Welcome to this week’s installment of Mothers of Intention, a forum for blogger moms, who don’t usually get all political at their places, to talk about issues that are important to them. This week, I am so excited that Rita from Surrender, Dorothy (who is also a cohort from BlogHer) has agreed to talk about the incredibly important topic of childcare in America. Thanks, Rita!
I’m often surprised that childcare isn’t addressed more often in political campaigns. At first glance, it may seem like childcare is only an issue for parents, but really, in a global economy, it’s an issue for everyone.
Lack of reliable childcare keeps innumerable parents out of the workforce, parents who may want or need to work. (Some do, some don’t — I’m not arguing the pros and cons of either, here, merely saying that those who need to work should be able to support their families and have reliable and trustworthy childcare if they need it.)
As a working mom whose child has been in full-time childcare since she was three months old, I can say with certainty that finding reliable childcare is the scariest and most important issue to a working parent. Especially if you live far away from a family support system, it’s terrifying to be two months pregnant and be told your fetus won’t come up in a daycare waiting list for two years. That happened to me. I was living in Kansas City, Missouri, at the time, and though I contacted what organizations I could to help me find childcare, the list of twelve or so places within a twenty-minute drive of my house and somewhat on my way to work were booked solid for over a year.
I finally found a place a few months before my daughter was born, but I hated it. I didn’t trust the workers, I didn’t trust the director, and I worried constantly about my daughter. My work suffered. When we finally came up on another waiting list, we transferred her over and my fears evaporated. I was shocked at my ability to concentrate at work. I realized how much I had been worrying about my daughter during the day, all do to sub-par daycare. (Her first daycare center went under a few months after we left, further flooding the limited few possibilities in the area — I shudder to think what would’ve happened if we hadn’t left when we did.)
I kept working because I had to in order to help support our family. There is no worse feeling than knowing you need to work to meet your family’s daily needs but worrying your child’s needs aren’t being met properly by the person you’re paying what feels to you like an inordinate amount of money and what feels to them like pennies. It’s a lose-lose situation, because daycare workers don’t make nearly enough money for the job they’re doing, but working parents can’t afford to pay one penny more. In some markets, childcare for an infant is upward of $300 a week. Families with two or three children have childcare bills higher than their mortgages. It’s a terrible trap, and it’s got to stop.
Despite my nasty experience early on with my daughter’s daycare, I’m thankful I’ve always been able to keep her in a facility that passed my high standards for cleanliness and student-teacher ratio. I’m blessed because as hard as it is to write that four-figure check every month, we are able to write it.
What about families making minimum wage? Who is watching their kids? And under what conditions? Why isn’t the same government who provides food stamps providing childcare stamps? Why in a country that spends so much time bemoaning outsourcing and globalization are we not taking every opportunity to make sure our own workforce can GET TO WORK?
Because listen, if there’s nobody to watch your child, you’re not going to work. I don’t care if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 or if you work the night shift at McDonald’s — if your sitter calls in sick or the daycare closes unexpectedly for teacher in-service and there’s no back-up, you’re staying home. If you’re the CEO, you can probably work from home, take a few conference calls, or maybe even pay $500 a day for a high-end, short-term nanny solution.
But if you work the night shift at McDonald’s, you might get fired. Or have to trade with someone who doesn’t have a child or a childcare issue, inconveniencing them. When working parents have childcare problems, it impacts all of their co-workers. Co-workers may
have to pick up the slack, take the business trip, make the presentation. They may have to trade shifts or stay late. The parents are caught in between the resentment of their co-workers and the need to care for their children.
Again, it’s a lose-lose. It doesn’t have to be this way. If the government would apply the same standards to early education and birth-through-school-age childcare and after-school care that it does to public schools themselves, I guarantee the economy would improve. Parents would miss far less work if they had childcare and back-up childcare, if their children were located closer to them or to their schools, if they knew their children were being cared for by people who had passed background inspections and were being paid a living wage.
Parents would be able to take many of the telemarketing and other jobs that are being shipped overseas. Children would be able to foster social relationships with other children who will soon be their peers at school. I’ll bet it would cost about the same amount we lose in productivity every year due to childcare issues.
Thanks so much Rita for taking the time to hang out over here with me at Mothers of Intention.
Next week, my guest Mother of Intention will be the fabulous Erika from Plain Jane Mom!
Related links to Rita’s posts on childcare at BlogHer:
On a different note, interested in a new book? Head on over to PunditMom Reviews to see if you were raised by wolves!