One of the greatest calamities in American history is the current student loan debacle, which was based on the premise that every young person should go to college and incur whatever debt necessary in order to obtain said degree since the loan “can always be paid back” later.
But those loans aren’t being paid back, and President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, which the Supreme Court thankfully shot down, wouldn’t have “forgiven” these loans but merely transferred them to the American taxpayer.
A similar dilemma has occurred with American child care. During the pandemic, many day care centers were shuttered due to the lockdown. But some remained open as a result of the federal assistance they received. However, this assistance is set to expire on Sept. 30, and 70,00 day care providers are preparing to close.
Ergo, just as Americans who have outstanding student loans can no longer count on taxpayers for support, far fewer parents will be able to depend on the taxpayer to help pay for their child care. These families will need a new plan going forward.
This is where it becomes crucial to delineate among the types of families who use institutionalized day care. Single-parent and lower income families, which are often one and the same, clearly need support. But most married parents do not. These couples have each other, and that counts for a lot. Many single-parent families would love nothing more than to have a spouse to help ease their burdens.
That is why the most obvious solution to the ensuing child care crisis is for married parents of non-school-age children to sit down and do the math and decide which one of them will stay home. For most families, that parent will be Mom.
Will mothers dropping out of the workforce disrupt the economy? Yes – social change will do that. But it’s worth noting that when we disrupted the economy in the 1970s by encouraging mothers to leave their homes and enter the marketplace en masse, few complained about the rocky road that lay ahead. Rather, this shift was hailed as a boon for women and for America.
In reality, the mass exodus of mothers from the home – which, let’s not forget, was a political, not an economic, move – simply boosted the GDP. After all, when both parents work, they have to pay for child care. They have to buy new work clothes. They spend money on commuting, as well as on takeout and convenience foods since no one’s home long enough to cook. Even the coffee industry benefits. (Starbucks, anyone?) All of these transactions further swell the national income accounts.
And yet, all we hear today is that dual-income families are “necessary for basic survival.” A bold claim, considering the above.
The truth is, for married Americans, living on less has less to do with income and more to do with what couples do with the income they have. I hear regularly and often from families who’ve laid out exactly how they shifted from two incomes to one, or from two full-time incomes to one-and-a half incomes. To be sure, it requires a mindset shift; but once embraced, the ideas can start to flow. As one wife and mother named Hannah explains,
“After our son was born, I dropped down to part-time work, but shortly after that I quit my accounting job completely. Finances were tight, so we had to get creative to make ends meet. I cleaned houses to earn extra money and my husband mowed lawns, worked evenings at UPS, and delivered furniture on the weekends – in addition to his full-time job.
“Fast forward to now. We are both 30 years old, have three kids, and just purchased a modest home in a small town. We drive old vehicles, don’t take expensive vacations, eat at home, and stay within a set budget. We have tons of student loans that we can only afford to make the minimum payments on. Our lifestyle is completely different from before, but we’ve never been happier.”
Sandee Barrick is another example. Barrick “was making a six-figure salary as a salesperson when she quit her job in December 2019 to move to North Carolina… At first, she made plans for when she went back to work, but slowly that shifted to if she would go. She and her husband have decided they can make it work on one income.”
These mothers are not alone: They represent the millions of mothers who have traded their jobs for more time at home and are happier for having done so.
For all of these reasons, the best response to the looming “child care cliff” is to encourage more married mothers to do what the women above have done. If far fewer parents use subsidized day care, the industry will become smaller in scale, thus making it more affordable for those who truly need it – which, for the record, was the original purpose of day care. It was never meant to be available for every parent who simply wanted to use it.
More married parents staying home in the early years is a win-win for everyone: certainly for the children, but also for taxpayers, for the day care industry, and for the millions of families who would welcome a society that not only encourages parents to care for their children at home but honors them for doing so.