Actress and comedian Amy Poehler was recently named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People". At the award gala in New York, Amy used her acceptance speech to give a shout out to the women who help care for her two children. She encouraged working women everywhere to take a moment to thank their nannies and babysitters: "Those are people who love your children as much as you do, and who inspire them and influence them."
According to ivillage.com, nearly three-quarters of moms are juggling jobs and families. A recent poll by ivillage.com and TodayMoms.com found that nearly 70 percent of working moms would choose to have an assistant at home rather than an assistant at the office.
Decisions around childcare can be overwhelming. For those without extended family to help take care of the kids, it's even more fraught with complications. Do you choose daycare or a nanny? If a nanny, live-in or live-out? Does it even make sense to go back to work if your entire paycheque ends up paying for the childcare?
Daycare or not to daycare?
Going by the price of daycare, Ontario is the most expensive province in which to raise a child. The average daycare cost for childcare in Ontario ranges from $33/day for a school-age child to $57/day for an infant. Manitoba offers parents some of the lowest daycare rates, between an average of $15/day for a school-age child to $28/day for an infant. For the full comparison, check out this table at Today's Parent.
How much for Mary Poppins?
No matter the province, however, daycare rates tend to be much higher in cities than in rural areas. For urban working moms or those with two or three kids to pay for, hiring a nanny is sometimes more economical than daycare.
According to Today's Parent, the average weekly salary for a live-out nanny ranges between $450-$750. For a live-in nanny, the average weekly salary is $300 plus room and board. Again, wages vary widely depending on the province you are in.
If you're planning to sponsor your nanny from abroad, The Human Resources and Skills Development Canada website posts all the wages and requirements you need to know, organized by province, under the "Live-in Caregiver Program".
What help does the government provide?
For working parents, childcare expenses can be deducted on your tax return through the Working Income Tax Benefit (WIBT). Generally speaking, the lower-income spouse can deduct the childcare expenses up to a maximum of $7,000 for each child under the age of seven, and $4,000 for each child between the ages of seven to sixteen.
A disability tax credit is also available for kids with physical or mental impairments and the age limit is broader than for other kids. Childcare expenses in this case may be deducted up to a maximum of $10,000.
Remember to keep your receipts for these expenses. A guide to eligible expenses can be found on the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA) website, Form T778. Be aware that the total deduction for these expenses cannot exceed two-thirds of your earned income.
In addition to tax credits, the federal and provincial governments offer programs to help with childcare costs based on income, such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB). The federal government also provides a Universal Childcare Benefit (UCCB) of $100 a month for each child under the age of six, irrespective of your family income. (While it won't make much of a dent in daycare fees, that should cover babysitting for a couple date nights out for mom and dad, at the very least!)
To help you sort out what you may be eligible for, check with CRA's benefits calculator or better yet, talk to your tax advisor.
The choice to stay at home
According to insure.com, an online American insurance brokerage and information site, if you were to pay professional service providers to do all the various tasks and errands a typical mom does in a year, it would cost $61,436. This includes activities such as cooking, driving, cleaning, party planning, shopping and keeping an eye on those kids. With childcare directly responsible for about half of that cost, it makes financial sense for many women to choose not to work outside the home.
As a sidebar, insure.com makes a great point that the "hidden costs" of all these services provided by mom ought to be insured. Quite often couples ensure they have life insurance for the breadwinner and forget that the person who stays at home with the kids should be covered by adequate life insurance as well.
So many decisions
The childcare choice is ultimately a highly personal one. Only you know what the right kind of care is for your family. For those working moms who have helpers, whether family members, daycare centres or nannies, there is no doubt they would consider these caregivers worth their weight in gold.
As Amy said at the Time 100 gala: "On behalf of every sister and mother and person who stands in your kitchen and helps you love your child, I say thank you - and I celebrate you tonight." Let's all go home and do the same!