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Childcare is unaffordable and presidential candidates are finally talking about it

The issue was brought up in last night's presidential debate.

Childcare is unaffordable and presidential candidates are finally talking about it

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

If you did not have time to watch the Democratic debate last night, don't worry mama, we've got you.

The Democratic debates are an opportunity for American voters to have their questions answered by the candidates, and this week's debate saw candidates tackle a question that is so important for many American parents:

How can we make childcare affordable?

The question was submitted by a young mother named Tiffany. She explained, "As a young mom, I had to quit a job I love because childcare costs were taking up two-thirds of my income. Many families don't have the option of quitting a job because that little bit of income is needed. That leads to families using whatever care they can find, and sometimes the results are deadly, as we've seen in Iowa over the last few years. How will you prioritize accessing quality, affordable child care in your first 100 days in office?"

Here's how the candidates responded to this all too common story.

Pete Buttigieg on affordable childcare 

Pete Buttigieg was the first to tackle the question of affordable childcare during the January debate. When co-moderator Brianne Pfannenstiel, the chief politics reporter for the Des Moines Register, lobbed the question to the midwestern mayor he agreed that no parent should be spending two-thirds of their pay on childcare.

Buttigieg stated that he wants to see the cost of childcare get down to 7% or less of a family's income, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but as Motherly has previously reported, most American families pay a lot more than 7%.

Buttigieg said he has met "professionals who sometimes say that they're working in order to be able to afford childcare in order to be able to be working. It makes no sense, and it must change, and we shouldn't be afraid to put federal dollars into making that a reality."

He continued: "Subsidizing childcare and making sure that we are building up a workforce of people who are paid at a decent level to offer early childhood education, as well as childcare writ large. We can do that. And until we do, this will be one of the biggest drivers of the gender pay gap. Because when somebody like the voter asking the question has to step out of the workforce because of that reason, she is at a disadvantage when she comes back in, and that can affect her pay for the rest of her career."

Buttigieg is correct—mothers do the majority of the unpaid care work in this country and are often seen as the default parent in dual-income, heterosexual households. Being forced out of the workforce when childcare costs too much can cost moms for years to come.

According to the Center for American Progress, mothers lose out on way more than just their annual salary when we leave the workforce to care for kids: There's also lost wage growth, and the loss of retirement plan contributions and benefits.

Let's say Tiffany had been making $50,000 a year before she was forced to quit, and is going to stay home until her child is in kindergarten...Tiffany's going to lose $200,000 in lost wages, $179,837 in lost wage growth, and $159,958 in lost retirement assets and benefits.

That mom is facing a lifetime income loss of $539,795 because she can't afford childcare right now.

Buttigieg needs to offer more details about his plan, but he's definitely right when he says "It makes no sense, and it must change."

Elizabeth Warren on affordable childcare 

Next, Pfannenstiel turned to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, asking about a possible income limit for free childcare in Warren's plan. "Why do your plans cover everyone for public college, but not childcare and early learning?" Pfannenstiel asked.

"My plan is universal childcare for everyone. It just has some people adding a small payment," Warren explained.

Warren said she wants people to understand the plan and understand that, "I've been there. You know, I remember when I was a young mom. I had two little kids, and I had my first real university teaching job. It was hard work. I was excited. But it was childcare that nearly brought me down. We went through one childcare after another, and it just didn't work."

A family member, her aunt, stepped up to make sure Warren didn't have to quit her job, and Warren knows that we can't rely on aunts to fix the childcare crisis.

In her reply, Warren recognized that stepping back from the workforce can significantly reduce a mother's lifetime income (as mentioned above, five years out of the workforce for a mom making $50,000 a year can reduce her lifetime income by more than half a million dollars. This isn't just a matter of lost salary, it's also a matter of lost wage growth, and lost retirement funds.)

"I think about how many women of my generation just got knocked off the track and never got back on, how many of my daughter's generation get knocked off the track and don't get back on, how many mamas and daddies today are getting knocked off the track and never get back on," said Warren.

She continued: "I have a two cent wealth tax so that we can cover childcare for all of our children, and provide universal pre-K for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in America, and stop exploiting the people who do this valuable work, largely black and brown women. We can raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in America. That's an investment in our babies. That's an investment in their mamas and their daddies. And it's an investment in our teachers and in our economy."

Bernie Sanders on affordable childcare 

After Warren, Pfannenstiel tossed the topic to Sen. Bernie Sanders, asking if his plan for universal childcare program would be free for everyone regardless of income. Sanders pointed out how little the nation's childcare workers earn despite the very important job they are doing, comparing childcare worker's wages to those at McDonalds.

While Sanders' comparison of childcare worker's wages to fast food workers is flawed (as CNN's fact check team notes, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the mean hourly wage for fast food worker makes $10.70 and the mean hourly wage for a childcare worker is $11.83) he raises an important point: As Motherly has previously reported, the average Amazon delivery driver in America earns more than the average day care worker or nanny.

When asked if his plan for universal childcare would be free to everyone, Sanders confirmed.

"We need to fundamentally change priorities in America. We should not be one of a few countries that does not have universal high-quality affordable childcare. We should not be one of the only major countries not to guarantee health care to all people as a human right. We should not be spending more than the 10 next countries on the military, hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, tax breaks for billionaires, and then tell the moms and dads in this country we cannot have high-quality affordable childcare."

Joe Biden on affordable childcare 

Former Vice President Joe Biden is considered by some to be the winner of this week's debate, and he, too, supports universal childcare. Like Warren, he took Pfannenstiel's question as an opportunity to remind the country that he has personally struggled with childcare in the past as a parent.

"There should be free universal infant care, but here's the deal. You know, I was a single parent, too. When my wife and daughter were killed, my two boys I had to raise. I was a senator, a young senator. I just hadn't been sworn in yet. And I was making $42,000 a year," he explained

Biden went on to recall that the unaffordable nature of childcare was one of the reasons why as a young solo parent he needed to commute 250 miles a day, because like Warren, he had to rely on family members for childcare. Next, he outlined how his plan will help parents who are in situations like that today.

"When I triple the amount of money for Title I schools, every child, 3, 4, and 5 years old, will, in fact, have full schooling. They'll go to school and after-school programs, which will release some of the burden," Biden explained.

He continued: "Secondly, I think we should have an $8,000 tax credit which would put 7 million women back to work that could afford to go to work and still care for their children as an $8,000 tax credit. I also believe that we should, in fact, for people who, in fact, are not able to afford any of the infant care to be able to get that care."

He then added: "But Bernie's right. We have to raise the salaries of the people who are doing the care. And I [will] provide for that, as well."

Tom Steyer and Sen. Amy Klobuchar did not take questions about childcare during the January debate. Klobuchar has previously worked with Republican Dan Sullivan to introduce the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act, "to bring the cost of child care down and provide more child care centers in areas that need them the most." Steyer's plans and position on childcare costs remain unclear.

On February 3, 2020 Democrats in the Iowa caucuses will begin voting and time will soon tell which of the candidates will run against President Trump.

(For more information on where the other candidates stand on paid leave, childcare costs and health care see our previous coverage).

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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