Almost half of parents say they’ll take on credit-card debt to pay for child care — others avoid daycare due to COVID

Child care is weighing on parents’ minds, and their bank accounts.

Almost half (45%) of parents who plan to pay for summer child care will incur credit-card debt from the expenses, according to a survey released Wednesday by personal-finance site Bankrate.

What’s more, 56% of parents with children under age 18 said they or their spouse/partner altered their work schedule, or stopped working to care for their children during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This summer will be a struggle,” Jen Brady, a working mother in Florida who runs GreenBabyDeals.com, told the researchers.

Given that children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to get vaccinated, Brady said she is nervous about putting her children in a child-care facility, and has been relying on her in-laws to take care of her children and do school lessons in the morning, so she and her husband can work from home.


‘People who quit their jobs or scaled back their hours could experience lasting effects, including reduced wages and delayed promotion.’


— Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.

She’s not alone. About half of parents (52%) with children aged 12 and under said in an October 2020 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center that it’s been a challenge to handle child-care responsibilities during the coronavirus pandemic. That was up from 38% in March 2020, when shutdown orders first closed schools and child-care centers.

Over half of parents with children under the age of 18 have altered their work schedule to take care of their children. “Monthly child care costs can feel like an extra mortgage payment, especially if you live in an expensive area or have more than one kid,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.

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“People who quit their jobs or scaled back their hours could experience lasting effects, including reduced wages and delayed promotions,” he added.

Fertility has been on a downward trajectory in the U.S. for the last half century. There are approximately 1.78 births per woman in the U.S., down from 2.12 births per woman in 2007, but up from a low of 1.73 births per woman in 1976.

However, those figures pale in comparison to 1960 when there were 3.65 births per woman. Many families require two paychecks and must postpone buying a house — and starting a family — while they save for a down payment.

What’s more, Denmark and all other highly industrialized nations have some form of countrywide paid parental leave in effect, but the U.S. has no such federal law. As of 2021, five states have paid-leave laws in effect and Washington D.C.’s paid family and medical leave benefits start in July. Federal workers receive 12 weeks of paid leave.


Women have been leaving their jobs during the pandemic in part because of child-care demands and lack of access to affordable child care.

Denmark’s paid parental leave laws give mothers four weeks of wage replacement before birth and 14 weeks after that. They may also extend their parental leave for 14 weeks if either the child or parent becomes ill. They then have an additional 32 weeks, which they can split with the father, though past research showed mothers typically took most of the time.

Women have been leaving their jobs in part because of child-care demands and lack of access to affordable child care.

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“Without these systems, mommy will forever be stressed and vulnerable to career scarring during any major crisis like this pandemic or any other event that triggers an increase in domestic tasks within her household,” wrote U.S. Census Bureau principal economist Misty Heggeness in a separate paper about how parents balanced work and home duties early in the pandemic.

Some economists fear the trend could reverse some of the gender equality gains women have made in the workplace.

“I’m really hoping that COVID cases will be really low or there will be a vaccine available for younger children so I’ll feel comfortable sending them back to school in the fall,” Brady added.

(Leslie Albrecht contributed to his story.)

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