06/06/2012 07:19 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2012

Making a Play for Single Mothers and Child Care

I love baseball. I love it so much that I pursued a degree in sports management with the intention of someday working in the front office for the Chicago Cubs. I never thought about why I loved the game until a recent visit to see my grandmother. She's 86 years old and not in the best of health. I was so surprised when I arrived to see that she had a baseball game on every television in the house. Tracing my love of the game back to my grandmother reminded me how important she was to my early development.

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother and aunts when I was a kid because my mother returned to work shortly after I was born. The U.S. Census Bureau counted 3.4 million single mothers in 1970 and I am proud to say I was raised by one of the them. Today, the number of single moms has increased nearly 300 percent as there are an estimated 9.9 million single mothers currently reported in the census. Forty-nine percent of single mothers work full-time. Here's the disconnect: there's plenty of support for the idea that women are critically important to the growth of our national and global economy, but there is no meaningful dialogue about changes needed to beef up our child care delivery system for the 21st century. Ask any single mother and she'll tell you that reliable and affordable child care is her biggest problem to solve.

It's our turn at the plate. If we are to capitalize on women as an untapped resource to build a more robust economy, we need to be intentional in creating policies that have the best interests of single working mothers in mind. A few singles and doubles strung together will put runs on the board. We can work together to do the following:

  • Identify opportunities for women to advance their education as non-traditional students with family obligations
  • Increase political advocacy as a means to influence state and federal policy that affects the lives of single mothers as primary breadwinners
  • Empower mothers to pursuing life-enhancing goals in addition to taking positive action for ensuring the safety of their families
  • Develop family-friendly policies in the workplace that recognize paid leave as a vital resource for working women and women who are expecting

If we want to swing for the fences, help single mothers by creating public-private partnerships that offer low-cost or supplemental quality childcare so mom can work a 9-5 job, or a 3-11 job, or any variation in between. The Illinois Action for Children concludes that child care is one of the largest generators of growth in other industries, generating up to $2.30 of additional business in Cook County for every new dollar spent in child care. For single mothers, providing accessible, affordable, and quality child care is how we win the game.