Military Child Care vs. Civilian Child Care
"We are moving to Germany,” my husband told me as he got his first official orders for the U.S. Army. I was so excited to be moving overseas I didn’t even think ahead to the fact that I may not be able to work. I was pregnant at the time with my first son and had just finished my master’s degree in public health. I was excited to get into the field, but now, with an overseas move, I had to think about if there were actually any jobs for me there. For the rest of my pregnancy, I kept an eye out for positions that popped up and tried to see if it fit with our new life in Germany. “Does this help my career while I am stationed here? Where would the baby go for child care? How long before I am able to put him in child care? Do I trust the care provider? How much would it even cost to put the baby in child care?”
Looking back at how I navigated finding child care in the military, I had it easy! I put my name on the list, they told me my options (either FCC care or CDC care because we were in a foreign country unless I wanted to try a German child care center), asked for pay stubs to determine how much it would cost for us based on our monthly income, and then we were set. I got to meet with my child care provider, see the home my brand new baby would be in for the majority of the day, and build a relationship with the person with whom I was trusting my baby. Child care costs only a small portion of what I would be making. Easy. Painless. Done.
Fast Forward 3 Years...
Now I was pregnant again, doing yet another overseas move, looking for work to continue my career, but now I had to find child care for two kids. Based on my experience with finding child care with the military, I thought it would be the same process. I was mistaken. I had to Google child care providers and centers, call around to set up walk-throughs, only to find out that were waiting lists (sometimes as long as 12 months!). It was important for the center had space for both of my kids and not just one or the other. Of the facilities that had space available, I toured and checked for safety practices, turnover of providers, feeding practices for the baby, learning opportunities for my toddler, the ‘"vibe" I got from the people who would be with my children for the day, and how attentive/organized they were. On top of all of that, I now discovered that pricing was an entirely different ballgame versus the fixed sliding system of the military child care.
Comparing apples to apples in terms of how much child care with an FCC provider cost me in the military vs. what it would cost for my new baby in the civilian world: one week of full-time care as a civilian with the child care provider I chose is the same as one full month in the military. Child care costs me about 4x as much being in a civilian facility for only part-time care for an infant and a toddler.
Because of this, child care for me now looks very different than it did before; I have the support of family and friends to watch the kids some days to ease the burden of child care costs. I have the support of employer benefits to help offset the cost of child care as well. Despite the support around us, we are still paying 4x more per month for child care.
Whatever the military is doing, they got it right and would like to see more done for civilians. I felt supported in my pursuit to continue my while trusting and feeling comfortable with the people caring for my kids at an affordable rate. My child care center now is awesome. I can go to work and know that my kids are taken care of and are growing into awesome little humans. I do, however, miss the convenience of not needing to mix and match care in order to afford child care.
Shout out to Stringfellow Road KinderCare, the director Sigrid Holail, and all the KinderCare team at that location who continue to make me feel comfortable with my decision to use them for child care.