What the Child Care for Working Families Act could mean for your family

For many families in America, childcare is a huge household expense. It can cost you almost as much as housing, or a semester of college. Childcare costs keep climbing but wages haven't, and this generation of parents is less financially stable and more indebted than the one that raised us.

This week Senators Patty Murray, Mazie Hirono and Bob Casey reintroduced the Child Care for Working Families Act in the hopes of saving parents potentially thousands of dollars a year.

The Democratic senators are proposing a plan that would cap how much working families pay for childcare at 7% of a household's income.

This could be huge because right now, 1 in 3 American families spend 20% or more of their annual household income on child care, according to a recent survey by, and 1 in five American families spends more than 25% of their income on childcare, according to Child Care Aware.

For some families, the cost of childcare keeps a parent out of the workforce, but single parents often don't have the option of being stay-at-home parents, and some single moms spend more than 50% of their income on childcare at a time when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income.

"[The Child Care for Working Families Act] will ensure that no parent has to pay more than they can afford on child care, at most middle class parents would pay 7 percent of their income on childcare, but parents who make less, pay less. In fact, some parents will pay nothing at all," Murray explained at a press conference. "Our bill helps expand options for childcare in the summer and during nontraditional hours when quality care is even harder to find."

Murray's bull would also see universal preschool for 3 and 4-year-olds rolled out across the nation, and pay increases for childcare workers, who are usually working for very low wages.

The act was first introduced in 2017 but didn't get a lot of support at the time. A lot has changed in the Senate and the House since 2017 though, and Murray thinks the bill has more than a fighting chance this time around.

It remains to be seen whether the Child Care for Working Families Act will become law, but it's clear that ideas like this are necessary given the current cost of childcare in America. According to Child Care Aware, childcare is unaffordable for millennial parents in every single state in America.

Recently, the online life insurance agency Haven Life broke down the cost of childcare by state, using data from the Child Care Aware 2018 Report: The U.S. and the High Cost of Child Care (there is no data for Montana or South Dakota, but according to's childcare calculator, daycare for a toddler in Montana costs just shy of $1,000, and about $700 in South Dakota.)

Here's how childcare costs break down by state:


  • Annual cost of child care: $5,858
  • As a share of married-couple family income: 6.9 percent of $84,734
  • As a share of single-father income: 15.8 percent of $37,067
  • As a share of single-mother income: 27.6 percent of $21,201
  • As a share of minimum wage income: 38.7 percent of $15,131
  • Source: Haven Life

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

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