“Parents are tapped out,” says Grace Reef, chief of policy and evaluation for ChildCare Aware of America. “They really can’t pay more. It’s not affordable.”
So what does this mean? Over the past week or so, Modern Parenthood has been talking with a number of family and children advocates about the cost of childcare, as well as with a handful of parents. The high price of care, it turns out, often blindsides new parents, and has ripple effects that impact everything from a family’s debt situation to glass ceiling wages to that whole Mommy Wars debate between working and stay at home moms. (Which really starts to look silly in the face of all of this, I might add.)
Ponder, for instance, this fact, shared by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and chief executive of MomsRising.org, a social media site and advocacy group that boasts over a million mom members: Having a new baby is one of the top reasons for a “poverty spill,” the term for what happens when your income dips below what’s needed for food and rent.
The key factor in that “spill” is infant care. Without a paid maternity leave policy the US (reminder – we’re the only developed country in the world that rolls this way), and with only a percentage of employees qualifying for unpaid leave, many moms need to either put baby into day care as soon as possible or quit their jobs. This means a huge drop in income. Add another child and the situation becomes even more dire.
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