Sexism -- Not Finances -- Is The Reason We Don't Have Affordable Child Care

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
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Whether its recognition has been enforced nation to nation or not, equality amongst people is a global right. But even in developed countries today, it seems that equality comes with a barrier. A line is drawn, and it happens on the front porches of families who find themselves unable to work because of the steep price of child care — with mothers taking the brunt of its load.

It’s 2019, and families are still struggling to make ends meet because of the rapidly growing child care crisis.

Whereas the U.S. government states the affordable price of childcare as no more than 7% per family’s annual income, a recent survey showed parents in 12 states paid up to 20% of their annual income on child care for one infant — more than most families’ mortgages. And on a minimum-wage budget in Idaho, some parents would spend 2/3 of their pay on child care, working the equivalent of eight months out of a year to afford care for their child(ren).

In America, 63% of two-parent households have two incomes. But when child care is impossible to come by or unaffordable for families, it’s usually the mother who leaves the workforce to stay home with the family. We’re failing working moms. And all women.

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We need affordable childcare — and we need it NOW.

But this widespread lack of affordable childcare isn’t just about the financial challenges associated it, it’s also about a persistent belief that “a mother’s place is at home.” In fact, 59% of Americans believe children should have one parent home with them while they are growing up, and 45% believe mothers should “stay home with the family” while fathers work full-time. (Insert so many eye rolls here.)

Let’s just state the obvious — moms are capable of more than just motherhood. Is everyone forgetting what pros we are at multi-tasking? And failing to see a mother’s worth at home and at work is sexist AF while costing our nation billions.

The Center for American Progress states U.S. businesses “lose an estimated $12.7 billion annually because of their employees’ child care challenges. Nationally, the cost of lost earnings, productivity and revenue due to the child care crisis totals an estimated $57 billion each year.”

The solution might be subsidized child care, and the topic has been on the forefront of Democratic Presidential Debate. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand released a “Family Bill Of Rights” which includes her list of plans to make child care more affordable. She tells Vox in a statement, as a former working, young mother, “childcare was the boulder that almost crushed me.”

To help parents with lives mirroring the one she once lived, Gillibrand is planning to offer child care relief in the form of universal pre-K, paid family leave, and government-funded medical care to newborns.

The only time America has ever had universal childcare such as this was in 1941 during WWII. Although lawmakers were hesitant to move forward, this initiative, known as the Lanham Act, offered temporary, subsidized, child care support for working mothers with deployed husbands. Most of the families using Lanham care center services were low-income, but the benefits went beyond financial. The children enrolled had a lower mortality rate and advanced educationally and economically over several years compared to those who did not meet the age requirements for child care.

America has had subsidized child care on a national scale before, and we can make it happen again.

In a post published on Medium, Democratic Presidential Candidate and Senator of Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren wrote, “In the wealthiest country on the planet, access to affordable and high-quality child care and early education should be a right, not a privilege reserved for the rich.”

But child care continues to resemble the latter, and companies are losing valuable assets because of it.

The Atlantic quoted a statistic from Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In reading, “43% of highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time.” But according to another poll, 41% of mothers would like to care for their children and work.

And that’s the thing — we CAN have both!

But we need reliable, affordable and safe child care to make it happen. And right now, America does not have that.

Over half of U.S. families reside in child care deserts — areas with three times as many children as child care spots — and there are many places where there are no openings at all. Those who can find child care in these areas usually have a difficult time trusting it or find it easier to stay home from work than deal with the hassle and unreliability of it.

Millennials aren’t having enough children to populate the generation before them, and it’s partly due to the inequality among mothers and fathers, which is still (after years of work) so blatantly clear today.

Parenthood is meant to be shared. And sure, America has come a long way in the past 50 years, but these child care challenges are 40% more likely to affect working moms rather than working dads. According to Pew Research, mothers are putting in more time and effort than fathers when sick kids are in the house, and when it comes to the daily planning of the hustle-and-bustle of life.

We still aren’t equal, and the child care crisis is crushing parents, kids and families one by one. And it’s time we do something about it.

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