jobs, they pay nothing for after-school care during the rest of the year.
  • Cheryl and her husband are both self-employed artists - she's a writer, he's a filmmaker. They haven't done the math, but thanks to her ultra-successful books (meaning she was traveling a lot on tour over the summer) they paid “thousands” to care for their two children. Once school starts, it's a few hundred dollars a month for after-school care.
  • The few friends who weren't experiencing the September windfall were those who had created creative child care situations, with trades and bartering, or took flexible freelance jobs that allowed for work after bedtimes and in early mornings (exactly how I'm writing this post right now). These are the families who have created some sort of “having it all” work/life balance. They're not looking forward to September as much as the rest!

Summer is not a vacation for working parents

One friend wouldn't even discuss her situation; she began a persuasive and foot-stomping post about year-round school. While I am not a fighter for this solution (the “we are not an agricultural society” argument makes me sad and has me wondering if, in the quest for more perfect post-industrialization society, we're leaving behind the “society”, not to mention the “life” part of the equation), I admit I can see the argument.

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