Au pairs typically come to the US for a year, and they then have the option of extending their stay for 6, 9 or 12 months. They can stay with the same family or find a different host family. We are really glad Jomkwan chose to stay with us, and hopefully her choice means she’s pretty happy with the situation too. Next September she will have to go back to Thailand and we will miss her.
Since I posted yesterday about economics, I thought I should also mention how much child care costs. In our area, cheap daycare for infants starts at around $13k a year. For that you’d get one of those out-of-the-provider’s-home type operations, and no guarantee that they comply with regulations concerning the maximum number of children, etc. Some of the day care centers I looked at cost upwards of $25k a year, and I’m told they can even get more expensive than that. The au pair program costs us about $20k a year, plus the room. (We weren’t using the room anyway; pretend I made a separate long rant about the woes of being a landlord in these parts.) Given these numbers, the au pair program is a reasonable deal for us right now, we get quality one-on-one care for our baby at something close to the median price for daycare, plus I don’t have the hassle of having to deal with drop-off and pick-up. Once the little guy arrives the au pair program rapidly becomes the most cost-effective program for us, since day care charges you by the kid, but the cost of the au pair does not change when you add extra kids.
Now the tax policy portion… I work. I like to work. I went to college, got a bunch of skills, and enjoy using them in a constructive way. I also love my little girl like crazy. Right now I am happy being a working mom. Much as I love Margaret to pieces it’s nice to have some time away too, plus it gives me a bit more money to spend on her so I can buy her super-cute clothes. Working is not free, though. I have to get to work, so that’s money for gas and wear and tear on the car, more expensive food options at work, and of course there is the child care. The way the current tax system is set up, if the taxes on us as a couple get raised very much more, my net income after taxes may no longer cover those expenses associated with me working. I like my job, but I don’t like it so very much that I’ll keep the job if it turns into a net loss for us. If the result of me working is that I have both less money to spend on my girl and less time with her I’m going to quit my job. Any sensible person would. I also doubt that I am the only professional woman in this position, in fact I expect there are a fair few women potentially in the same position, women who are better at math than our politicians seem to be. Now, the president said during his campaign that he would not raise taxes on families making less than $250k a year. Let’s say that he can’t quite stick to that number (politicians having a reputation for making promises they later don't keep), and they wind up raising taxes on families making $150k a year and more. I’m thinking that some of my liberal, childless friends would think this is a good thing given the responses to yesterday's post; they can afford it and it’s more money for those unfortunate poor people. Well, not so fast. Those of us with kids then do the calculation, realize we’d be better off if someone (probably the Mom) didn’t bother and stayed home. The government would then end up getting far less money from us in taxes, we’d spend less ourselves, our au pair would be out of a job, and all the money she is spending at Abercrombie would also go away. The net result is less tax revenue than you were counting on and decreased consumer spending. Oops. And I bet that as soon as the guy who said he wouldn’t raise taxes on families making less that $250k a year got elected there were a bunch of doctor/lawyer couples who heard the implication, did the math, and decided that one of them was either going to quit or reduce to part-time.
I suppose I should try to tie this all together now having rambled at length, so in closing I will say that I really, really like having Jomkwan, and I like my job, and I sure hope the folks in Washington don’t screw it up for me. I hope this explains to those of you who differ with me on the whole tax thing that I don’t think that my position is one of greed but rather one of practicality.