Mother’s Day is the day when we celebrate our moms and the other women in our lives who have given us love, guidance, inspiration, and support.What we don’t often do on Mother’s …
Mother’s Day is the day when we celebrate our moms and the other women in our lives who have given us love, guidance, inspiration, and support.
What we don’t often do on Mother’s Day, however, is take a moment to consider the struggles that some mothers and caregivers experience every day. With the introduction of my new job as the Executive Director of Project Undercover, Inc on Nov. 29, 2021, I started to reminisce about my own past as a first-time mother. I think with the passage of time we tend to diminish what we have experienced.
I had my first daughter when I was 21. She was unplanned, I was single. Did I take precautions? Absolutely. But she was on her way. At the time I was working two jobs because I was saving to buy my first house. I was suddenly faced with being a single mother who could not afford to pay for daycare, rent, electricity, car insurance, food, diapers, and the supplies my baby would need. I was fortunate though, because I had a wonderful mother who let me move back into her home. Not all women or families have similar support.
A baby will need six to twelve diapers per day. The average cost of diapers is $80-$90 per month. A typical family will spend over $1,000 per year on diapers. For a family of four living on $24,000 per year, this is often a choice between food, housing, heat, proper clothing, or diapers. Rhode Island families are all currently dealing with inflation and the rising cost of housing, food, clothing, gas and childcare.
There are no federal social programs that address diaper need. We have so many programs that address food, shelter, health, and wellness insecurity, but nothing for diapers. Why are diapers not covered as a part of health and wellness for children? The inequity surrounding diaper funding for low-income families in America is unfathomable. Diapers are just as essential to an infant as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Babies who remain too long in a soiled diaper are exposed to potential health risks, with increased health care costs.
There are inequities in our tax system that compound the issue. As of July 1, 2021, 35 states were charging sales tax on diapers. The state of Florida on March 14, 2022 did eliminate the diaper tax for Florida families starting July 1, 2022, but only for a year. Maryland became the 12th state to eliminate sales tax on diapers on April 8, 2022. In the state of Missouri, this month a bill has been introduced by Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern to eliminate sales tax on diapers. Sales tax on diapers is something that should be eliminated in all states permanently. Families in Rhode Island are fortunate to not have a diaper tax.
Some people may suggest that low-income families should use reusable cloth diapers to incur less expense and they are better for the environment. I know this because I was one of those people that used cloth diapers with my first child. The issue with this is that day care centers will not accept this as an option. It is considered unsanitary for their workers and other children in the centers. The families themselves then must regularly wash the reusable cloth diapers as well. Most don’t have access to washing machines and dryers in their homes so they would have to walk, take public transportation or drive to a laundromat. Families would then need additional funds for bus fare or gas, laundry detergent and the coin operated machines.
This Mother’s Day, I have decided to think of the moms who instead of receiving flowers or jewelry would just like to receive the bare necessities to get their children through the day.
Diaper insecurity for low-income families is a real issue in the United States and in Rhode Island. I as well as Project Undercover believes that every child has the right to a clean dry bottom. If you do too, I encourage you to learn more about our work at www.projectundercover.org.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Diane LeValley is the Executive Director of Project Undercover. Project Undercover, a Rhode Island based, 30-year-old nonprofit agency providing diapers, socks, underwear, and wipes to RI’s neediest children.