Childcare costs more than college in some states—and that needs to change

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According to a new study by the Federal Reserve, millennials have less money than previous generations. This is not news to millennial parents, who live the story painted by the Fed study's numbers. Student debt is a factor for this generation in a way it wasn't for those who came before us, and while we work to pay off our own college educations, saving for the next generation's is difficult—because families are also facing a childcare crisis.

One in five American families spends more than 25% of their income on child care, and for single parents, that number soars to more than 50%.

In fact, childcare is so expensive that in many states it costs more than getting a college education.

In Kansas, for example, the cost of annual full-time childcare for an infant will run you about $11,000, while one year of fees and tuition at a public college costs around $9,200. In Colorado, the difference is even more stark, with full-time childcare costing on average about $15,000 annually while the price tag for one year at a public college is about $10,800.

The high price tag that comes with child care not only puts a burden on working parents, but can affect outcomes for children as well, according to Child Care Aware, a non-profit organization working to advance the affordability, accessibility, and quality of child care environments.

"Early child care does more than support parents who must work or go to school: It also provides important early learning opportunities that can contribute to school readiness, short- and long-term physical health, and positive social and emotional development—all of which are essential to creating an environment able to deliver equitable outcomes for all children in all communities," the organization wrote in its 2018-2019 policy platform. "Unfortunately, child care costs, which have nearly doubled in the last quarter century, are often a barrier to accessing high-quality care; indeed, these costs pose a crippling burden for many families with young children."

The exorbitant cost of child care also has an effect on the overall economy, essentially leaving new parents with little options to fully participate in the workforce, and disproportionately affecting mothers.

According to a 2017 report from the Hamilton Project, 57.2% of working-age women participated in the labor force in 2016, down from 60.7% in 2000. Additionally, a larger share of women work part-time, about 24.9% of women compared to 12.4% of men. Among those who work part-time voluntarily, 6.5% of women cited "problems with childcare" as a reason for doing so, compared to 0.8% of men.

Given the statistics, the outlook for new parents can seem grim, but the good news is it doesn't have to be this way. Other countries provide models for ways to support working families and make child care more affordable.

The U.S. is somewhat of an outlier among developed countries in that child care in the U.S. is mostly privatized, shifting the burden of costs onto families, while many other countries tend to offer more substantial public support for both paid parental leave and child care.

For example, the U.S. spends less than 0.5% of GDP on early childhood education, compared to 1.6% of GDP in Sweden and 1.8% in Iceland, according to the Organization for for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Canadian province of Quebec serves as a model for providing robust child care assistance. Quebec provides generous parental leave, monthly cash benefits families can use for their children, and a heavily subsidized child-care system.

Quebec's family policy begins with up to 55 weeks of paid leave for parents when they have a child, in addition to an annual allowance of anywhere from $500 to about $1,900 (in American dollars) that families receive per child under the age of 18. Additionally, the province offers a full-day, year-round child care program for all children under age 5, which is subsidized to the tune of roughly $2 billion a year in public funding. Under this system, Quebec families cover part of the costs on a sliding scale, with the wealthiest families paying more than lower-income families.

Quebec's family policy demonstrates the economic benefits of supporting parents. The combination of subsidized child care and paid parental leave has resulted in 80% of Quebec mothers with children 5 or younger participating in the labor force.

While a similar model might seem far-fetched in the U.S., the majority of both Democrats and Republicans support government intervention to make child care more affordable. Parents can advocate for more affordable childcare by getting involved with organizations like Child Care Aware, and urging their elected officials to take action by passing the Child Care For Working Families Act of 2017, which would ensure families have access to high-quality, affordable care and would encourage states to create universal child care programs.

The numbers don't lie: This generation has less "lower earnings, fewer assets and less wealth," according to the Fed study. We are working to change that, but we need affordable childcare so that we can go to work.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.

While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.


Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).


Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.


Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!


Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.


Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!


Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.


Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!


Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.


Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.


Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.


Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.


Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!


Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.


This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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As a business person, Aston Kutcher did better than anyone ever expected the kid from That 70's Show to do, and his wife and former co-star, Mila Kunis has also made a ton of money—she's among the highest-paid actresses of her generation. These two are wildly successful and they recognize how privileged their kids are because of it, but they have a plan to teach their children work ethic. Kutcher explained the plan last year on an episode of Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert.

"My kids are living a really privileged life, and they don't even know it," he told Shepard. "And they'll never know it, because this is the only one that they'll know."


He goes on to explain how he and Kunis don't plan to create trust funds for the kids and want to put their wealth into philanthropic efforts instead. "I'm not setting up a trust for them. We'll end up giving our money away to charity and to various things," he said.

According to Kutcher, the only way his two kids are getting money from him is if they come to dad with a good business plan. If they do that, he'll be happy to invest in their vision. "I want them to be really resourceful. Hopefully they'll be motivated to have what they had, or some version of what they had," he explained.

We all want our kids to be successful, but sometimes too much help can stunt their growth. It's good to hear Kutcher and Kunis are so dedicated to making sure their children understand the value of money and can stand on their own two feet.


Becoming a parent also means becoming a magnet for unsolicited advice. It can feel like every random person at the grocery store has an opinion on how you're caring for your baby, and that fact that certain safety recommendations have evolved in recent decades doesn't help.

That's why a post by reddit user MindyS1719 is going viral again. It was first posted last year, but as winter temperatures return, Mindy's message is resonating again: She wants people who haven't recently had a baby to understand why babies and little kids may not be wearing coats when families are unloading in parking lots this winter.


"New car seat guidelines avidly warn against children wearing coats in car seats—and this makes it really challenging for caregivers (particularly those with multiple small children) to get kids out of the house then in the car then out of the car again and into the destination," she wrote.


This reddit user is so right. It does seem counterintuitive. If it's cold out of course you'd dress your little one all warm and cozy before strapping them into their car seat, but safety experts say parents should take off kids' winter coats before strapping them into car seats. A coat that protects a kid from cold could prevent them from being protected in the event of a crash.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bulky coats and snowsuits can compress in a car crash, leaving the straps too loose to keep a child safely in their seat.

With temperatures falling in much of the country, a video demonstrating just how this works is having a resurgence online. Back in 2015, Sue Auriemma from safety non-profit Kids and Cars took The TODAY Show to an official crash test lab in Michigan and strapped a child sized crash test dummy into a car seat while it was wearing a winter coat. During the crash, the coat compressed. Like the AAP warns, the dummy came hurtling out of the car seat.

In the video Miriam Manary, a safety expert in the University of Michigan's crash test lab, tells a TODAY reporter that parents should remove puffy coats before strapping kids in. “We want to see a nice tight harness to the child's body, you should not be able to pinch any webbing up the shoulder, and [the] harness clip should be at armpit level."

In the video, after Manary straps the dummy back in without a coat, the crash test is repeated and the dummy remained safely in its car seat.

In the two years since the video aired more and more parents have heard about the dangers of mixing car seats and bulky winter clothing, but first time parents or those from warmer climates may still be surprised to hear of the recommendation as it's not something they're used to dealing with.

In cold states or places like Canada, parents might worry about a child freezing in the event of a crash, but experts say you can still prepare your child for cold weather without preventing the car seat or booster from doing its job.

"Families can dress their babies and children in layers to keep them warm and safe—fleece is a good top layer for trapping heat without adding padding under the harness or seat belt," Katherine Hutka, president of the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada, told the Globe and Mail, noting that just because a kid can't wear a bulky winter coat doesn't mean they can't wear a thinner fleece jacket as well as their boots, mittens and hat.

"When it's really cold, kids can wear their puffy coats over top of these layers on the way to the car," Hutka said. "After they are safely buckled, they can wear their coat backwards over their arms to stay warm."

Kids and Cars director Amber Rollins takes a hard line on the issue of bulky coats and snowsuits, telling the Washington Post that parents should never make exceptions, and shouldn't worry about how cold their backseat might become after a crash. “First you have to survive the accident. If you don't survive the accident, then this is not an issue."

Those are chilling words, for sure, but if we make sure to follow proper car seat safety and remove bulky coats before buckling up, the chances of coming home safe and warm go way up.

It's important for parents to know the guidelines, but it's also important that other people don't judge parents who are just trying to do their best in this situation. As Reddit's Mindy suggested, we all need to "cut parents some slack. We're trying. And we're doing everything we can to keep our kids warm while maintaining what's left of our sanity."

To all the mamas bundling and unbundling kids in parking lots this winter, we salute you.

[A version of this post was originally published December 1, 2017. It has been updated.]


Most of the time, being inclusive isn't that hard. Actually, it's so easy, even 4-year-olds can grasp it. That's the message body acceptance activist and Instagram user Milly Smith wanted to share when she posted a photo of her son, Eli, explaining a very simple thing: "Some men have periods too. If I can get it, so can you."

Theoretically, it is easy to get the fact that non-binary people and some trans men menstruate. Usually, body-affirming hormone treatments stop them from menstruating, but that's not always the case. Sometimes their period will stop for years but make a surprise return for a variety of reasons, such as a medication change. Bodies like to keep us guessing like that.


And yet, many of us, particularly cisgender people, fall back on our habitual ways of speaking about periods without even thinking about it. We have a hard enough time discussing menses as it is, so this may be one of the last vestiges of non-inclusive talk. When a young kid asks why mama is bleeding, the knee-jerk reaction could be to say, "It's just something that women do," hoping not to have to explain the finer points of sex and reproduction for a few more years.

But Smith is here to remind us not to do the knee-jerk thing.

"Eli has been told about periods since he saw blood on my pants a couple of years ago," Smith wrote on Instagram. "I didn't use the language of women have periods because it's not entirely inclusive. I told him that SOME women, SOME non binary people and SOME men have periods. It was easy for him to accept as he hadn't had to unlearn the engrained [sic] societal norm but if a 4-year-old can grasp it I'm sure most of us can have a crack at unlearning transphobic/misinformed norms and open our minds... ya think?"

Some corporations have begun to do their part to unlearn those gender stereotypes. According to PopSugar, Always announced in October that it was removing the Venus "female" symbol from its packaging. While the website for Thinx period underwear is still, it has attempted to appeal to trans and nonbinary customers as well, referring to "people with periods." Last year, British period subscription service Pink Parcel launched a campaign that included trans man Kenny Jones as one of its spokespeople.

Sadly, a couple of ads and an Instagram featuring a cute kid have not quite solved the problem of transphobia in this world. Smith has turned off the comments on her post, probably because of negative backlash from the shining citizens of the internet. That's an upsetting reminder of how far we have to go.

But at least we can still enjoy Smith's concluding words, "It's not insulting to women, it's not discrediting women," she said of this change of wording. "It's opening up the community to make it a safe space for those who don't identify as women but still have periods."

The world isn't always black and white and it's time we start recognizing the beauty in accepting the grey areas.


Plenty of modern motherhood paraphernalia was made to be seen—think breastfeeding pillows that seamlessly blend into living room decor or diaper bags that look like stylish purses. The breast pump though, usually isn't on that list.

It's traditionally been used in the privacy of our homes and hotel rooms in the best case scenarios, and in storage closets and restrooms in the worst circumstances. For a product that is very often used by mothers because they need to be in public spaces (like work and school), the breast pump lives a very private life.

Thankfully, some high profile moms are changing that by posting their pump pics on Instagram. These influential mamas aren't gonna hide while they pump, and may change the way the world (and product designers) see this necessary accessory.

Brooklyn Decker 

Brooklyn Decker just posted an Instagram pic that so many mamas can relate to. She's at work, pumping and multitasking. That is the reality for many mothers in America. Without adequate paid leave and support for new parents, many moms head back to work with a pump in tow and before their bodies are ready, something Decker draws attention to in her Instagram caption.

"The average woman doesn't have a choice. The average maternity leave is 10 DAYS in the US; how is a woman leaking, bleeding and wearing a diaper supposed to care for her child, herself, or much less, her job? I had a whole arsenal of help: my husband, my mom, my cast, and a whole crew of people who would prop me up every day and make sure I was taken care of. It was still hard. I was fortunate to have a fairly uneventful pregnancy and birth," she writes.

Decker continues: "The recovery? A shocker. My baby having blood on his mouth-after nursing-from my bleeding nipples? Totally normal. Blood clots up to the size of a golf ball? Totally normal. Spraying my stitched up vagina with a number of concoctions to help it heal instead of wiping? Totally normal. My body was basically a character in the walking dead, but it was totally normal?! WHY wasn't I warned?"

It changes Deckers life, and also her career as she's now investing and advising a company dedicated to helping parents during birth recovery.

We're thankful to these women for showing that breast pumps belong in public and in our Instagram feeds.

[This post was originally published on May 31, 2018, but has been updated to include recent Instagram posts.]

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