‘Childcare is outrageous here’: Real people sound off on paid leave, affordable child care

A deep dive by USA TODAY on why so many Americans still lack paid family leave and affordable child care caused a stir among readers on social media. Some of them chimed in with their own stories of sky-high child care costs, while others debated whether affordable child care should even be a priority.

Opinions on how to tackle the issue ran the gamut. The USA TODAY team found some businesses, large and small, are standing in the way of federal paid leave. That conclusion was a non-starter for some, while others wished the government and businesses would do more.

Here’s a sampling of what the readers had to say:

Child care costs are busting my budget

Mathew Bruhn from Seattle said he was expecting his child care expenses to be close to $50,000 per year with the arrival of his second child in February, even though the cost is subsidized by his wife’s employer.

“Childcare is outrageous here in Yonkers, (New York),” Nancy Rivers said on Facebook. “You need to earn over 100k to ‘afford’ having a family in Yonkers between the cost of living and childcare.”

What affordable child care would mean to me

Kara Rubenfeld, a single mother of three from Cross River, New York, said it would be a “life-changer.”

“I am a single parent and I have experienced all of this first hand. There is no leeway for anything other than concentrating on the bills. I have to work multiple jobs seven days a week to meet our expenses,” she said on Facebook.

When child care costs more than you make

“I am a mother with a small child and have had to put a hold on my career because we do not have any family help,” said Heather Merriken Kalman via Facebook. “My wage was not much higher than the childcare I needed to have including commute times.”

Michele McCormick said both parents in her family had taken turns staying home with kids and working full time.

“In Boston, good childcare can run you $600 a week which makes it useless to work,” she said on Facebook. “When my kids were little one of us stayed home, me for three years, then him for three years while each of us went to school to get more education. Once the kids were in school we both went to work full time.”

What if child care expenses were not a factor: Would both parents in your family work?

In a USA TODAY Twitter poll, people were almost evenly divided. Forty-eight percent said one parent would stay home, while 47 percent said both would work.

The same poll on YouTube showed more people would have one parent stay home with the kids.

Child care during nontraditional work hours: ‘It really does take a village’

“It really does take a village,” said Patricia Salgado-Hernandez via Facebook. “I find it challenging enough to find care that lets me drop off early enough and pick up late enough. … I can’t imagine the struggle for parents who work essential late shifts like at hospitals or with first responder units.”

“Some women don’t come from money, have access to education, or have a partner who can afford to carry the whole family,” said Heather Merriken Kalman on Facebook. “What happened to our support as a nation to those who need to be lifted up and not stamped down?”

Businesses should not have to shoulder the burden

“This is my opinion if you force companies to help in this. 2 things will happen,” said Bill Liegl via Facebook. “Companies will charge more for their product to the customer. More companies will just leave.”

Andrew Marshall worried that if the federal government were to intervene in child care costs, daycare providers wouldn’t make enough money.

“I have family members who run preschools/daycares, and these businesses have to make money to survive,”  he said via Facebook. 

More money for the government? No, thanks

Others were concerned about a payroll tax or other mechanisms to pay for programs such as federal paid leave.

“Who pays for it? If it’s the government, you’re going to see higher taxes for everyone. If it’s the employer, you’re going to see a big issue with small businesses being able to afford it,” said Alice Zepp King on Facebook.

One parent should stay home

Wide swaths of Americans think that in families with young children, at least one parent should stay home. Those attitudes contribute to inertia in Congress on paid leave and child care, insiders say.

On social media, some readers argued for this viewpoint.

“It is far better for children to have one parent at home,” said Alice Zepp King via Facebook. “There are many many families that make it work, either they split their shifts or they cut back their lifestyle so that one parent can be home. Or they use grandma and grandpa some. It pays off dividends in the end.”

“If we weren’t all chasing materialism this would not be an issue,” said Jenny Mac on YouTube. “I understand some mothers are single parents and in that case, it’s physically impossible to be home but in an ideal situation, a mom should be raising her own babies.”