How much working parent REALLY makes?
It took me years to see that I was making $300/month by going to my glamorous office every day. Constant traffic jams, sky-rocketing daycare fees, lunches....
Like many of us, I have immigrated to Canada with big dreams and aspirations. I was envisioning myself driving a new car, wearing a fancy suit and working from the glamorous premises of a financial establishment. I could not wait to attain all these goodies and send word back home, accompanied by an ever so crucial photograph in which would be detailed the undeniable proof of all of my new acquisitions, as if to validate my whole existence in the New World.
Once I landed a decent job with the bank, I could finally call myself a winner. It wasn’t until later when I realised how tightly I was trapped, previously thinking that the Canadians running the show would adhere in close accordance to my own system of values and expectations as a working parent. Constant traffic jams, high gas prices, transportation costs and an inadequate child care system finally got to me.
One snowy evening I was stuck in traffic for over three hours while on my way home. One minor fender-bender was enough to hold thousands of fellow drivers as hostages of the road. My frustration with the delay was taken a step further, as a sense of injustice frantically crept up on me once I began to recall my child’s care centre policy, requiring a fee of $1.00 per extra minute of child supervision after the designated pick-up time. The daycare personnel, "highly qualified" part-time college students, are not supposed to work overtime, as if they live differently to the rest of Canada’s corporate world. So, I paid the $90.00 fee and got reprimanded for displaying utmost irresponsibility. One week later I received an official letter warning me that should another late pick-up occur, the consequence would result in my child’s suspension.
In the same year I got two speeding tickets for driving too fast. There was little I could do to help it as the prospect of late fees and suspension was too powerful for my tired imagination. Well, aside from the ticket expense my car insurance had skyrocketed by an additional whooping $1000.00 per year. You just can’t win, eh?
For some reason my employer not only expected me to work hard during the day, but to work just as hard outside of scheduled work hours on a regular basis. For free. At the same time your child is being picked up by a local child care provider. And for some reason she wants to be paid to do so.
After crunching my personal taxes and work related expenses I had finally realised that I was barely making any money. $300 per month – if nothing extraordinary happens. Considering other (less tangible) benefits like group insurance, stock purchase plan and registered pension my profit was worth about $1,000 per month. Indeed, a great accomplishment for two hours of stressful daily commute, ten hours of work, and years of education and experience in the field.
In my “Working Parent budget” sample I have pointed out the major categories of work-related expenses: child care, transportation, work attire, social expenses (remember that last collective gift to your boss?), missed saving on shopping specials, late take-outs, dry cleaning, house cleaning, tutors, penalties and fees for late payments… I think list can continue and you, my dear readers, get the point.
Just imagine being the one at fault in a car accident, or having your child fall ill for the week and having to allocate fees to ensure their well-being. These two (of many) completely commonplace and likely scenarios will derail your budget for months. Meanwhile, children are growing, you are aging, friends come and go. The world is changing, and you may be missing a big chunk of these experiences. They just pass, vanish forever and can not be recovered or repeated later.
It took me a healthy dose of self-irony to finally understand that the child care provider, picking up my son along with a $20.00 bill attached, is making more money than I. On top of having a better business enterprise, she is fit, kissed by the sun, always happy, and knows everybody in the community.
I am not proposing a stop to work. Rather, I suggest breaking the matrix and looking outside the box in search of creative solutions. I know it’s not easy to see them, but knowing how much money you REALLY make and how much time and energy you really spend on full-time work coupled with the insane daily commute can help one look for them just a little bit harder.