Over the past several years, the U.S. has altered the landscape of motherhood, piling on even more new pressures and demands. As the U.S. commemorates International Women’s Day, we must also acknowledge that the ongoing child care crisis is keeping women out of the workforce, curbing their earning potential, and severely limiting their career and personal choices.

Here are the first five things you need to know about the implications of the child care crisis for women and mothers. 

Finding and affording quality child care shouldn’t be the reason women are forced to leave their jobs. But the number one reason women left or changed jobs was a lack of accessible and affordable child care. According to a 2022 report, a total of 46% of mothers who remain unemployed left the workforce in 2021 due to child care issues.

But, as we’ve seen, America’s child care crisis is disproportionately affecting women. The gender quit gap is widest in the states with the most child care disruptions. States with among the highest rates of child care disruptions, such as Maine and Rhode Island, saw women leaving the workforce at a 1.7% higher rate than men. States with some of the lowest rates of child care disruptions saw no gap in quits rates between men and women in January.         

And businesses are feeling the impact. In a recent study released by the Manufacturing Institute, women cited the lack of flexibility (63.1%) and the lack of child care support (49.2%) as their top challenges, according to company leaders. Meanwhile, women currently make up only 29% of the manufacturing workforce. If the industry increased that share to 35%, manufacturers could fill the 746,000 job vacancies open today, according to the study.

And as child care prices soar and quality care becomes even more difficult to find, women will continue to bear the burden of this crisis. One report found that from 2020 to 2021 mothers took on the majority of child care responsibilities, spending an average of 7.1 hours per day caring for their children, in addition to their jobs, compared to 4.9 hours for fathers.

Increasing federal investments into child care is a game-changer for both women and the U.S. economy.  Reliable access to child care can generate an additional $79,000 in lifetime earnings for mothers. That money helps children and families, and in turn contributes to the U.S.’s economic growth.

The path forward: Child care is essential for parents – especially mothers – to be able to work, but the current early learning and care system is not equipped to handle the demand. As a result, too many moms are being held back. Congress has the power to help solve America’s child care crisis by passing significant, sustained investments in early learning and care.