Let me be blunt: I have no idea how anyone affords childcare. When faced with a $2,000 monthly daycare bill for two kids, I freaked out and quit my job. That was 8 years ago, and daily, I still face the consequences from my sojourn from my career.
According to a report published Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute, I’m not the only one who has felt the childcare squeeze. In North Carolina, daycare accounts for more than 30% of the median income family’s budget. For low-income workers that number is, predictably, a lot higher.
In fact, in most of the United States, families pay more to keep their kids safe during working hours than they do on rent or mortgage payments. Consider this for a moment: the cost of having two working parents is higher than that of keeping a roof over a family’s heads. This is unbelievably skewed.
And who pays the price? Women, of course — particularly low income women, and women of color. We take second-shift jobs, opt out of our careers, or send our kids to low quality babysitters just to be able to show up for work.
If you are anything like me you are sweating the cost of college, even if your kids are still in diapers. But guess what? Tuition at UNC is 16% less than the cost of sending an infant to a daycare center for 8 hours a day.
(Right now let’s pause to consider a room full of three-year-old’s quizzically watching a chemistry professor as she attempts to explain atom bonds.)
So what’s to be done?
The Center for American Progress suggests a series of tax credits that would help subsidize high quality care for children. The CAP plan would ensure families don’t spend more than 12% of income on childcare– a reasonable proposition.
But affordable childcare is not the legislative priority it should be. Perhaps it’s because looking after children is seen as women’s work, or maybe because women are disproportionately affected. But either way the cost of keeping kids safe continues to rise while women’s wages stagnate and government programs that help pay these costs disappear.
We must speak out about how this affects our lives and the lives of our peers. We cannot let this be an invisible issue. Contact your state representative to tell him or her how your life is limited by childcare costs. When your friends struggle to write their monthly preschool check, tell them how it can be different and help them take action, too.
How have childcare costs affected your life? What sacrifices have you made to make ends meet?