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When childcare costs you your paycheck: The dilemma working parents face daily

With the rising costs of childcare, parents are being faced with the tough decision to put their career on the back burner

COVINA, Calif. — Having kids is expensive. Even with a job, the cost of childcare often eats up one's income, leaving parents faced with the tough decision to stay home or return to the workforce. 

Often, it's the mothers who choose to stay home to raise their kids, attend to their schooling and keep the household together to offset the cost of childcare. Add a pandemic to the mix and you have a whole lot of frustration and uncertainty, as one mother from Covina Valley puts it.

Marielyn Lopez, a mother of four boys, details what it's like to want to work but be unable to do so due to a lack of affordable childcare. Lopez's four children range between seven months old and 16 years old. 

Lopez relies on her husband of seventeen years for financial support and had to quit her job after having a baby. Prior to the pandemic, Lopez worked part-time while the boys were in school at children's centers. 

"I'm happy and thankful that I'm able to stay home and care for our children but at the same time, I feel stressed and frustrated that it's all on him," Lopez said when asked about how she feels being unable to work. 

In addition to these challenges, Lopez faces a new one, having to quarantine with her high school son who was sent home due to being exposed to COVID-19 at school. 

"I received a letter from his school that said your son has to quarantine for ten days because a classmate tested positive for COVID-19. That's all they tell you," Lopez said. 

Her 16-year-old son keeps in contact with his teachers through Google classroom and has to get tested for COVID-19 on the eighth day before returning back to school, according to Lopez. 

"It's almost like there's a push for every student to get the vaccine because those who were vaccinated didn't have to quarantine. My son wants to get the vaccine now to avoid having to quarantine again," Lopez said. 

Lopez's other two school-age children are in middle and elementary school and so far haven't been exposed to COVID-19.

Now that jobs have opened up again, for parents like Lopez, it's not getting the job that's the hard part; it's finding childcare.

"If you're making $17.50 an hour and childcare is $15 an hour, then you're working for $2.50, like hell no," Lopez said. 

According to Lopez, it doesn't make sense to work and have your entire paycheck go to childcare. On top of that, there's the issue of school drop-offs and pick-ups to factor into a work schedule. 

"Working from home opened up doors for parents not having to worry about childcare," Lopez said. 

A solution Lopez thinks jobs should incorporate is free childcare sites at places of employment. While there are afterschool programs available to assist parents, they aren't free and aren't made available to infants. 

Low-cost options like KinderCare Centers go off of a parent's income but are located at separate sites outside of the school districts for a set amount of hours.

"My children come first. If I can't find childcare, like someone to trust and that's affordable, I'm waiting until my seven-month-old is in preschool, and then I'll start looking for work while he's in school," Lopez said when asked about waiting to re-enter the workforce. 

WATCH ALSO: Childcare in the time of coronavirus