Shanesha Taylor, a homeless mother, was arrested for leaving her baby and two-year old in the car while she was at a job interview. Once the story hit the twitterverse, the reaction was swift with supporters of Ms. Taylor using the hashtag #ISupportShanesha. Without knowing much about the case, I tweeted my own support with this tweet, “#ISupportShanesha b/c even in a 2-parent/2-income family, I know how difficult it is to find and afford child care.” In a matter of minutes I was retweeted 28 times and favorited or replied to by many. It was not surprising to me that the issue of affordable, quality child care hit a nerve with many.
After having my twins in 2007, my husband and I made many sacrifices which allowed me to stay home with my son and daughter for almost three years. Once I returned to work, though, I found that pay in my (former) industry was down and the cost of child care was prohibitive. According to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, in New York City, the average family spends $16,250 per year for an infant, $11, 648 for a toddler and $9, 620 for a school-age child. Multiply that by two or three and the burden is clearly more.
With no family nearby to help out, my husband and I are often struggling to find child care. Particularly with the demands of two busy careers, often times the after school option at school (which our children attend everyday) is not enough. The cost of a babysitter averages $20 per hour. This means that if I’m stuck at a work function for just a few hours after work, I’m out of pocket $60. If this happens four times a month, that’s an additional $240 per month or $2880 a year! This cost is in addition to the many thousands of dollars we already pay for after school programming. Forget any date nights for me and the husband!
Some have criticized Ms. Taylor, the homeless mother, because she left her baby and two year old in a hot car with the window only cracked open. The children were found because the baby had been crying. I’m not saying that I think it was a good idea to leave her children in the car. What I am saying is that I am not going to judge the level of desperation that a mother who wanted to do better for her family, was feeling. Desperation can cause us to make decisions that are not necessarily the best ones. Changes must be made to support women such as Ms. Taylor. It may be difficult and expensive for me to find child care, but I am fortunate enough to (usually) be able to get it when I need it. Instead of vilifying those mothers and fathers who have fewer options, let’s support these parents and empower them. No mother should ever have to make such desperate decisions when it comes to their children. #ISupportShanesha because we should all have safe, affordable options for child care.