Becoming a new mom during a global pandemic has built resilience, patience, and a reckoning. A reckoning with the lack of societal and government support of children and families. A learning that as a result of the pandemic, women are having to make some tough decisions… ones that we’ve been making for decades, but with an added layer of fear. In the U.S., over 2.3 million women have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic, as shown in research done by The Women’s National Law Center.
Finding care for a 4-month-old during a normal time is difficult, but was daunting in the face of a pandemic. In my town of over 45,000, there are 2 infant care child-care centers, a few options for homecare, or the option to hire a local sitter. The lack of affordable and flexible childcare options has resulted in a number of women being forced to leave the workforce over this past year. Childcare has been underfunded for more years than I am old, but the pandemic has resulted in the uprooting of our industry, leaving the livelihood of women in its path of destruction.
The impacts of the pandemic on working women further expose the ongoing challenges women face as a result of the lack of policies that support working women and families. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic’s impact on childcare is affecting women of color most. Research from The Women’s National Law Center shows nearly 1 in 11 Black women ages 20+, and more than 1 in 12 Latinas ages 20+, were unemployed in February (up almost two-fold from pre-pandemic rates).
It has become blindly evident that there is little social, workplace, or government support for parents and their children, especially for BIPOC families. Thousands of childcare centers and home providers have had to close their doors. Since March 2021, it is estimated that over 4 million childcare slots will have been permanently lost across the U.S. Many of these slots are for children of front-line and essential service workers, many in the BIPOC community, forcing women of color out of the workforce. As we all know, the loss of a job directly impacts the livelihood of the child and entire family. We need to prioritize supporting the whole family through supporting childcare for children from birth to age 12.
We’ve done it before – supported working women in a meaningful manner. During WWII childcare was supported as a way to get women in the workforce, prioritizing childcare as a matter of national security.
Recent federal bills and legislation will temporarily provide extra funding to childcare, while raising the child tax credit. With plans for the tax credit to pay out monthly to qualifying parents, some families could see an extra $200 – 300 monthly, which has the potential to meaningfully help many families. In California, where the cost of living is high, this added tax credit will be of help, but realistically will have no major impact.
These efforts are seemingly a step in the right direction, but I can’t help but feel that we must support the childcare industry more thoughtfully. We need to support working mothers more thoughtfully. We need to support women of color more thoughtfully.
With mindful funding of childcare, we inadvertently begin to better support working mothers, allowing for women to continue to play a vital role in the economy.
For breakfast, I had an almond butter Perfect Bar and coffee with raw honey and milk.