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Childcare Decisions

The biggest expense facing dual-income parents is childcare. A licensed, professional child-care provider will charge from $5,000 to $7,500 per year per child across Kentucky. Additionally, some dual-income parents pay activity fees and late pick-up charges, as well as for school supplies and food.

Dual-income parents incur a host of other expenses, including gasoline and maintenance on the extra car, dining out or buying more prepared foods, and perhaps a house-cleaning service. All these can total $200 or more a week.

Developmental effects

If the income and expense numbers don’t appear to permit one spouse to quit his or her job, consider this data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Non-maternal child care in the first three years is linked to less sensitive mothering and less positive mother-child interactions. The NICHD study was written by Margaret Thesch Owen of the University of Texas in Dallas.

When moms work full time in a baby’s first nine months, their children lag in intellectual development behind kids of stay-at-home and part-time moms, according to a study led by Jeanne Brooks-Gunn at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Safety issues

The Urban Institute surveyed 42,000 households nationwide and found that 20 percent of 10-12-year-old children of working parents are in “self care” after school, called latch-key kids.

Some child-protection agencies say children 8 or 9 years old can be left alone for up to two hours; others say kids need supervision until they are age 10 or 12.

Parents of latch-key kids need to be even more diligent about the viewing habits of their computer-savvy offspring, despite the latest technology designed to keep children away from inappropriate Internet sites.

What statistics say

Still, for many mothers, staying home isn’t an option.

According to a 2000 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, there hasn’t been any significant decline in the number of mothers leaving the work force to stay home with infants, especially those mothers under age 30, Hispanic, African-American, or those with only a high school education or less.

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