My wife and I babysat our little six month old granddaughter last Saturday night. She was dropped off at 6 pm, and not picked up until 9 am the next morning. It was her first sleepover with us.
   "Do you think it's rude of me to send our daughter and son-in-law an invoice for $300.00?" I asked after they were gone and our house was back to normal.
   "For what?" she cluelessly replied.
   "For babysitting," I said. "15 hours at $20.00 per hour is $300.00. That's what it would have cost them with anyone else. But since we're grandparents, we should probably offer a discount."
   We had only recently learned the exorbitant cost of childcare. The days of finding a teenager to babysit for $2.50 per hour were long gone. Those greedy little cretins were now getting $20.00 per hour to be on their phones and watch television while their client napped or was asleep for the night.
   "She slept for 12 of the 15 hours," my wife added. "And you didn't lift a finger for the three hours she was awake, so I don't think you deserve anything."
   "That's not fair," I answered. "Now that she's six months old, I kind of find her interesting. She's not a blob anymore. I actually tried to play with her, so I do deserve something. And as for sleeping 12 hours, remember the night nurse?"
   I was referring to a present we gave to our daughter a couple of weeks after giving birth. She and our son-in-law were both exhausted from being up all night with a hungry, crying baby, so we paid for a woman to come to their house from 10 pm to 6 am and take care of the baby so they could get some much needed sleep.
   It wasn't until a few days later that I found out the cost: $320.00. Yep, $40.00 per hour, and our little granddaughter had a career night and only woke up once. Not only that, she woke up the second time at 6 am, right after the night nurse scooted away with her winnings.
   Childcare has become quite the cash cow. My daughter stayed at home for the first four months and, after exhausting the two weeks of maternity pay from her employer, relied on approximately 60% of her salary that she received from the government for maternity leave. Then it was nothing.
   So she had a choice---stay at home, get her husband to quit his job and stay home, or arrange for daycare. After four months at home, she was one of those mothers (bless them all) who couldn't wait to get back to work. Separation anxiety wasn't going to be a problem. After babysitting a couple of times early on, I certainly understood.
   Since her husband was happily pursuing his own career, they chose daycare. First they tried "nanny share," where you team up with another parent and share a nanny who comes to your house or the other parent's house. The cost is about $125 per day. Per child.
   My daughter did this for a few weeks after returning to work, before finally getting the news that they'd been accepted into a daycare center. They were thrilled, because for only $2000 per month they would have more flexibility, since the hours ranged from 7 am to 6 pm. (The nanny share lady was at her wits end by 4 pm).
   The cost does go down slightly as the child gets older. The law requires one caretaker for every three infants because they're so incredibly needy, but the ratio changes after a year or two. Paying "only" $1650 a month or so becomes a bargain.
   This is for one child. Imagine the parents who have two children, or three. Childcare no longer becomes an option for many of them. It doesn't make a lot of sense to go to work every day and make less than what you're paying for childcare.
   On the other hand, after babysitting my new granddaughter a few times, I'd probably consider it. There are few things in life more exhausting than taking care of a cranky infant.
   That makes it easier to accept the costs for the nanny share, the daycare attendants, and even the night nurse working the midnight hours. They deserve every penny they earn.
   The teenagers are another story. They should be arrested for price fixing, at least in our area. Charging $20 per hour to some poor, vulnerable parents who just want a "date night" is outrageous.
   However, grandparents certainly deserve that kind of money. The invoice is in the mail.

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