When I had my daughter, I went back to work the day after giving birth. Crazy, right?
But my partner and I thanked our lucky stars that it happened during COVID because we were both in education and were starting the year teaching online, so we didn’t have to take unpaid FMLA to bond with and care for her. Additionally, we were able to finagle our schedules well enough to keep her out of day care during the pandemic for her first full year.
We live in Rio Rancho, where the cheapest day care we could find with availability that worked for our family and our jobs costs a full 30% of our combined monthly salaries. So, we drive her to a cheaper, state-subsidized center we can realistically afford without one of us taking an extra job.
This drive takes roughly 45 minutes to make one way, for a grand total of three or more hours of driving each day. As a result, we are both working additional hours at night to make up for the lost work time during the normal work day.
We are lucky that we can make this situation work. What about other families who cannot?
And what about those without children who are still affected when a coworker has to quit or call in sick or is exhausted because they’re working an extra job just to pay for the child care they need to be able to work in the first place?
Child care SHOULD be a public good — don’t we want all children to have the best head start in their lives? Don’t we want people to be able to thrive?
We need to make child care a public good. And that includes funding for adequately staffing centers and paying their workers for doing the hard work of helping us raise our children.