Moms Find Balancing Work And Family Complicated By Outdated Laws

New Book Shows Inflexible Labor Laws, Onerous Child Care Laws Present Challenge for Modern Families

DALLAS (May 9, 2006) – Who's going to look after my kids while I'm at work, and how am I going to afford it? How can I make it to my child's soccer game or take her to the doctor? These are just a few of the questions today's modern working mothers struggle with. And according to a new book – Leaving Women Behind: Modern Families, Outdated Laws – the government is making those choices more difficult.

"Whether it's the inflexibility of our nation's labor laws or the hurdles for adequate child care, outdated laws make being a working mom more difficult than it should be," said Kimberley Strassel, co-author of the book and editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal .

According to the book, our major economic institutions — including tax law, labor law, and employee benefits law, as well as Social Security, and retirement policies — were designed for families with a full-time worker and a stay-at-home spouse. By comparison, they punish every other arrangement. The book argues that our laws should be reformed in order to meet the needs of modern women. For example:

  • In a free labor market, one would expect to find a wide variety of work arrangements. Not every two-earner couple will want to work 40-hour weeks. Some might opt for 25- to 30-hour weeks so they can spend more time with each other or raising children. But rigid tax and employee benefits laws make such arrangements largely impossible for people who need health insurance, pensions and other benefits.
  • Women raising children also often want flexibility in working hours, allowing them to attend a child's soccer game or take them to the doctor one week and make up the hours the following week. However, rigid labor laws often deny them that opportunity.

In addition, the book notes that basic federal policy treats childcare expenses as rare and unusual, rather than an ongoing and integral part of family life. Women find that there is rarely adequate tax relief, and in many cases, it is arbitrary. The book also notes that some families find that it is impossible to find adequate daycare services given the maze of laws and regulations that bar new providers and drive up costs.

"The childcare hurdles that modern families have to jump are a new and daunting challenge," noted Strassel. "Taken as a whole, the only uniting theme behind the hodgepodge of childcare help is that it has largely been an afterthought."

Rather than dabbling, the authors suggest Congress should take a sweeping approach to childcare policies. For example, reforms should:

  • Encourage flexibility in labor and employee benefits law so that parents who prefer to take care of their own children have a greater opportunity to do so;
  • Allow working parents who use informal childcare services, such as a friend or relative, to claim the tax credit;
  • Make the Dependent Care Spending Account universal; and
  • Free potential daycare providers from onerous state and local laws that are largely molded by special interests.

Leaving Women Behind: Modern Families, Outdated Laws is by Kimberley Strassel, editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal; John C. Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA); and Celeste Colgan, an NCPA senior fellow. It is published by Rowman & Littlefield in cooperation with the Manhattan Institute and is available at booksellers, including