When you are a new mother, you are juggling numerous responsibilities such as waking up every 2-3 hours to feed your newborn, constantly changing diapers, obsessing about your little one reaching milestones, and so on. It’s easy not to think about childcare, until you have to think about childcare.
Most mothers are able to stay home with their babies for the first few months. Soon, the reality of returning to work/school looms over their heads. Even if a woman is able to stay at home for a longer period of time, she still needs “self-care” days, errands that need to be done child free, etc. At some point, she will need someone to watch her baby. She will need childcare.
Initially, when I first got to the shelter with my baby, it went well. The director was supportive. I was the first person they had in a long time with a “fresh” baby. She believed strongly in mothers being able to bond with their children and rest and recuperate. Childbirth can be emotionally and physically draining. Unfortunately, she left for another job, and the shelter got a new director.
The new director was a recent widow from California. She and her late husband had owned a vineyard and other business ventures. They had been married for years and never had children. She was a well-off white woman who couldn’t relate to the stress of childrearing. This made it difficult for her to empathize with the mothers at the shelter. She didn’t understand why they couldn’t “just go get jobs.” Despite the fact many of the women were trying to heal from trauma in their lives (domestic violence, drug addiction, etc.), they had children that made it difficult for them to “just go get a job.” It’s not like she offered any resources.
Eventually, she targeted me. I think it’s because she knew about my educational background. She figured because I was one of the rare women at the shelter with a degree, I should especially be working. She failed to take into account I had an infant, recovering from a c-section (c-sections are considered a major surgery), and dealing with slight depression. She became pushy about me finding employment. When I would respond with “who’s going to watch my baby?” She would shrug. Well, that was helpful. The harassment became so overbearing, it wasn’t long before I left the shelter.
Later, I wondered why there weren’t better childcare options for mothers. This society is so bizarre. It makes a mockery of women who don’t want to be mothers, but provides little support for those who decide to become mothers. If anything, poor mothers are seen as an annoyance. Black mothers, in particular, are treated with hostility.
Most people would be surprised to learn, that in the early 70’s, congress passed a bill for universal childcare. I know I was shocked. I only became aware of this, after watching “The Raising of America” on PBS. The Comprehensive Child Development Bill would have provided families across the country affordable childcare services.
“If this bill had become law it would have provided a multibillion-dollar national day care system designed partially to make it easier for single parents to work and care for children simultaneously, thereby alleviating strain on the welfare system. President Richard Nixon vetoed the bill in 1972….the bill incited some political backlash from anti-welfare and anti-feminist activists who opposed the idea of women in the workforce and who were leery of allowing children to be partially raised outside of the home.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comprehensive_Child_Development_Bill_of_1972
Nixon and Pat Buchanan were opposed to this bill, as was Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly was an interesting contradiction. She championed for traditional gender roles, while she herself was a career woman. Schlafly will be the focus of director Dee Ree’s film “An UnCivil War” on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Schlafly also staunchly fought against the ERA.
I can only imagine what it would be like to have reliable childcare. I received childcare assistance at one time. I lost it because I didn’t use all the alloted hours. I was penalized for circumstances out of my control. If the little one got sick, and missed days, what could I do? Daycare centers don’t accept runny nosed children. It’s strange this isn’t taken into consideration. Since I didn’t use all the hours, childcare assistance wouldn’t pay the full amount. Overall, it turned out to be pretty useless, and I have an unintended debt. The Comprehensive Child Development Bill would’ve alleviated a situation like this.
Hopefully, someday there will be national childcare. But then again, we can’t even get healthcare. So, I guess I won’t hold my breath. I, like the majority of single mothers in this country, will continue to have to decide between paying the rent or paying for childcare.