Leave the mommy wars out of tax reform

Mothers have enough to worry about without being thrown into the ever-present Mommy Wars – those endless debates about whether being a stay-at-home mother is harder than being a mom who works outside of the home. Let us all agree that parenting is both rewarding and incredibly difficult.

While moms may spend more time discussing potty training or social media and phone privileges, the family tax bill is an ever-present issue due to its direct impact on the family budget. Why? Because kids are so darn expensive.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that it will cost about $234,000 in 2015 dollars to raise a child until he or she is 17 years old. That is not even including college. Child care costs are big-ticket items on this list.

Care.com, with New America, found the national average for the annual cost of child care is 31 percent of the median household income. The average cost of day care in the country is just under $200 per week per child. Hiring an after-school sitter for about 15 hours a week averages $214 per week. Employing a nanny is about $556 per week. This is the average – if you live in New York, California or Washington, D.C., you’ll likely pay more.

These are the kinds of costs that make families think twice about having more children – or any children at all. Mothers (and fathers) stay up at night worrying about the quality of care their children receive while they work to keep food on the table. And low-income and middle-class families are hit the hardest.

About three-quarters of all Americans believe it is better for families to have one parent home with children and just over 40 percent of American families strive to make that happen, either with a parent or close relative taking care of their young children. The word “strive” paints an accurate picture of the 10.4 million stay-at-home moms, because despite pervasive stereotypes, the majority of them are not wealthy women.

This is not about government coming to the rescue, but rather families keeping more of their hard-earned dollars. Pro-family tax reform is good for America, plain and simple. Abraham Lincoln stated: “The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people.”

A pro-family tax structure encourages families to grow and allows parents the choice of staying at home to care for their children or getting a paying job. This freedom helps families build safe and secure homes, which in turn benefits the country as a whole.

On the policy side of tax reform, an increase in the child tax credit can provide relief to both families with working parents and families with a stay-at-home parent.

Child care subsidies can help with the expensive costs of day care and the like. But their benefits are limited to a small subset of the families that use those facilities, and not families that have a parent who stays home or families that are able to rely on other family members for full- or part-time child care.

Both political parties should be commended for wanting to meaningfully work on the federal level to help enable families choose the best option for quality care for their children, while working towards prosperity and a better life. But the solution cannot be more money thrown at problems that instead need thoughtful and creative ideas to benefit as many Americans as possible.

By increasing the child tax credit – now up to $1,000 annually for each child 16 and under – to a maximum of $2,500 a year per child, hardworking lower-income and middle-class parents will get the relief they need, putting more of their own money directly into their pockets.

This money will not just be available for child care but also for food, shelter and educational options like supplemental tutoring or sports programs. This ultimately has a multiplied impact – helping more families and allowing parents more choices, while encouraging economic equality.

President Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump has taken on the child tax credit issue, working closely with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Both would like to ensure that this reform is pro-family, because they understand that tax relief for families is an investment in America’s future.

As a mother who has both stayed at home and worked part-time or full-time, it is obvious that the more choices we have to provide for our families the better. Sadly, some moms do not have the opportunity to choose.

Congress should seize this historic opportunity to truly reform the tax system and make it pro-family. As part of that effort, forgotten families with children should be allowed to keep more of their own paychecks. This is an opportunity to make a life-changing difference in the lives of American families that are working hard every day to make ends meet.

Families are the crucial social institution tasked with safety and security and the inculcation of skills and values that create healthy, productive citizens necessary for the future of a thriving nation. Tax reform is not about numbers. It is about people.

Penny Young Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest women’s public policy organization. She is the author of the book "Feisty and Feminine: A Rallying Cry for Conservative Women" (Zondervan 2016).