Family, Kids & Relationships

The childcare challenge: Parents, policy, and the power of community — Power to the Parents, Ep. 7

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In this Power to the Parents podcast episode, host Ailen Arreaza interviews three mothers — Kelly, Angela, and RiAnna — who share their journey in the grassroots Campaign for Childcare. They recount how they connected on Reddit, formed a supportive community, and began advocating for affordable, high-quality childcare.

Their discussion delves into the challenges faced by families, the impact of childcare costs on their lives, and the need for systemic change. The moms share personal stories, highlight examples of successful policies like New Mexico’s universal childcare program, and encourage parents to join their movement to bring about change for future generations.

Transcript of Episode 7: The Childcare Challenge: Parents, Policy, and the Power of Community

Ailen Arreaza, host: Hello and welcome to Power to the Parents, a podcast from ParentsTogether. I’m your host, Ailen Arreaza. And today I have three amazing moms with me, Kelly, Angela, and RiAnna. They are part of a grassroots organization called the Campaign for Childcare that advocates for affordable childcare. They actually met on Reddit. It’s an incredible story. I’m excited for them to share it with you. Kelly, Angela, and RiAnna, welcome to the pod.

Angela Dixon: Hi.

RiAnna Kalovsky: Thank you.

Kelly McRae: Thanks for having us.

On how childcare struggles brought these moms together…

Ailen Arreaza: Okay, Angela, I want to start with you. You were one of the first people to see that Reddit post. Can you tell me a little bit about what that post said?

Angela Dixon: So the post was just, it seemed a little bit frantic from someone who was just at their wits’ end and wanted to kind of make any change that they possibly could, whether it was just like a group to commiserate with or a group that could actually go to DC and do some punching. And it just resonated with me because I too am fed up.

Ailen Arreaza: Can you tell me a little bit about what details from the post resonated with you in particular?

Angela Dixon: I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was. It was just kind of…I think it just spoke to me at the right moment because I believe that I’d had just like a terrible day. My daughter had been spent home from daycare three days that week, probably because they hit ratio and not because she was sick, because as soon as I would pick her up her fever was magically gone. Um, which is fine. I work from home so I can handle it, but I think that I was just fed up and tired and didn’t have any other options and I saw this post and it just went, like, it reverberated within me and I was just like, yeah, let’s do something!

Ailen Arreaza: So Kelly, I think you were part of this, seeing this post as well and the initial do something. Can you tell me a little bit about what that initial engagement looked like for you?

“It was an invitation for us to be part of something and to be part of stepping into our power and demanding that politicians meet our needs as people and as parents. And that was totally novel to me.”

Kelly McRae: I was digging through my Reddit history today and I am ashamed to admit I could not find the post, the one. But what sticks with me about it is that it wasn’t just venting, it was also an invitation. And the person who posted it turns out to be sort of a secret weapon organizing ninja, but it was more than just, gosh, this is terrible. It was…This is terrible for me. I’m pretty sure it’s terrible for you. Let’s talk about it. Let’s make a change.

And it was an invitation for us to be part of something and to be part of stepping into our power and demanding that politicians meet our needs as people and as parents. And that was totally novel to me. Reddit had been such a venting space in a lot of the forums that I’d seen. And even in that one in which that post appeared, that it was like, oh, this is different. This feels different. And indeed it has been very different in a really good way.

Ailen Arreaza: That’s amazing. RiAnna, I’d love to hear how you got involved and why. Why did this matter to you?

RiAnna Kalovsky: So the initial post appeared on the working mom subreddit. And I was not a follower on that subreddit, but I would frequent it. But at the time, this was January 2023, and I was in the process of trying to decide if staying in the workforce with my two children in daycare is something that I was going to even continue to do. And I think it must’ve been a suggested post for me cause I know I wasn’t ever like subscribed to our working moms.

So it must’ve been a suggested post and all I remember about it, kind of like Kelly was saying that there was an invitation of DM me and I’ll send you a Zoom link because I remember thinking I can attend a Zoom. I survived the pandemic. Like I can attend a Zoom, whereas in like 2019, I might not have been so inclined to. Sure, DM me a Zoom link. I’ll send you my email, you know… So I just remember, DM me, I’ll send you the Zoom link. And I did that. I don’t have, the only Reddit history that I have of it is sending Bridget the DM saying, sure, shoot me the link.

And I remember showing up to the Zoom and just feeling like everybody who was there, that we were already like, that we already knew each other in some capacity. So yeah, I was pretty early in on it too, just from like this kind of, almost like outside, not sure that I wanted to continue in the workforce, but it was a working mom sub that it ignited from.

Ailen Arreaza: Yeah. And so RiAnna, can you tell me just a little bit about what happened on that initial Zoom call?

RiAnna Kalovsky: I remember breastfeeding my son. Like, he was, he was, gosh, 10 weeks old, you know what I mean? And I just remember having to mute and say something to my daughter or my husband and being like, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m on this Zoom and I just need you to leave me alone, sort of thing. Which ironically is how I think almost all of the Zooms go for all of us, that like, there’s no shame in turning off your camera or muting yourself and dealing with whatever is going on.

I just remember everyone sharing stories that made us all go like, mm-hmm. I come from a theology background and like those holy moments, you know, where you’re resonating with somebody and you can just tell like we’re all thinking amen to this, to each other’s stories. I think that that’s what I remember, I guess, from that first Zoom meeting, aside from breastfeeding my son.

Ailen Arreaza: Yeah, and I’d love to hear a little bit more about these stories. Angela, you mentioned that you were fed up because your daughter had been sent home from daycare three days in the same week, and you thought it was because they had reached capacity or met ratio, I think is how you described it. So I’d love to understand what exactly that means for our listeners who may not know. And then just tell me a little bit about your childcare journey or what it looks like for you as a mom.

Angela Dixon: So, um, ratio is the number of teachers to children, and they’re not supposed to, for certain age groups, go above like four kids to one adult, which still seems like I would never be able to handle four kids myself. I can barely handle my one. So that’s what ratio is. Um, and I think that she was in between classes at that time, so sometimes they would have five, but she was too young to be in a group of five. I don’t know what the whole deal with it was, but she had miraculous fevers that went away within the three-minute drive to the daycare. Because my daycare is really close, we can walk there on nice days. My husband is actually leaving right now with the wagon to go pick our daughter up. So that’s nice.

But I wasn’t initially going to use childcare. My husband and I both work from home and I was like, oh yeah, this will be easy. We’ll put her in the swing or the playpen in between us. We’ll work, have our baby here. It’ll be great. No, that is not how it goes.

Ailen Arreaza: No, that’s not how it works.

Angela Dixon: I was very naive about it to begin with. So I was there four months postpartum and had no childcare options. And I actually, we went to see one Montessori school and they were okay. We put ourselves on the waitlist, which was $400, and I still have not heard back from them, and she’s almost two. So $400 that just disappeared.

Ailen Arreaza: Oh my gosh. $400 just to be put on a waitlist.

Kelly McRae: $400 for the privilege of waiting two years.

Angela Dixon: At least three years, because who knows what’s going on there. Even if they called me though, I would not switch because our current daycare is amazing. And the only reason that I got in was because I told the lady on the phone that she sounded absolutely gorgeous and I would love for her to spend time with my baby. So I brown nosed my way into this spot. They didn’t have a spot when I initially called, but she called me a week and a half later, and she was like, is this the lady who said I was beautiful? And I said, yes, it is. I don’t even need to tour it. Take my child.

Ailen Arreaza: You didn’t have many options, it sounds like.

Angela Dixon: But I do also know that I know that I am in the privileged group of being able to write a $400 check knowing I may never see anything come out of it.

Ailen Arreaza: Yeah. And will you share how much you pay for childcare now?

Angela Dixon: Yeah, I pay… It’s $385 a week?

Ailen Arreaza: That is a lot of money.

Angela Dixon: It’s not insignificant. And that is one of the lowest in my area.

Ailen Arreaza: And can you tell our listeners where you live?

Angela Dixon: I live in Northern Virginia.

Ailen Arreaza: Kelly, I’d love to hear your sort of childcare journey and what drove you to the brink? What made you feel just totally fed up?

Kelly McRae: Sure. I had my daughter when I was married and when she was about two, started the process of getting unmarried. So going through divorce, trying to figure out how to start working again because I’d been lucky enough to be able to stay at home with her — lucky enough, challenged enough — to be able to stay at home with her up till that point.

And then during the process of divorce, my husband passed away. So I found myself living with family, but wanting to move into our own place, needing to be closer to a job I was lucky enough to get. And I was lucky enough to find spots in some really high quality child care centers. First, when I started working part-time in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Then I moved closer to the city and got her a spot in an amazing full-time program, but each of those cost vastly more than I could afford. I clearly remember the figures from when I was living in Philly. My rent was $1,200 a month and childcare was $1,345-ish, depending on how many weeks were in the month. And I was a solo earner, paying my own everything.

So if you look at the federal recommendations for how much of your income should be spent on housing before you fall into seriously unsustainable spending patterns, eventually leading to impoverishment, 50% of your income is not recommended. It should be a third or less. And mine was even after we started receiving a government benefit, rent was over a third, childcare was over a third of my monthly income. So that was difficult.

And I found that Reddit post after my daughter was already in care and we were heading off, like we were starting to think about kindergarten already, last spring, when everything sort of started rolling with this campaign. But I find a lot of gratification and value and life in supporting other moms and talking with other women about what they’re going through and being very real about it. And this whole group is extremely real about everything. There’s naked babies running through video calls, there’s breastfeeding, there’s, you know, we talk about all the real parts, ugly or not, of parenting in America.

“If another woman is staying in an unhealthy relationship because she can’t afford to leave and put her child in care and work, I don’t want her to have to go through that. So that’s part of what catalyzed me to get involved and stay involved.”

And it seemed like a good way to apply myself to what everyone in this group was trying to do. I don’t want my daughter to have to go through what my friends here and what I went through. If another woman is staying in an unhealthy relationship because she can’t afford to leave and put her child in care and work, I don’t want her to have to go through that. So that’s part of what catalyzed me to get involved and stay involved.

I don’t have skin in the game anymore, my child is seven. But it’s not a quick effort and it’s far reaching enough that it’s worth putting the time in. That’s what roped me in. Also these babes are awesome. Like the women in this group are really, really cool. And we’re building a skill set for organizing, for communicating with representatives, for pushing the envelope and that’s been really gratifying and educational too.

Ailen Arreaza: Yeah, thank you for sharing. I really loved the point you just made about how not having affordable childcare kind of can affect all kinds of different pieces of your life. And yeah, like how many women are there who are staying in unsafe, unhealthy relationships because childcare is one of the things that’s making it impossible for them to break out of that. So thank you so much for sharing your story. 

RiAnna, I’d love to hear about your own childcare journey and the thing that kind of drove you to join this group.

On the broken childcare system in our country…

RiAnna Kalovsky: So prior to today, I worked in childcare. So fall of 2019, I took a job as a supervisor with a large agency in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. So we’re talking like heart of the Midwest, right? And being there through the pandemic was really, really eye-opening because it immediately brought me into relationship with those parents in ways that I might not have had without, you know, without the pandemic.

And the center that I was working at was dedicated to individuals with special needs. And so I learned pretty quickly how to help them navigate caring for their child and then also helping them figure out how to pay for that care beyond the age of 12. Because for most families, care stops, right? Like their child care bills, they go down with their age. Or they eventually stop, even if they get into an afterschool program, that’s much, much cheaper and then they typically don’t need it.

But when you’re working with the special needs families, those kids could be in care their whole life. And my center specifically had a licensure to care for a child till the day before they turn 22. That is a really long time to pay for care, before school, after school, out of school care. That is a really long time. And so I got pretty familiar with what outside sources of funding are available in the state, and how they work and how they can work together and how they can work against each other. And so that to me was just really, really eye opening.

“There’s no social safety net from the time we are born to the time that we are old.… We’re all going to need care at some point, whether we’ve needed it or are going to need it. And the huge gaps in care are astounding.”

I took the job because I wanted to care for kids, right? Like, I wanted a job where I hang out with kids. That sounds like so much fun. And instead I learned the nitty gritty details of the care industry and how there’s no social safety net from the time we are born to the time that we are old. Right? Like think of nursing homes. Think of the way that we view those. Think of how you know somebody who’s wheelchair bound who is going to need care, needs something some way. Right? We’re all going to need care at some point, whether we’ve needed it or are going to need it. And the huge gaps in care are astounding when you take a look at them and when you talk to people. 

And when you set aside those prejudices that you have and those assumptions that like, oh, it’s just fun. You get to hang out with old people and do puzzles, or kids and, you know, color. It’s not like, that’s not what this is about.

So then when I had my first kid, December 2020, it became a thing of figuring out how to do, how to have a maternity leave, with just my PTO, with no other accrued leave. And then doing it again with my second kid, I thankfully had short-term disability because I had put in two years of short-term disability just to make sure that I, you know, had a partial paycheck while I was out. And then coming back 8 and 10 weeks postpartum to a job, and pumping and daycare drop-offs. And by the time I got through my second week of that with my second kid, I was like, who does this? And who does this with more than one kid?

Like, you know, and then ultimately I was gonna pay $27,000 to have two kids in care in 2023. That is more than in-state college tuition in my state. And it doesn’t go towards my housing or my, I don’t have a meal plan. You know, I don’t have FAFSA to help me cover this.

And so we made the, my husband and I made the decision that I would stay home. And so now I’m home with two kids. And is this where I saw myself? No. I mean, I got a four year college degree. You know? I’ve been working since I was 15. I don’t know what is gonna…I don’t know what is gonna happen next, you know, but for this phase of life, this is where I am with my two kids at home.

And I’m incredibly thankful. And like Angela, I recognize the privilege of it, but I also know that even as a stay at home parent or a domestic engineer, the small amount of time I have during the day to share posts, to record podcasts, to talk to people, to engage on Facebook comments…that’s what I’m doing. Right. And I’m trying to change the tide of this conversation and help people understand that those who receive childcare subsidies are very few in my state and it’s not enough what they do receive. Just trying to help people understand, really, and do it from a place of like love and understanding versus the actual like anger that is inside of me.

Ailen Arreaza: Yeah, yeah. I understand why you would feel so much anger and resentment and it’s just, it’s incredible to hear that you’re channeling all of that for good and to support other moms who are going through this. $27,000 a year in childcare, I mean, it just doesn’t make economic sense.

“The issue isn’t either of us and our income, the issue is the system.”

RiAnna Kalovsky: What job, like what job could a woman…let’s be honest. You know, cause I don’t wanna say that like my job didn’t cover enough and that was why I had to, but you don’t want to put it on your spouse either and be like, you’re not working hard enough or making enough. Cause the issue isn’t either of us and our income, the issue is the system.

And the fact that the people who were caring for my child were making $10, $11, $12 an hour, right? Some of them couldn’t afford to put their kids in the center that they were working at. And so they had unlicensed in-home daycares. Now, there is a time and place for in-home daycares. I know plenty of people, I myself was at an in-home daycare, but I spent some time in an unlicensed and some time in a licensed, and they were vastly different experiences.

And then that becomes another piece of the conversation I’m having too with a lot of folks is, I get that unlicensed in-home daycares do make some families very happy, but they run risks, right? And that’s all of parenting is risk management. But again, there’s pros and cons. So just helping people really navigate that conversation has been vast. Like, it’s huge. It’s insurmountable. And I think that, like Kelly was saying, we’re in this for the long haul, and we recognize that universal childcare might not be implemented for decades.

Ailen Arreaza: The point that you made is spot on. And like the thing that this creates is so much guilt and shame for parents and having to make these really difficult decisions and these risk assessments and all of this. And we feel like it’s our fault. And like we are the ones that need to figure this all out when it’s actually a broken system that needs to be fixed. And so I just love that you all are out there beating that drum.

And I know that this initial call that you had led to the creation of the Campaign for Childcare. And then eventually you ended up in DC advocating for more affordable childcare. So Kelly, I’d love to hear about the decision to go to DC as a group. And what was that like?

On going to DC to advocate for affordable childcare…

Kelly McRae: Again, it was an invitation rather than a mandate, and that’s part of what made it so neat. And I think, like many of our members, hadn’t really done anything politically agitating before. I vote, but I hadn’t been involved in activism or been involved in campaigning, certainly not being confrontational in the halls of power.

So the invitation to do that was pretty enticing, I can’t lie. And to do it with a group of people who were very frank and very thoughtful and deliberate at the same time. So I also live in Philly. It was easier for me to get there than a bunch of our members. People came from all over the country to be part of that DC event. They’ve just done another DC action in the last week, earlier this week, I think. So again, the idea of being invited to participate in stepping into your own power was a really neat concept.

And we ended up in a Senate committee hearing, having smuggled in some posters that we weren’t supposed to have. There was a lot of strategizing before the trip to think about how are we going to show up? What do we want people to take away from seeing us, even if it’s very briefly? What do we want them to hear? What do we want them to see? What do we want them to feel? So it was, like I said, a very deliberate, designed action by activists to make a specific political point, which was something totally new to me. I didn’t know how that sausage was made. So to be part of it was really neat and eye-opening.

“We brought our children and we brought them into the places where legislators are working, because I’m not sure if they know this, but it’s really hard to get work done when there’s kids around because they need care, they need attention.”

The other element of that trip, like I said, was that we brought our children and we brought them into the places where legislators are working, because I’m not sure if they know this, but it’s really hard to get work done when there’s kids around because they need care, they need attention. So bringing our kids was very much part of the point.

For me, my kid was one of the older ones in that group. Part of me being involved, part of bringing her on that trip, part of all the meetings leading up to it, was for her to see it as well. She was six at the time, she’s seven now. She refers to this group as “the moms.” It’s like, oh, sorry Vera, you’re gonna have to like, keep yourself busy for an hour because I’ve got a meeting with the moms and she’ll sort of, you know, “Hello!” and then she’ll leave. If I’m lucky, she’s wearing clothes.

But I think there’s something powerful too about doing this with and in front of and for your children. And showing them that they too can step into power as well.

Ailen Arreaza: Yeah, 100%. That’s so much of what we do here at ParentsTogether, is model what it can be like to step into power for our kids.

Angela, I’d love to hear from you about what that trip to DC was like and what it was like to meet these moms that you had initially connected with on Reddit and then only talked to on Zoom. What did that mean to you?

Angela Dixon: Um, everything. So, my daughter was two days old when Roe v. Wade was repealed, and I remember having the baby blues and clutching her and just sobbing, because what kind of mother brings a daughter into this world where she’s two days old and gets her rights removed. Like, what was I doing? 

And it was kind of in that sob that I realized that I needed to do…I live an hour and a half away from DC. What am I doing? I need to be in DC doing things. And I think that also plays into why I even initially joined this group. And I took my daughter with me. I didn’t know these people. Like, I’d seen them on video, but I don’t, they could all be serial killers. Who knows, right? Luckily, I don’t think any of them are. You know, questions, but I don’t think any of them are.

And within minutes of getting to the hotel, I had two other women that have seen me on these videos this entire time, all four months, like they’d seen me pumping on the calls and like in various states of undress because I had a, I think she was eight months old when we went, just starting to walk.

And, god, it just, it meant so much to me, all of these other women that knew how I felt, and would link arms with me to show these, let’s be honest, old white men in politics that, like, this sucks and things need to change. And it was so powerful to be with these women that…Kelly, I had no idea that you’ve never done anything like that.

Kelly McRae: Nope.

Angela Dixon: You, you slid into it so naturally and like even Vera sounds she’s like she had been there like a million times. Like you guys, like being with all of these women who felt the anger and wanted to channel it into something good, like I sometimes feel like I’m not enough because these women are all so amazing. But that’s the great thing about Campaign is that you can put in as much or as little as you need to. I have really bad seasonal depression and in the winter, I can’t do anything. Hi, Sylvie.

RiAnna Kalovsky: This is Sylvie. Oh, she can’t hear you because you’re in the mic. How was your nap? It was good? Okay.

Angela Dixon: But in the winter I can’t do anything. I’m barely scraping by to make it to the end of the day. And like I just, I said that, like I can’t do it. Don’t let me sign up for things because I can’t. And everyone was like, okay cool, see you in the spring. And literally dozens of people reached out to me throughout the month saying, Hey, have you gotten enough sun today? How are you feeling? What’s going on? Do you do you need me to send you candy or flowers or what can I do? And I wasn’t even like contributing anything, so these women really have become “the moms,” they’re the moms.

Kelly McRae: I would love to pull out two things from Angela’s answer. One of them, when we were in the DC, in the Senate committee hearing in DC, I was holding, we were standing in the aisle. There was no room at that point in the hearing. So we had our kids and our strollers jammed into the aisle at the back of the room. And I was standing next to Katie, who was holding little Teddy.

And I was holding Vera, and she leans over to me and she goes, she looks around at the group of moms and she leans into my ear and whispers, “Mom.” After looking up at the people seated around the committee table, she goes, “Why are they all boys? And why are they all old?” Like that is an excellent question, young lady, that is a very good question.

Ailen Arreaza: Why don’t we have affordable childcare? Those two things may be connected.

Kelly McRae: Mm-hmm. So that was just one highlight of that trip for me, is like, yes, these are things we must ask and discuss. And I’ve lost the other point that I was gonna make.

Ailen Arreaza: That was a great point. Oh, thank you. That’s so powerful. It sounds like that was an incredible trip.

RiAnna, I’d love to hear from you about…you were the one that mentioned, we have a broken system, but there are solutions. So what are you fighting for? What’s the ideal world that you want your daughter to be in when she has her own kids?

On the future vision of affordable childcare choices…

RiAnna Kalovsky: Oh, golly. I think for me, it comes down to the choice, right? The freedom to make a choice about what sort of place her prospective children may be in, and that that choice is easily attainable. I’m not saying that she doesn’t have to work for it, right? I’m not advocating for her to have free childcare so she can go home and watch whatever Netflix will be in 20 years from now, you know what I mean? Like, that’s not at all what I’m advocating for.

But we’re advocating for childcare, whatever that may look like for families…in home, center. I would even go way out on a limb and say like icing on top would be potentially funds for families to be able to stay home with their kids too, right? I’m not saying that they have to, but I do know that there are countries that allow parents to have funds to stay home with their kids. Just that it’s high quality. And I don’t know, maybe Kelly or Angela can help me pull out from whatever our Google Docs all say about this, like the official stance. But high quality, like we’re talking about high quality.

We all know…at least if you don’t, you’ve been living under a rock, in my opinion. We all know that zero to three is some of the most important developmental time of our, of humans’ lives. Like more important than adolescents anywhere. And so if your first three years are full of financial stress because your parents are paying $27,000-plus for childcare, if they are, if you’re not in a high quality place where the employees are well-trained, well-paid. If you’re constantly dealing with a revolving door of adults because your center can’t stay staffed because they are low-paid and low, like not trained, right? If you don’t feel successful in your job, you don’t want to be there. We just know that those are recipes for disasters.

And so we’re just advocating for high quality and for families to be supported. And that is going to look different. You know, like Angela mentioned, her state has a one to four ratio. I would kill for South Dakota to have a one to four ratio. My kids were in a one to five. Like that’s state licensure. I, we want everything to be more equal.

“We’re asking for the budget of the country to be more closely aligned with the values.”

Kelly McRae: There is one thing that keeps coming up for me is…we’re not privileged moms who are asking to be handed things. We are taxpaying workers who are trying to work more. Nobody in this group is looking for accessible childcare so that they can do less. Everyone in this group and everyone who comes to this issue is looking for accessible, affordable, high quality childcare so that they can do more as parents, do more as workers in this economy and be more involved.

RiAnna Kalovsky: We’re asking for the budget of the country to be more closely aligned with the values.

Angela Dixon: I don’t take away from anything. And I don’t know if the other two ladies on this call necessarily know this. I was terminated from my position at the end of last month. And we were lucky enough that my husband was like, we’re not, we’re not gonna stop the daycare yet. Like, this is something that is solid in her life that she thrives. We will cut things if we need to, like goodbye Netflix, goodbye, I don’t know, Costco trips. Like we will cut things to keep her in daycare.

But just being in that position made me realize how privileged it is to be able to afford quality care and not have it tied to my employer, because had I had it tied to my employer, there goes my daycare, and I am not cut out to be a stay at home mom. That is not me. At least not with this gig. Not with this tornado.

Ailen Arreaza: It should be a choice like you were saying, RiAnna. We should have that choice and that’s what I would want. That’s what I want for my kids and their families when they get older, to be able to choose. Some people want to be stay at home parents, some want to work. It should be a choice. We shouldn’t be continued to be put in these impossible situations where we have to make impossible decisions about how to take care of our kids.

Because we all…for some of us, are better parents because we work and some of us are better parents because we stay home, and we all know what each of our families need and what each of our kids needs and we should be able to have that choice. And I’m so grateful to all of you for continuing to fight for that.

I wanted to ask each of you one last question and it’s what would you say to a parent who’s just feeling the way you were the day that you came across that Reddit thread, at their wits’ end because they don’t know what to do, what to do next? Kelly, you go first.

On what ordinary parents can do to help fix childcare…

“Everybody who is trying to find placement, trying to find a spot for their kid, trying to figure out how to do that kitchen table math and actually be able to afford any of it…there are thousands if not millions of other people who are up against the same problems and the same struggles. It is not you.”

Kelly McRae: It’s not you. That’s been one of the biggest personal benefits to come out of being part of activism is that everybody who is trying to find placement, trying to find a spot for their kid, trying to figure out how to do that kitchen table math and actually be able to afford any of it…there are thousands if not millions of other people who are up against the same problems and the same struggles. It is not you.

So take heart in that, that it’s not personal, but also you can take action about it. And there are lots of other people out there who can relate, who can back you up, who can offer resources and ideas, and who, if we join forces together, can really shift the needle, move the needle, and change things for the better. That’s the hope.

Ailen Arreaza: RiAnna or Angela?

Angela Dixon: Yeah, I would give them a hug, first of all, because that’s what I needed. That’s what I needed. And I would tell them to join us. Be the change that you want to see. Help make that a reality. And yeah, it’s not gonna happen for me. I’m not gonna get…it’s fine. My kid’s gonna be in high school before this actually makes a change, which it sucks, but I’m being realistic. I’m not doing this right now for me. I’m doing this right now for the future generations. And like I said, it sucks. Let’s make that change.

“I’m not doing this right now for me. I’m doing this right now for the future generations.”

Kelly McRae: And that change is possible. In New Mexico, New Mexico has universal childcare for every child that lives in New Mexico. The whole state. It’s possible. It took them 12 years. In Philadelphia, where I was living when my daughter was in pre-K, there’s a free pre-K program available to all three- and four-year-olds that have a Philadelphia address. It’s funded by a tax on soda.

It’s possible. We can do these things. We have to have a little ingenuity and a lot of dedication and get the attention of our legislators and tell them what parents want. One thing we hear from legislators all the time is like, well, gosh, you know, we don’t really hear much from our parent constituents because we’re out here surviving, dude. You know? Like, so it’s possible. It’s possible.

Ailen Arreaza: Yeah, solutions exist for sure.

Kelly McRae: Yeah. Go ahead, RiAnna.

RiAnna Kalovsky: I would tell this person, assuming that they are on the cusp of leaving the workforce, of making that really hard decision, because that’s where I was at. I would tell that person that you don’t have to do everything. Because I grew up with this idea that like, if you’re going to be a part of something, you’re going to be a part of it. And you need to go all in and 100% and you attend every meeting and you’re there the whole time or whatever. Right? You go to every trip to DC. It’s not easy for me to go to DC, right?

I would just say, I would just remind them that you don’t have to do it all, but you do what you can. And if that means you’ve come to two Zooms a year, you did it. You had a part in it. You placed a pebble on the castle of universal childcare.

Ailen Arreaza: I love that. Okay, so how can our listeners learn more about the Campaign for Childcare? Where do they go? How do they sign up? How do they come to Zooms?

Angela Dixon: So you can join us on our Reddit site. It’s r/UniversalChildcare, no spaces.

Kelly McRae: We do have an Instagram account as well, @campaignforchildcare. And…

RiAnna Kalovsky: I would say our Instagram, Reddit and TikTok are the top places for folks to be.

Ailen Arreaza: And it’s campaignforchildcare on Instagram and on TikTok? And then r/UniversalChildcare on Reddit.

Angela Dixon: Yes, because we made the subreddit before we had a name.

Kelly McRae: We’re building the plane as we fly it.

Ailen Arreaza: Well, that’s what parenthood is all about.

Kelly McRae: Do we want to throw out, RiAnna and Angela, do we want to throw out the mom’s pledge?

Angela Dixon: Yeah.

RiAnna Kalovsky: Yeah, we’re still doing it, right? We’ve reached our goal, but we’re still doing it, I believe.

Kelly McRae: Yeah, we blasted through the goal in the first, like, two days, I think. We had a goal of a hundred signatures and we just, that got quickly passed.

Angela Dixon: We are officially 200 moms strong.

Kelly McRae: Um, so there’s, there’s more to come and we’re open to a lot of things. Like Angela said, anybody who brings something is welcome to share it and nobody has to bring everything. As we do with parenting, you show up in the ways that you’re able, and you care for yourself and your community at the same time. So anybody who’s excited about these ideas and excited about getting involved can check out our membership form. It is And eventually a million moms strong would be a pretty powerful thing to put together.

RiAnna Kalovsky: We know they’re out there.

Ailen Arreaza: Oh, they’re out there. For sure.

Angela Dixon: We see you. Come join us.

Ailen Arreaza: Yeah. Thank you so much. This conversation has been life-giving. I am so inspired by all the work that you’re doing and all the ways that you’re pushing for change in our country. Thank you so much for joining. It was a pleasure to talk to you today.

Kelly McRae: Thank you, and thank you for uplifting all this, Ailen, we appreciate it.


Listen to Episode 7: 

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In case you missed it, be sure to check out episode 5 — Raising eco warriors: Parenting in the climate change era.

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