Childcare deserts. Do you know what that is? Until I had Mary, I had never heard of this term, mainly because I never had to look for childcare before. I mean, I was always aware of the fact that the cost of childcare “is higher than the average in-state college tuition and costs more than rent in many towns”, but it had never affected me directly.
A childcare desert, according to the Center for American Progress, is “any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains either no child care providers or so few options that there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots.” This is crazy. The fact that childcare is this difficult to come by in many states is disturbing. How can we, as a society, say that we care about families and the well-being of children when the data proves otherwise? The real question is, how do we change this and why does this need to change?
It’s no secret that women bear the brunt of childcare. Now, I am not saying that there are no men who worry about childcare and whatnot, but let’s be completely honest: Childcare is viewed as mostly a “woman’s problem” in the United States. What’s even more difficult is that most families need two incomes to survive in our current economy – thus, families find themselves in quite the predicament, especially families who are trying to make ends meet in these “deserts”. Women also often find that they end up losing their entire paychecks to childcare, which benefits no one, and consequently have to make the tough decision to stay home. By doing so, depending on how long mom is out of work, a gap is now on her resume. As anyone out of the corporate world can tell you, this is frowned upon, and many women are passed up for opportunities that they are more than qualified for due to this gap of staying home and raising her children, something that we claim to value as a country (I could honestly write until I’m blue in the face about this particular issue, but I’ll spare you all that for now).
So, what do we do? Well, for starters, we could help ease the burden by making events and workplaces child friendly. As I’ve said in a previous blog, I’m aware that there are places where children should not be; however, by providing childcare at workplaces for days when schools are closed or at events that parents want to attend, we are easing the burden for parents and trying to make the burden of finding childcare to attend an event – or work – easier.
Childcare deserts are unacceptable. Leaving childcare mainly to women is unacceptable. Not hiring a mom because she was a Stay-At-Home-Mom and has a gap in her resume is unacceptable. Losing Paid Time Off days due to school closings and there’s nowhere for your kid to go is unacceptable. The conversation needs to change, and society needs to recognize that the days of the one-income family are long gone.
We need to help our moms.
And we need to do it now.