Can You Afford to Work? For Some Moms, the Cost of Childcare Means No

In the reignited mommy wars debate sparked by commentator Hilary Rosen's recent comment that stay-at-home mother of five Ann Romney hasn't "worked a day in her life," there have been lines drawn between moms who can choose to stay at home with their kids (hard, yet unpaid, work) and moms who must work outside the home for money.

Adding a new talking point to the conversation, the cost of childcare has become so high that many moms cannot afford to work outside the home even if they would like to, according to a report from CNN Money.

Women make an average annual salary of $35,776 (20 percent less than what their male peers earn) and childcare is often a family's largest expense: The cost of having two children in daycare currently exceeds the average annual rent payment in almost every state in the country, according to the organization Child Care Aware. Combined with other costs (rising gas prices for commuters, clothing and eating out), many moms just can't afford to work outside the home, according to the report.

"It comes down to a cost analysis and I have several clients that have taken the route of quitting," Anna Behnam, a financial advisor at Ameriprise Financial in Rockville, Md., told CNN Money. "Factor in taxes, transportation costs, clothing and lunch -- what is the true net that you bring home after salary?"

One mom interviewed said that childcare costs of $12,000 a year prompted her to leave her job as a public-school teacher in Virginia, where daycare costs are some of the lowest in the nation. After taxes, health-care costs and saving for retirement, she brought home about $30,000 a year. "It wasn't worth $18,000 for us to let somebody else raise our son," she said.

In March alone, nearly 177,000 women left the workforce, either voluntarily or due to layoffs or dismissals, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that means the number of working women is lower than it has been since 1993.

I'm lucky to have a lot of flexibility as someone who works from home, and I can contain my working hours to when my kids are in school or sleeping. Even when I was making a competitive salary as a marketing manager for a large corporation, the price tag of high-quality daycare made leaving that job to stay home with my daughter a no-brainer for us.

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