The Political Case for Childcare Moms Shouldn’t Have to Make

Motherhood is broken, and Congress can help fix it. With the public on their side, what is holding lawmakers back?

Mothers from across the political aisle agree that the U.S. government has not provided enough support during the pandemic. What now? (Pixabay / Creative Commons)

For America’s moms, the last 18 months have been a crash course in the five stages of grief. 

The denial and bargaining as schools began to shutter and offices went virtual. The anger and sadness as days stretched into weeks, weeks into months, and months into a year and a half without any real support from our government, our workplaces, and sometimes even our communities. The reluctant acceptance born out of sheer exhaustion.

As a mother of two young kids, I’ve felt these emotions on loop throughout the pandemic. And yet I was unprepared for a new, sixth stage of grief that hit me this week, as Congress threatens to abandon a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help millions of American families.

It’s a grief grounded in fury: that lawmakers—most of them men—would turn up their noses at truly transformative policies guaranteeing paid family leave, universal pre-K, higher wages for caregivers, and so much more. 

It’s a grief grounded in terror: that without this infrastructure package, women—1.8 million of whom have not returned to the workforce since the pandemic began—may never come back from this, erasing generations of progress in the workplace and the home.

And it’s a grief grounded in utter disbelief: that, in a moment where Democrats and Republicans can’t seem to agree on anything, politicians would miss a chance to pass proposals popular on both sides of the aisle, bringing our wounded nation together in the process. 

We have the data to prove just how unified Americas are on this front. Recently, Marshall Plan for Moms polled moms across the political spectrum to understand how the pandemic has impacted their lives, and what lawmakers can do to help.

Over two-thirds of those surveyed believe the government doesn’t adequately support moms in general, while a 65 percent majority say the government hasn’t done enough to help moms through the pandemic. Many of those moms, Democrat and Republican, experienced underemployment or income reduction due to COVID-19. Now, they face substantial challenges in trying to re-enter the workforce—primarily the problem of inaccessible, unaffordable childcare.

But even more striking than the universality of moms’ experiences is the universality of their preferred solutions. Despite what many politicians would have you think, over three-quarters of all female voters—including 83 percent of moms—support policies provided by a Marshall Plan for Moms. That’s more than four in five liberals and almost three-quarters of conservatives.

And while plenty has been said about the death of bipartisanship, our poll found that 73 percent of all female voters, including 77 percent of all moms, would support a candidate who shares their views on core parenting-related issues—even if that candidate is from a different political party.

If our broken system makes clear the moral case for funding comprehensive childcare, this data proves the political case. All that’s missing, it seems, are politicians with the will to do what’s right for American families—and for their political futures.

Enter: fury, terror, disbelief.

Still, through the grief, I refuse to give up hope. Because as moms, we can’t afford to.

Instead, we must do what we’ve done the last 18 months: Fight like hell.

Let’s channel our fury into phone calls, pressuring representatives to pass bold policies with widespread bipartisan support: programs that give millions of children the education, resources and care they deserve, and parents the support and flexibility we need.

Let’s transform our terror into teamwork, rallying the men in our lives to fight for these policies as hard as we do—because childcare is infrastructure, and it affects every single one of us.

For too long, Congress has taken mothers’ labor for granted. Lawmakers must fund real, meaningful change when it comes to childcare—or else they’ll be the ones getting grief.

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Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, an international nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology while teaching girls confidence and bravery through coding, and the founder of the Marshall Plan for Moms movement.