Nine months expecting, then suddenly, your precious bundle of joy is here; a new face, a new person, your little person, here at last, ready for his or her shot at the world. For the next few days, maybe even the next few weeks, if your fortunate enough to have an employer who offers maternity leave, it's just you, your newborn baby, and your significant other. A happy, nuclear family, living, enjoying the first several days of a new life. Then, as suddenly as it happened, the time's up; and it's back to work for mom and dad. That means it's off to day care for the little one, and before you know it, you’ve got your first day care bill.
According to iowachildcare.net, that tab on average, runs up to about $200 a week. No small sum for a burgeoning family. For a family living under the poverty line or for single parents working for minimal to sub-par wages, it might as well be a bankruptcy notice. According to NPR, on average, Americans are spending 34 percent on their income on childcare. Take a moment to consider what that statistic implies. Around our nation, families are spending one-third of their income to have their child supervised, just so they can go to work, to pay their childcare bill. To any rational human being, this should come off as not only asinine, but also as a complete drain on the economic output of the American family. Instead of spending one-third of their income on new cars, clothes, vacations, food, and pass times, Americans are spending one-third of their income just to have the ability to work.
For many, the costs outweigh the benefits, and in homes where both parents work, some are opting out, with one parent choosing to stay at home to care for their children, instead of pursuing their career, and bringing income into the household. While this isn’t a bad thing per say, in today’s economy, where wages are stagnant and the cost of living continues to increase, it is a resolution of poverty for many. Of course, it is a terrible reality that we have created a society which denies a family the right to have one member stay home and raise their children themselves, but nonetheless, it is the reality. While that reality may be a long way off from changing for the better, there are steps that can be taken, by communities and by state legislatures, to relieve the disproportionate burden that has been placed on working families.
In this politically charged time, we have seen the growth of a rapidly spreading progressive movement, a movement which among its many aims has called for the creation of a tuition-free college initiative. While a noble and wise call to action, such legislation doesn’t go far enough. The people of Iowa, and the people of our nation as a whole, should take into consideration the creation of a state, or nationwide, public day care and early learning system. Our society has always professed the belief that education is not only a right, but the essential lifeblood of representative democracy. That education should precede the elementary level, being available in the form of head starts and publicly funded day care.
In taking such action, we will not only be giving a head start to the youngest and most fertile minds of our country, we will be releasing millions of American families from the unnecessary financial burden of childcare. Access to education and childcare should be an inalienable right in the wealthiest nation on the face of the Earth. Americans should not have to lose one-third of their income just to work.
The time for a public childcare system is now, and the time has come to put our children, and the working families of America, first.
Dillion Daniels graduated from and lives in Mason City. Email him at email@example.com.