The lack of quality, affordable day care is arguably the most significant barrier to full equality for women in the workplace. It makes it more likely that children born in poverty will remain there. That’s why other developed countries made child care a collective responsibility long ago.
Here’s my question, If you were to place a monetary value on child care workers what would it be? We all know how important those first few years are to a child’s developing brain, and yet in this country, child care is anything but valued. Parents must navigate a piecemeal patchwork of semi-regulated private home care and institutional day care franchises or religious, sometimes co-operative pre-schools that in the end may or may not meet their needs. Poor, single-parent, and middle class working parents are hit hardest, because one parent’s salary may all but pay for child care, which means for many couples one will opt to stay home, not to work while their children are young…
You’ll notice I didn’t say the “Mother,” even though the latest US Census Bureau actually counts the Father as a “Child Care Provider” when he stays at home, but if it’s the Mom at home, well, not so much! http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/the-census-bureau-counts-fathers-as-child-care/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
Presumably it’s our function right, to stay barefoot and pregnant at home raising the kiddos? And this is exactly the problem with our Democracy – we educate our girls, we passed Title IX, we expect women to contribute to the GNP, and yet we still manage to count them as the “designated” parent. It’s easier that way, then we as a country feel no obligation to provide child care!
I used to hate it when people said the Dad was “babysitting,” early feminists had to readjust their language to reflect the changing culture giving women sovereignty over their lives. After all, is the Mom babysitting when she cares for her progeny? No, we are parenting, co-parenting hopefully. Sure nursing Moms have a bit of a heavier load to begin with, but even with modern Dads picking up more of the slack at home, when both parents want of have to work, their options are dismal.
American day care performs abysmally. A 2007 survey by the National Institute of Child Health Development deemed the majority of operations to be “fair” or “poor”—only 10 percent provided high-quality care. Experts recommend a ratio of one caregiver for every three infants between six and 18 months, but just one-third of children are in settings that meet that standard. Depending on the state, some providers may need only minimal or no training in safety, health, or child development. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112892/hell-american-day-care
And what do we pay these child care workers? Less than $20,000 a year, about the same as a parking lot attendant. Yes, someone who sits in a booth all day watching a small screen and making change is valued about the same in,this,country as someone responsible for our young child’s growth and development. And there are no national qualifications for child care workers, it is a state by state business where a GED will get you in the door.
In every other developed country, in the Big 8, working women and child care are valued. In France for example, the state subsidizes child care. Babies and toddlers can go to a “Creche” that is run by the public health system, while preschoolers can go to the “Ecole Maternelle,” with teachers who are paid the same as the public school teachers because it is part of the public education system. Is it any surprise that 80% of women return to work in France, while here it is around 60%? Even if one parent stays at home, or hires nannies, France gives these parents generous tax breaks.
In Denmark, most men take a three month paternity leave, and no parent pays more than 25% for child care. I know. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/feb/18/britain-learn-denmark-childcare-model
And guess where our government does set standards on child care, the military! “More than 98 percent of military child care centers meet standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, compared with only 10 percent of private-sector day cares.” Interesting, I guess the American dream does exist for some women in uniform, so long as you don’t mind where you’ll be stationed or that you may be called to duty in a war zone.
If we as a nation would like to move more people out of poverty, and benefit from the increased taxes and economic development of more women in the workplace, we will have to make universal Pre-K a reality. It’s that simple.