The Make It Work Campaign's "Creative Child Care Solutions" Series Proves Rising Costs Might Soon Lead To Comically Creative Alternatives — VIDEOS
To make ends meet, you need a job. To do said job, even if you work from home, it helps if you have (read: you need) childcare if you have kids. To then pay for the childcare you needed to do your job in the first place, you end up needing to get a second job or take out a second mortgage. Such is the scenario many Millennials know all too well, and the Make It Work campaign's "Creative Child Care Solutions" videos aim to help highlight — and hopefully break — this cycle in which modern working parents are currently stuck.
In fact, it's oddly comforting and infuriating in equal measure to realize how real the struggle is for most working parents today. "Make It Work's issues impact many people across the U.S. but especially Millennials, many of who are becoming parents or are thinking about becoming parents. That means Millennials acutely feel issues like lack of affordable childcare or no paid family leave," said Tracy Sturdivant, co-founder and co-director of Make It Work — a national campaign for economic equality — in a statement provided to Bustle. And the numbers back up the growing frustration stemming from the childcare cost disparity. In a January 2015 poll commissioned by Make It Work and conducted by Lake Research Partners, 87 percent of Millennials support making quality, affordable childcare options available nationally, with 72 percent of those polled identifying as strong supporters of the initiative.
So while each video in Make It Work's "Creative Childcare Solutions" series features comical alternatives to traditional childcare, the reality they present proves to be no laughing matter.
1. Childcare Is Out Of Reach For Many Parents
As I'm writing this article, my 3-year-old son is currently running amok in my home office. We very narrowly avoided a Great Stapler Debacle of 2015 situation earlier. Obviously, it would be easier to focus on work without such distractions, and for a short time we did have him enrolled in full-time childcare along with his 4-year-old sister. But we soon discovered that sustaining the cost of childcare simply put too much of a strain on our finances — it was our single largest household expense, exceeding our mortgage by several hundred dollars per month. Even after taking our son out of full-time childcare, the expense of sending our daughter rivals our mortgage payment. Meanwhile, I still have three regular contract freelance jobs that are not unlike having a daily 9-to-5. Actually, my work day often runs 7 a.m. to whenever.
Still, I'm resigned to feeling fortunate I can afford childcare at all — according to the Economic Policy Institute, childcare costs over 30 percent of a minimum wage income in every. Single. State. This takes some parents out of the equation completely, even with both parties working. For childcare to truly be affordable it would need to account for no more than 10 percent of pay, a threshold Make It Work strives to be accepted as the new norm.
2. Childcare Costs More Than College
In many states, childcare costs are so steep that they are higher than in-state college tuition. Let me say that once more so it sinks it — the average cost of childcare is over $11,000 per child each year. For some families, that is the equivalent of one parent's salary for the year. As a result, the number of women in the workforce is declining as childcare costs continue to rise.
This shift is largely one of necessity, and Millennials know it. Seventy-four percent of Millennials polled by Make It Work said our workplaces are out of date with the changing roles of men and women at work and at home. Not surprisingly, this percentage was slightly higher among women, 77 percent of whom feel workplace tropes are antiqued (compared to 71 percent of men). "Gone are the days when men brought home the bacon and women fry it up in the pan," Sturdivant said. "The world has changed, and our policies need to sprint to catch up."
3. Affordable Childcare Doesn't Just Help Women
There's no denying access to affordable, quality childcare would benefit women in the workforce — women shouldn't be having to choose between their careers and their families, or feeling the burden of knowing the childcare costs accrued when they are out of the house could potentially cause them to miss housing payments. But this isn't just a problem affecting women. It also affects men who work and men who stay at home, the latter of which is also on the rise thanks to evolving gender roles. And we certainly can't forget our children, who are caught in the crosshairs of this cultural struggle — public preschool for 3 and 4 year olds would help address this issue and ensure children reap the benefits associated with early socialization and developmental education.
And, last but not least, it affects the people we entrust our children's care to. It's the catch-22 all working parents grapple with — knowing we can't afford to pay steadily escalating childcare costs, but at the same time realizing the talented people who provide this care deserve every penny (and more). As Make It Work points out, the median income for a person providing childcare is under $20,000 a year. Something's gotta give, and soon.