Beat the stress of paying for child care with this expert advice

As childcare costs continue to rise, many parents are deeply frustrated at having to spend a large chunk of their monthly budget on it. (According to the 2022 Cost of Care Survey, the majority of American families now spend more than 20% of their household income on childcare).

“The cost of childcare is exorbitant and overwhelming,” says Kristi Yeh, a licensed marriage and family therapist and a parent herself, but adds that taking it as a “yes” can help and” Location. “Yes, it’s costly … and it’s an investment in my career so I can focus on work and/or rest while having confidence that my child is well taken care of.”

“Yes, it’s costly… and it’s an investment in my career so I can focus on work and/or rest while having confidence that my child is well taken care of.”


We spoke to Yeh and other experts and parents about how to feel less guilty and less stressed about childcare costs and how to have a healthier attitude about the costs of raising a child.

Give yourself space to mourn your pre-child life

Emmalee Bierly, a licensed marriage and family therapist and parent, believes people don’t talk enough about the loss and grief that inevitably comes with having children, even when you’re happy about having them.

“Just as I lost parts of myself when I became a parent, I lose parts of my freedom when finances are allocated differently,” she explains.

“Just as I lost parts of myself when I became a parent, I lose parts of my freedom when finances are distributed differently.”


She believes that instead of trying to ignore our issues, it can be cathartic — even necessary — to give ourselves space to face reality and just let ourselves feel frustrated:

“You could say to yourself, ‘You know what? That sucks. It sucks that my mortgage is the same price as day care. I wish it wasn’t like that. I’m sad for the part of me that lost the ability to have the financial freedom I had before. Maybe I need to throw a little pity party for myself while I do the dishes.” That’s totally fine.”

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When you acknowledge your feelings, you may find yourself being very hard on yourself or holding grudges against your partner. Whatever feelings it evokes, feeling it fully will help you process and accept your reality.

“Intentionality and awareness are what I’m working towards,” says Bierly.

Think long-term to gain prospects

Yeh encourages parents to think and think about the bigger picture.

“It might be helpful to remember that the majority of childcare costs occur in the first five years of a child’s life,” Yeh suggests. “Look at your childcare over the longer term and see if that makes any meaningful changes.”

“It might be helpful to remember that the majority of childcare costs are incurred in the first five years of a child’s life.”


As author Gretchen Rubin shares on her podcast, looking at a particularly difficult time in life as “victim season” can help you keep in mind the fact that it won’t go on forever. While there may be future costs such as extracurricular services, for many parents the overall cost of parenting decreases when their children attend public schools (families that choose private schools need to budget for tuition).

A longer perspective is particularly relevant if your current job has potential for growth. Investing time and energy in your job now could result in:

  • promotions or raises.
  • Better job opportunities elsewhere.
  • Deepened relationships with colleagues and industry peers who can support you and open doors later.
  • The potential to continue investing in pension funds such as 401(k)s, which tend to grow over time.

Consider the non-financial benefits

A New York City mother, Angela, lamented that once she returned to the theater, her “net” income would be just $500 a month after taxes and nanny expenses for just one child. Nevertheless, she loves her work and wants to continue it. She says she had to change her mindset to see that the nanny’s payments come from both her salary and her husband, and not just hers.

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Yeh points out that even if you don’t particularly love your current job, there can be emotional benefits to working in any capacity and being away from your family.

“Many parents find the structure and goals outside of child-rearing and the contact with colleagues to be advantageous,” she says. “Think about the value of work to your mental health.”

“Think about the value of work to your mental health.”


She believes it makes sense to pay for childcare not just for the ability to work, but for something that gives them rest, fun, and time to socialize with adults.

“I encourage parents to leave their children at daycare (or with a babysitter) for dinner once a week for an extra hour or to take a day off work while their child is cared for elsewhere,” she says.

The benefits of better mental health and avoiding burnout can be worthwhile, and for those in relationships, having time to just focus on each other can strengthen your bond.

Also, think of the cost of childcare as something positive that you are giving to your children. Ashley Reckdenwald, a mother of three in New Jersey, says as a working mother she is constantly comparing what she earns to the cost of childcare. For her, it helps her to think about the quality of her children’s care.

“Even though the cost is high, I know I’m getting exceptional service and that makes me feel good,” she says.

“Even though the cost is high, I know I’m receiving exceptional service and that makes me feel good.”


Communicate and budget with your family

When you are in a relationship, financial stress can easily seep in. Meghan Rabuse, mother of three and former financial analyst who now runs the blog Family Finance Mom, says money is the No. 1 bone of contention between couples and the second leading reason for divorce. She says it’s imperative to be open about money, covering topics like:

  • Any of your debt situations.
  • How much you understand about money and how finance works.
  • Your personal financial goals and priorities.
  • What you think is cheap or expensive, reasonable or unreasonable.
  • The price point you would like advice on before you buy.
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“I encourage parents to have regular money talks, at least monthly,” she says, suggesting checking out her free guide How to Keep Money Problems Out of Marriage.

Creating a budget together can also help you explore alternative childcare options, such as:

  • Sharing a nanny with another family.
  • Take advantage of a flexible work schedule so you and/or your partner can look after your child for some time, and only pay for part-time care.
  • Swap care with other parents.
  • Hire a mother’s helper or babysitter for teens at a lower rate.

“Many employers are now offering Dependent Care Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA), which allows you to set aside your pre-tax income for child care…”


In addition, Rabuse recommends checking your employer’s benefits as well. “Many employers now offer Dependent Care Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA) that allow you to set aside pre-tax income for childcare, which can help you save on those costs and pay with pre-tax income.” ( Learn all about FSAs).

For more money-saving tips, see: 20 Ways To Save Money On Childcare

Find financial support

Yeh emphasized that it is important for parents to ask for support wherever they can to avoid stretching too much. If you’re really struggling to cover the expenses, you may be able to find financial assistance.

Check out this list of childcare grants, which includes resource links by state. Although benefits and eligibility requirements vary from state to state, they generally take household income into account. You can also learn more about government programs at

Know that you are not alone

If nothing else, know that you are far from alone. Childcare affordability is a national crisis that is intertwined with other issues such as housing affordability, inflation and wage stagnation. Venting out to other parents, either in online groups like Facebook and Reddit or in person, can be therapeutic.

When Rockwell became a parent, her desire to build community was so passionate that she founded Working Mom Notes, a supportive online platform that empowers women through community and experience by curating and streamlining information for working moms.

She says building a community “takes time and effort, but the rewards will be tenfold.”

Some starting points:

  • Create or join a local family Facebook group.
  • Drop flyers in your neighbors’ mailboxes to start a group chat.
  • Use a community app like Nextdoor.

“It took me time to realize that we need to build our own villages, and that village might look different than we imagined,” says Rockwell. “Having local people to lean on is essential to the success of working parents.”

take action

There’s power in numbers. If you’re passionate about working towards more quality and affordable childcare nationally, Think Babies (part of the Zero to Three organization) offers tools and resources to make it easy to learn about the issues and to contact your senators and ask them for support the childcare system for all.