On the podcast and when I post on Instagram, I often speak about the importance of storytelling. When parents share their stories, it is powerful. Stories humanize issues that many times can seem so foreign to others.
Last week MomsRising asked me if I would share my story about my daughter’s daycare closing at a roundtable with the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, from Connecticut. It’s a difficult story to share, because it always brings tears to my eyes. The director of the child care center has been in our lives for seven years, and I never thought that the center was at risk for closing.
The Roundtable also featured food blogger Deb Perelman who wrote the brilliant piece in the NYTimes titled “In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both.”
We all ask one another why we aren’t making more noise. The consensus is that everyone agrees this is a catastrophe, but we are too bone-tired to raise our voices above a groan, let alone scream through a megaphone. Every single person confesses burnout, despair, feeling like they are losing their minds, knowing in their guts that this is untenable.
The conversation also included a MomsRising member, Julie Grose, a mom from Arizona who shared that she had to move from Arizona to Michigan and had to quit her job as a teacher. Julie is concerned about finding child care for her son, Adam, where he will be safe from COVID.
You can check out the recording below:
My remarks are here:
Good morning! My name is Diana Limongi and I live in New York City. I’m a writer and consultant for nonprofits, including MomsRising. I’m also the mother of a nine-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. The pandemic’s impact on our child care options has been absolutely devastating for my family. I want to thank Chairman Neal and Rep. Hayes for bringing attention to this urgent issue with this event today and for the opportunity to share my story.
Like so many working families, my husband and I struggled to find and afford the child care we needed when our son was born. When he was about two-and-a-half, we got a spot at My Little Footprints Daycare. It felt like we had won the lottery. The center was a ten-minute walk from our house, had hours of operation that worked well for us, and provided high-quality education with outdoor enrichment. They even had staff who were bilingual in English and Spanish, which was important to my family.
My son attended until he started kindergarten and, when my daughter was born, I put her on the waitlist as soon as I could. She started attending when she was 20 months old. Over the past seven years we’ve been at Little Footprints, I’ve grown close to the owner and teachers there and they’ve been an important part of my kids’ development. Having this care also allowed me to grow my career as a writer and consultant.
Then, in mid-March, our beloved child care center closed temporarily due to the pandemic. At first, we thought it would be only a few weeks. But in May we got devastating news: My Little Footprints would have to close permanently. Without tuition from families coming in, the owner could not keep up with rent and other expenses.
It was a complete shock and it felt like the floor had been pulled out from under us. In June, we had to go pick up our daughter’s toys, artwork and other belongings from the center and say goodbye. I still tear up when I think about that day.
I’m not sure what we are going to do. It would be really hard to find another affordable, high-quality center in normal times. Now, it’s just about impossible with many centers closing, just like My Little Footprints did. The ones that are still open are struggling to manage in a COVID-19 world, where precautions like smaller class sizes, personal protective equipment, cleaning materials and more drain their budgets.
Not having child care has been incredibly tough for us. It’s just not possible for both my husband and me to work while caring for a three-year-old and a nine-year-old. At first, my husband and I tried to alternate shifts, working early in the morning and late at night, but that was unsustainable.
Being stretched so thin has taken a huge emotional toll. We’re not as productive at work as we’d like to be, and we worry we’re not giving our kids everything they need.
Frankly, something will have to change. If we can’t access safe, affordable child care, I will have to significantly cut back on my consulting business, which will reduce our income. My husband works full-time and we get our health insurance through his employer, so we can’t lose his position. I am the one who needs to leave the workforce to care for our children.
My personal experience is consistent with research that shows women will be disproportionately pushed out of the workforce due to this crisis. If Congress doesn’t fund child care in the next COVID-relief package, it will be devastating for working women like me, who won’t be able to have the careers we want and need to support our families. Progress toward gender equity in the United States will stall and our economy will suffer for years.
I hope more leaders in Congress will recognize that child care in America today is an emergency, and make it a priority to pass the Child Care Is Essential Act and to invest in the child care sector, so we can finally make safe, high-quality child care accessible to all. Child care is crucial for our nation’s recovery. It is a top priority for families like mine and I hope it will be a top priority for Congress, too. Thank you.
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We are inspired by @doloreshuerta today and say “Organize!” This week is a critical week to #SaveChildcare! Lawmakers in Washington are discussing the #ChildcareIsEssential Act, which would give $50B federal relief to help the #childcare sector… as a mom who lost her child care when her provider closed their doors forever due to #Covid19, I know firsthand how devastating this is… I have no idea what we are going to do about #childcare… but in the meantime… we are raising our voices and sounding the alarm! Lots of action around #childcare happening this week! Make sure to sign a petition, share your story and call your lawmakers and ask them to support relief for the childcare industry, which will collapse if it doesn’t get help. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. #SaveChildcare! #movement4childcare
This week is a big week to #SaveChildcare:
Here are three things you can do in order to raise your voices for child care:
- Sign this petition to ask Congress to sign the Child Care is Essential Act that would stabilize the #Childcare industry by investing $50 Billion.
- Call, text or tweet at your Senators and ask them to support the Child Care is Essential Act.
- Join a day of action! Zero to Three has an action day on July 28th! More information here.