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Counting the Cost

Children—Collateral Damage in the War on Women

Julianne Malveaux | 2/6/2014, midnight

Some employers provide on-site childcare, allowing employees with the same challenges that Brittney Downing faced to drop their children off and come back for them at the end of their shifts. While many provide this childcare at a small fee, others are willing to subsidize low-wage workers. These employers are more the exception than the rule. Do they understand their productivity losses when they do not institute policies that are friendly to women who have children?

There have been spates of cases where mothers have left their children “home alone”. Not all of them have been cases like Brittney’s, when a woman leaves her children because she has no childcare support system. Some of the cases happen to be women who have walked out to buy a soda or get a stamp. That’s likely to be a woman, cooped up with her children, with not enough support to take a break. Other women have left their children “home alone” while they engaged in social activities. While their actions are foolish, the lack of a support system is still quite evident.

There are no excuses for putting a child in danger, or are there? When a woman must work and has no child care, what is she to do? When the research on post-partum depression suggests irrational behavior on the part of some mothers, why are they vilified? How many women have written the post-partum story, while nannies and maids had their backs? How many, without nannies or maids, are challenged to make it on their own?

The low wages that many single mothers earn limit opportunities. The children they try to raise are the collateral damage that our Congress is complicit in when they refuse to raise the minimum wage.

Julianne Malveaux is a D.C.-based economist and writer and president emerita of Bennett College for Women.

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