Pro: Cost of childcare prohibitive to working mothers
April 28, 2014 at 12:02 a.m.
Updated April 27, 2014 at 11:28 p.m.
The cost of child care is increasing faster than many family incomes can keep up.
In Texas, child care ranges in price from $2,567 annually to $8,495, depending on the type of center and age of the child.
According to a study released in April by the Pew Research Center, that rising cost is a major contributing factor to an increase in stay-at-home mothers. Crossroads mothers feel the pressure facing parents across the country.
Jackie Chapa, a 27-year-old mother of two, said she never imagined she would be a stay-at-home mother.
"At that point, if I had gone back to doing something like that, I would have barely seen her," Chapa said of her daughter. "To me, that wasn't worth it. I wanted to spend time with her and watch her grow up."
She worked throughout her first pregnancy and always intended to return to her job after her maternity leave. When her husband, Israel, received orders to go to Korea, they decided she would move back to Victoria, her hometown, where she had family support.
Chapa, a 2004 Memorial High School graduate, enrolled in a few semesters at Victoria College for early childhood education. She landed a job making good money as a sales manager at Aaron's Sales & Lease, but it required long hours.
"Child care is expensive," Chapa said.
She and her husband live on a tight budget and pinch pennies wherever they can by using cloth diapers and making their own laundry detergent, baby food and cleaning supplies.
She home-schools her daughter Emily, 5, and plans to do the same with her son, Israel III, who is 9 months old, but it's not a plan she etched in stone.
"Once the children are older, if we decide to put them in school, then I'll go back to work," Chapa said.
The choice would need to come from them. Married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands like Chapa are more likely than single or cohabiting mothers to say caring for family is their primary reason for being home, according to the Pew report.
Single and cohabiting stay-at-home mothers are more likely than married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands to say they are ill or disabled, unable to find a job or enrolled in school. Overall, a growing share of stay-at-home mothers say they are home because they cannot find a job.
In a closer examination of the numbers, Hispanic women stand out as being especially likely to stay home, and it is even more pronounced among Hispanic immigrants, according to the study. One factor might be related to attitudes about what's best for children.
Public opinion has grown more supportive of working mothers, but Americans continue to think that having a mother or parent at home is best for a child, according to the Pew study.
Stephanie Charbula is among the largest share of America's stay-at-home mothers - "traditional" married women with working husbands.
For the 33-year-old mother of two, it was a decision she made mid-career, almost 10 years after her first son was born.
When she had her first son, Chace, in 2004, the thought of staying home crossed her mind, but she didn't want to give up her salary as an accountant.
After her second son, Colt, was born in 2007, the idea came into play again.
With child care bills as high as a house payment, she started considering being a stay-at-home mother in financial terms.
"Time and money is always in my mind," she said. "I started thinking, 'I have all these years to have a career, but I only have my kids for 18 years, and half that time is gone.'"
According to Child Care Aware of America 2013 report, the average annual cost of full-time child care in Texas ranged from $2,567 for school-aged children to $8,495 for infants.
It's a price many mothers are struggling to cover, according to a report released in April by Pew Research Center.
"It was a very difficult struggle within myself," Charbula said. "I put all this time and effort into getting an accounting and master's degree. You want to be the best you can be, and now you've got children, and how can you be the best mom and the best employee at the same time?"