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ARIZONA NEWS

Child care costs prompting Arizona parents to quit jobs, stay home with kids

UPDATED: FEBRUARY 16, 2022 AT 10:13 AM
BY
KTAR.com

PHOENIX — Some Arizona parents are quitting their jobs because they believe it’s more financially feasible to stay home with their kids than to pay for child care.

That’s the reason why Samantha Thurber of Mesa left her job as a first grade teacher several years ago.

Thurber told KTAR News 92.3 FM she and her husband were looking to spend $1,400 a month to cover daycare costs for their daughter. That was about half of her monthly take-home pay.

“I couldn’t justify at that point going back and only making half of what I would make and having my child in full-time care from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every single day,” she said.

Thurber had a second child several years later. She has continued to stay home while her husband works because he makes more money. Having both of their children in daycare would’ve cost about $2,100 a month.

A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute finds Arizona is one of 33 states where infant child care is more expensive than college tuition.

The annual child care cost for a baby in Arizona is $10,948 – that’s $912 a month – compared with $10,557 for in-state tuition at a four-year public college.

The child care cost for a 4-year-old is a bit lower at $8,547, or $712 per month.

According to the report, childcare is unaffordable for most Arizona families. In fact, less than 9% can afford infant child care.

These high costs have a Mesa mom of three kids planning to leave her job as a preconstruction manager for a design firm this summer.

Jennifer, who asked that only her first name be used, has two elementary school-aged kids and a 4-year-old.

She and her husband pay $1,100 a month for their youngest to go to a kindergarten prep program and $500 a month for before and after school care for their two older kids.

Jennifer said the costs have become so expensive that it no longer makes financial sense for her to keep working. She’s quitting her job in May while her husband, who makes more money, will continue to work.

“My company is wonderful. I’m not leaving them because of anything they did wrong,” she stressed.

“But right off the top of every paycheck, the cost of insurance comes off, which is quite a bit of money,” she said. “And then after you have all of your deductions, all of a sudden, everything you make seems like it goes to the daycare costs and maybe some gas money and that’s it.”

Jennifer added she’s happy she’ll get to spend more time with her kids.

“But at the same time it’s kind of a strange feeling,” she said. “You never go to college and spend all that money on your degree to think that you are not going to not work.”

Thurber feels the same way. She got a teaching degree thinking she’d be in the classroom for a while.

“I went to school for four years for that,” she said. “I got a master’s degree on top of that. It was all I really knew before becoming a mom. All of a sudden, so much of that identity changed.”

Both Jennifer and Thurder said they plan to still find ways to bring in some extra income.

Jennifer said she plans to go to nail tech school so she can work from home. Thurber said she’s looking into the possibility of being a substitute teacher.

But they do worry about struggling to get back into the workforce full-time once their kids are older.

“What if I need to get back into my field?” Jennifer said. “I feel like it’s always frowned upon that moms take time off to be a mom.”