Millions of working parents face challenges in trying to balance the needs of their jobs with the needs of their families. Politicians often suggest that government holds the key to helping them meet these competing demands.

However, as Carrie Lukas describes in this chapter, before embracing a particular policy agenda, it’s important to understand the nature of parents’ challenges—which vary significantly—and the tradeoffs that come with greater government intervention.

Most importantly, women often have very different preferences for balancing work and family, and when greater flexibility and more options are what most women crave, one-size-fits-all government solutions can take society in the wrong direction. Proposals to create federally-funded paid leave programs, for example, could lead to women having few job opportunities, particularly in leadership positions. Expanding federal funding of childcare programs similarly would benefit a minority of working parents, and unfairly favors most parents’ least prefered childcare option: institutional daycare.

Instead, policymakers should focus on creating an environment so that women can pursue their vision for happiness and raise their children as they see fit, and target assistance on those truly in need. This begins with pursuing an agenda to encourage greater economic growth, job creation, and workplace flexibility, and includes consolidating government spending programs and returning those resources to parents.

Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum, a contributor to, and the vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Voice.