Leslie Bennetts' eye-opening and spot-on post "American Moms: Unsung Heroes of a Bad Economy," which features several stories of women struggling to make ends meet, should be emailed to and read by every single politician on the campaign trail today -- including our President. It evoked so many different emotions and had me nodding my head after almost every paragraph. But one issue affecting these moms and so many others like them jumped out at me more than the others, and that is the good old day care dilemma. Difficulty affording day care has not gone away, it's only gotten worse in this dismal economy. Many women are -- or want to be -- working moms either for the salary or benefits but can't afford to pay someone to care for their children. Fully funded day care where the government picks up the entire tab would be one of the best ways politicians could help moms and our country today.
I don't pretend to know how such an endeavor would be carried out. We're talking a budgetary and logistical scope the size of Social Security or even Health Care. We all know how well that's turned out.
That aside, the concept itself makes perfect sense.
Oh, the government helps us out a little right now, depending on how much we make. We can save a few thousand a year through our dependent care savings accounts (if our jobs offer that benefit) and can take advantage of (ever dwindling) tax credits. But that hardly makes a dent. Paying for day care in many places is like carrying a second mortgage -- I've been there. And if you have two kids in day care at the same time like I did, forget about it. Bye-bye savings account. I made too much and not little enough to justify quitting my job and staying home, as much as I would have loved to have been a stay-at-home mom. And I needed the benefits. What little extra I brought home at least bought some groceries, and it was a "future investment" for the time when my kids would eventually be in public school and time to start thinking about how I would send them to college.
So why not "public day care" as well? Just extend the current public education system to start a few years earlier. If I had that when my kids were little, I wouldn't be in debt right now. I'll bet lots of moms wouldn't be. I'd have been able to renovate my home and invest in the stock market. This system wouldn't just help the individual. The government and children's services could keep closer tabs on the children who need that supervision the most if a staff saw them daily while their moms were working, helping to pay off their debts, keep their homes, and maybe go on a vacation once a year. Airlines would like that and add flights and more jobs. The economy would improve, new businesses could start up, and things might eventually start to get better.
Is this simplistic thinking fraught with more questions than answers? Yes, of course. But someone's got to start throwing some radical new solutions out there, so it might as well be me, a mom, who, like the others in Bennetts' post, is struggling yet trying to be patient, and is trying to smile while seriously doubting things are going to get better any time soon.
Would you vote for a politician who proposed publicly funded day care? Would you send your child to a free day care if you had the choice?
Image via GabrielaP93/Flickr