It's no secret that Australia has one of the most expensive childcare rates in the world, and that rate continues to increase. The Department of Education recently reported that childcare rates are expected to continue to grow by more than 5 per cent over the next four years – a rise that would see childcare cost an average of $223 a day in Sydney, $175 a day in Melbourne and between $138 and $157 a day in the rest of the country.

Do the math and that's a staggering $57,980 a year!

Already Aussie families are struggling with [the cost of childcare]( According to The ParentHood, a not-for-profit lobbying group of parents and carers, the average cost of childcare currently in Australia is around $46,800 a year, while the Cost of Kids 2017 Report by found that 86 per cent of Australians struggle with financial stress after having children. And two in five said that childcare fees were the biggest stress.

Not surprising when the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the average family income in Australia is $90, 108*in 2016.

Erin and her step-son, Josh (left), picking her son, Ethan, up from his first day of school.

It's something that I know too well… as a single mum working full-time, the cost of daycare was my second biggest expense after paying rent- and even then it was a very close second. Now that my son has started primary school, I'm starting to feel a breath of financial relief (the cost of Out of School Hours Care is substantially cheaper than daycare).

But the sums are eye-watering… in the four years since my little one started daycare I've forked out close to $100,000 for the privilege of being able to go to work.

And while I wouldn't bemoan the social skills and early education he's received over the years, it's not surprising that for a lot of women, the solution is not to return to the workforce and stay at home with their children.

It was a choice I also made when my son was a few months old and I was offered a new job (I was made redundant while on maternity leave).

Erin with Ethan.

The financial benefit of returning to work simply didn't compensate for missing out on precious time in my son's first year – my then-husband and I worked out that I'd be working for less than $100 a week in our pockets once we paid for childcare. Until a higher paid position came up, it simply wasn't financial viable (or sensible) to return to full time work. And I'm not alone in that assessment. I have friends and know of many other women who have had to weigh up the same.

And until either the gender gap comes to end, or childcare fees decrease, it's a dilemma that we women face every day….

Erin Mayo is the Editor of Mother & Baby, and mum to Ethan, 5 and step-mum to Josh, 16. Like all mums, she runs on coffee and chocolate, and the occasional glass of wine.