The Child Care Challenge

The Child Care Challenge

Surveys consistently find that the majority of mothers want to work (part-time is ideal, they tell researchers), but affordable, quality child care is often cited as the No. 1 reason they stay out of the workforce.

A quick glance at the figures, and it is easy to see why. A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute highlights the ballooning child care expenses, which exceed college costs in many states. For an average-income two-parent household in Tampa, Fla., with two kids, an infant and a 4-year-old, child care would cost 22 percent of household income. In Chicago, that figure is 28 percent.

According to 2013 Pew figures, nearly a third of moms say working full-time is ideal, while 47 percent would choose to work part-time if they could.

Having one parent stay home full-time at one time was once considered a luxury of the affluent class; now it also is also associated with poverty. According to a 2014 Pew study, 12 percent of working mothers live in poverty, compared with 34 percent of stay-at-home mothers.

Child care challenges hurt businesses and the economy, too. Employees who skip work when child care falls through cost U.S. businesses $3 billion each year, according to a 2013 Child Care Aware report.

On this podcast episode, guest Jennifer Owen, editorial director of Working Mother Media, and director of the Working Mother Research Institute, discusses creative and practical ways to navigate child care. Here are some of her tips:

  • Brainstorm with friends and other parents in your community about creative, cooperative solutions to childcare challenges, including taking turns watching each other’s children during school days off and nanny shares.
  • Research after-school and summer options at area park services, YMCA, community centers, and houses of worship.
  • Never lose sight of the big picture. If you or your spouse decides to stay home, make sure you maintain your skills, network and earning potential.

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Articles by Emma Johnson

About the Series


While a majority of Americans believe that children fare better when their mothers stay home full-time, most American moms work – and research suggests having a working mom benefits children. Still, moms often experience guilt when choosing a career and motherhood. The Working Moms Mean Business series dives into the research, insights and success stories of this complex issue.