By Jillian Gilchrest, Age 33
When I was 18, I answered an ad in my local newspaper to watch two young boys for the summer, ages 4 and 2. As it turns out, I was their full-time childcare, watching the boys Monday-Friday, 8-5:30. After a few weeks of work and getting to know the mom, she explained that she was desperate to get back to work. Her husband had told her that she could work, but that she was responsible for the cost of childcare. Even at the age of 18, I knew that he, and that ultimatum, were crazy.
And yet, nearly 15 years later, I continue to perpetuate that insane logic. When I talk about childcare and the way it impacts families of all socioeconomic backgrounds, including middle and upper-middle class families, I question what “choice” women have in staying home when the cost of childcare is more than a full time salary. In framing the issue as one of a woman’s salary vs. the cost of childcare, I continue to make childcare the responsibility of women, instead of treating it as it is- an issue that impacts the economic well-being of a family.
The fact that childcare now competes as the highest family expense, amounting to more than 30% of the overall family budget, means that this is an issue of family economic well being, not a women’s issue. I could throw out the stats on how the U.S. falls behind all other industrialized nations for how we address family caregiving responsibilities or cite the importance of early childhood experiences, but bottom line is, childcare costs just don’t make financial sense.
Childcare should be considered one of those costs, like public education or clean water…that’s essential. In the year 2015, most families, either dual-earners or single parents need childcare in order to work. I’m ready to make it a priority, are you?
Young Women Rising encourages Connecticut women ages 18-35 to raise their voices about issues they care about. Each writer speaks for herself as an individual and Young Women Rising as a whole does not intend to endorse the views of any particular writer. If you’re interested in submitting a guest piece please contact us at Michelle.Noehren@cga.ct.gov.