What If Caregiver Wages Were A Deductible Expense?

There wasn’t a Super Bowl ad for this level of caregiving.

Last night, G came back to help us yet again.

She’s been with us since our youngest was 5 days old; that daughter is now a few months from turning 7. Before, during, and after the Covid lockdown G’s been with us – she’s gotten to know us, warts and all, as we’ve gotten to know and love her.

When our Au Pair from England left after TWO weeks, we were in a lurch. G had retired – for the third time. All we needed was an Au Pair, to help in the afternoon to help with the logistics of shuttling kids around. But then the Au Pair got homesick and that was that.

So I called G, and before I could ask, she said, “I’ll be there. Just send me the ticket.”

She arrived shortly after the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl. The house was quiet. I was cleaning. My daughters were asleep. My wife was asleep. Our dogs were asleep.

But if you’ve ever come to my house, you’d know that my dogs don’t stay asleep when someone comes to the door. Annie Bear and Penny, two Bernadoodles, are sweet mushy family dogs. They’re also fiercely protective. They bark when anyone comes to the door, and their barks are scary – big, deep barks backed up by their imposing stature. (The Schnauzer does sleep through everything!)

But when G walked in, neither dog barked. Penny stayed sleeping until I nudged her. Annie Bear danced all around for her friend G. No barks.

We know G is someone special and that her love of our girls is equal to ours. We appreciate and value her sacrifice to un-retire again, if only for a month.

But her arrival into a calm house last night, my dogs as comfortable with her as me, reminded me once again of how undervalued such an important role as caregiving is by Congress and companies.

This is where we all need to be honest. Two-income families with kids need caregiving. Flat out.

You might have an aftercare program or the YMCA. Maybe you have a nanny or a grandparent or an Au Pair. Holidays are great for college kids looking to make some cash. One of your kids might have her driver’s license, but there’s only so far the rides to and from school can go.

Working parents need caregivers.

Last year, I had Congressman Jimmy Gomez on The Company of Dads podcast. It was a great talk. But when I pressed him on the amount of the childcare tax credit – $3,000 – he waffled. It ain’t nothing – and it’s $6,000 if you’re married. But when the average care cost per child is over $15,000 a year for one and $26,000 a year for two, according to Care.com’s annual survey, everyone needs help.

Here’s a modest proposal: Let’s admit the valuable role that caregivers like G play in the economy and allow working parents to deduct fully all of their caregiving expenses, the way employers deduct all of the wages and benefits they pay their employees. It would be a step to recognizing how essential caregivers are.