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Why America needs to consider paying stay-at-home parents

It could help solve the childcare crisis in this country, says one expert.

Why America needs to consider paying stay-at-home parents

When we talk about childcare we're usually talking about how expensive it is—the cost of childcare has risen faster than incomes, faster than the costs of other goods and services and in 2020, the #yearofthemother, parents are demanding politicians address this affordability crisis.

But according to Elliot Haspel, an education policy expert and the author of the new book Crawling Behind: America's Childcare Crisis and How to Fix It, the answer to America's childcare crisis isn't making childcare cheaper but rather accepting that it should be expensive.

And if America were to accept that truth, it would need to pay childcare providers accordingly—including stay-at-home parents.

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In Crawling Behind Haspel makes a case for childcare as a public good and argues for the creation of a Child Development Credit system, which would see families receive $15,000 which they could spend on a quality day care, another form of childcare or in order to have one parent do the work of childcare at home.

Haspel proposes parents could receive $15,000 for their first child and then smaller amounts for each subsequent child, and that the funds should also be pro-ratable in order to allow parents to work part-time if they desire.

"We need to talk about paying stay-at-home parents because the financial stresses of being a one-income family for the third of kids that have a stay-at-home parent are also hurting child development," Haspel tells Motherly.

As Motherly has previously reported, it is harder than ever before for American families to get by on a single income, and as Haspel explains in his book, allowing parents to collect a Child Development Credit would mean families (and therefore little kids) are less stressed about money they can thrive and partake in educational activities that they wouldn't be able to do if they were worried about wasting gas by driving to the library or whether they can afford to put their child in a soccer program.

"When families have more means (and therefore don't have to worry about gas money, etc.), they're more able to engage in communal activities, in turn bolstering relationships that lead to offers of help and less isolation. From the other direction, if the community puts our money where our mouths are regarding the importance of families, then compensating stay-at-home parents should make their hard work both visible and worthy of lifting up," Haspel writes.

Parents' work absolutely needs to be visible, because being a stay-at-home parent certainly doesn't mean a person isn't working. Those who stay home to raise children are working so hard, and some estimates suggest that if a household outsources all the labor stay-at-home parents do it would cost over $160,000. By that standard, a $15,000 Child Development Credit is a steal of a deal.

Paying stay-at-home parents is unlikely to be a popular idea in a country where 72% of registered voters 50 and older believe day care costs should be paid by parents, not a federally funded universal child care program, but it is an idea that needs to be talked about, if only to illuminate all the unpaid labor parents (mostly mothers) are doing, every day.

The fact that this care work so often goes unnoticed and unappreciated by society is part of the wider devaluation of care work—which is what allows society to think it is okay to pay early childcare workers less than Amazon delivery drivers. Stay-at-home parents, day care workers and nannies have something in common beyond caring for children: The people doing these jobs are mostly women. And that's part of the reason why these jobs don't pay. Care work is seen as women's work when it should be seen as important work.

Right now childcare is expensive but those doing the care are underpaid. Haspel is arguing that childcare is worth investing in. The people working in day care centers deserve to be paid fairly, and parents deserve to be able to choose to stay at home if that is what is right for their family because both those things benefit developing children and the future of society at large.

"I'm not holding my breath for federal intervention here," says Haspel, who believes we should be treating a child's education as worthy of public investment from birth, not randomly starting at age five.

"But I'm hopeful. I am hopeful. I suspect that in 50 years, if you and I are having this conversation, we're going to look back and marvel that there was ever a time in America where we expected parents to pay ten thousand for each of their kids to acquire questionable quality care," he tells Motherly.

We may not see $15,000 credits for childcare any time soon, but we do know that our kids are worth investing in—and so are their mothers.

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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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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