Finding childcare that’s convenient, high quality, affordable and reliable is the holy grail of working motherhood. It’s so difficult that even Sen. Elizabeth Warren—whose tenacity helped coin the phrase “she persisted”—once almost gave up on her career because she couldn’t find it.
The Massachusetts lawmaker shared the story during her keynote address at the National Women’s Law Center’s 45th anniversary gala, according to Glamour.com. If it hadn’t been for her 78-year-old aunt Bee, she likely wouldn’t be a U.S. senator today.
Warren was a mother of two young children and a new law school professor when her babysitter quit. After cycling through various childcare options, she realized she just couldn’t handle the stress of balancing her job with being a mom. She broke down crying during a phone call with her aunt Bee, and confessed that she was going to quit her job.
Her aunt told her to wait, and the next week she showed up with seven suitcases and her Pekingese. She stayed with Warren and her family for 16 years.
"I'm a United States senator today in part because my aunt Bee rescued me on that Thursday in 1979," Warren said at the gala. "Without childcare, I was a goner. And I know how lucky I was because so many working moms don't have an aunt Bee who can fly in and help out."
Warren is right: Working moms without an aunt Bee face numerous challenges when it comes to locking down childcare, most especially that it’s exorbitantly expensive. The average annual cost of infant care, at $9,589, is higher than college tuition in 33 states. In cities like New York and San Francisco, the average cost of infant care is well over $16,000. For one-third of working families, that means more than 20 percent of their paycheck goes toward childcare costs.
Several members of Congress and even Ivanka Trump have introduced or voiced support for proposals to help make childcare more affordable for working parents, including Warren herself. She also introduced the Schedules That Work Act, which would give hourly employees a bit more control over their often-unpredictable work schedules—a move that would help working moms make it to work and their kids’ doctor’s appointments. And she wants to expand the number of early childhood education programs available to 2-, 3- and 4-year olds.
"It's a big goal, but no one builds a future without investment," Warren said. "Whether you and I have small children or not, we have an interest in the future of this country, and that means we have an interest—and a responsibility—to invest in America’s children. And that means making sure that their teachers and caregivers are adequately paid and trained…and it means making sure that when parents are working, their children are safe and loved and learning and growing."
Preach it, Sen. Warren. We’re glad you persisted.