There’s No Such Thing as Affordable Child Care in the U.S.

Originally Posted on Lifetime Moms

There is a child care crisis going on in the United States right now. I recently read two thought-provoking pieces about the lack of affordable, quality child care in the United States and the huge impact it is having on tons of women. There was a point in history when feminists created and lobbied for the 1971 Child Development Act, a bill which would have established federally funded day cares with sliding-scale fees. The CDA passed the Senate 63 to 17, but President Nixon vetoed it, an act that was in line with his party.

That was in 1971. Today, daycare in the U.S. runs about $15,000 a year per infant.  $15,000 dollars a year is an enormous amount of money, and that is for daycare, not in-home childcare, which can be far more expensive. Now before we start the daycare vs. nanny debate, let me point a few things out:

1) You can’t send your child to daycare when they are sick (for very obvious and legitimate reasons), which means you need to miss a day of work to care for your child – even if your boss gets angry, you miss a deadline because of it, or you don’t get paid for missing a day of work.

2) Daycares aren’t open in the wee hours of the morning or late into the evening, which means that there are limitations on when you can actually work, and no matter what the crisis is at work, one parent has to make it to the childcare center in time to pick up their little one.

As a single parent working in network news, daycare was never a realistic option for me because of the extremely limited hours, relative to the ones I have to work. I have been in the office as early as 5am and had to work as late as 2am on a fairly regular basis, so daycare was never a viable option. And so I hired a nanny which costs me more than half of my take-home income for childcare.

The perfect solution?  No.

But when the options are A. continuing to work while paying a huge amount of money for childcare OR B. quitting my job, not paying the money in childcare and then not having a job (or food, or shelter or clothing) – the answer was obvious. So I posted a very specific ad about what I was looking for, and prayed for the best.

And luckily for my daughter and I, we got the best.  My daughter’s nanny is an extension of me, and is now part of our family, which is really what I consider to be most important. The downside of this is that I am literally living paycheck to paycheck in order to be able to afford the type of childcare I need in order to do my job well.

The childcare crisis is a three-pronged issue, one problem being affordability, the second issue being flexibility, and the third being quality. I am not sure that the even if it had been passed, the 1971 Child Development Act would have been able to address the flexibility side of this issue.  The reality is, a child needs routine and structure and even if daycares were open 24 hours a day, I wouldn’t want to pick her up at 2am after covering a big news story.

But just because it is a complicated issue without a simple solution doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to solve it. I don’t have an answer to issues of affordability, flexibility and quality in childcare but what I do know is that I want to be an excellent mother and an excellent employee.

Unfortunately doing both at the same time is extremely difficult, which means the glass ceiling is often covered with cement.