The recent media clamor over moms working outside the home and stay-at-home moms threatens to overshadow any serious discussion about policies that could help the millions of mothers who need to work to support their families — such as policies that expand the availability of affordable, high-quality child care. After years of being largely ignored, child care has finally started to get some attention in the media. Yet this increased attention has not yet translated into significant new investments in child care. In fact, budget proposals currently under debate could slash child care funding and other essential supports for women and their families.

Child care deserves even more discussion in the media and more action by policy makers because of its importance to the well-being of mothers and their children. It not only helps mothers go to school or work to earn the education and income they need to support their families, but it can also provide young children with the early education experiences they need to succeed in school and in life and contribute to our nation’s economy in the future.

Yet, with the cost of center care for a one-year-old exceeding the cost of public college tuition in about two-thirds of the states, high-quality child care options remain out of reach for most families. Without help in paying for these costs, low- and middle-income mothers struggle to find stable child care that they can afford. And without stable child care, it is extremely challenging for these mothers to work and keep a job. If they do manage to find child care they can afford, it is often not the high-quality care that their children need for a strong start towards a successful future. 

We shouldn’t be debating whether it’s moms’ work outside or inside the home that’s valuable — both are. What we should be debating is how we best support those moms who need to work outside the home to support their families. And making sure that all families have access to affordable high-quality child care is a good place to start.