shutterstock_154420619__1383843374_142.196.156.251A report released this week proved that the cost of child care exceeded the cost of rent, mortgage payments and food for most families. That makes child care the single highest expense for many households with kids. I’ve often wondered how on earth people afford to put their kids in daycare, since it’s something my family has yet to find the budget for.

Here are some interesting findings from the report:

The cost of full-time center-based care for two children is the highest single household expense in the Northeast, Midwest and South. In the West, the cost of child care for two children is surpassed only by the cost of housing in the average family budget.

The cost of child care fees for two children exceeded housing costs for homeowners with a mortgage in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Center-based child care fees for an infant exceeded annual median rent payments in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

In every region of the United States, average child care fees for an infant in a child care center were higher than the average amount that families spent on food.

Whenever I talk about my trouble with finding affordable care for my kids, there is inevitably the “don’t have kids you can’t afford” argument. Well, I hate that argument. Because, really? Only the wealthy are entitled to reproduce? What in the hell kind of world is that to be living in? Now that we know that childcare exceeds almost every other expense all across the country except the West – to which it is second to only housing payments – it’s obvious that there is a huge problem here – for everyone, not just lower income families.

Even the average annual cost of care for a 4-year-old, in a center, which is less expensive than care for an infant, was higher than public college costs in 19 states and the
District of Columbia.
In 2012, in 31 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college.

Seriously? It used to be that parents spent their child’s entire young life saving and planning for their college education. Now, they are expected to make the same financial commitment with their toddlers. Wow. Bookending the raising of children with insurmountable expenses seems counterintuitive to supporting families and raising functional members of society. It seems like everyday there is a new study about how badly we’re screwing our kids up by being stressed all the time. How can we not be?

Not everyone was born bathed in gold. I think it’s pretty ridiculous that so many of us are in a debt trap that is just getting worse and worse every year. God forbid we complain about it – then we’re just told not to reproduce, which is a really helpful argument.

(photo: alexyndr/ Shutterstock)