And while they must be away at work, parents are increasingly stressed over the shortage of safe, affordable daycare.
CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports some local governments are now looking for solutions.
Two-year-old Clara Marsh spends a large part of her day away from home at an award-winning preschool. And her mother, Jane Marsh, says it isn't cheap.
"It's the second largest expense right now for us, after our mortgage and once we have our second child it will be the biggest expense in our budget monthly."
As in the case of the Marshes, many American parents are paying more than $6,000 annually per child and costs continue to escalate, making daycare an equal opportunity budget buster.
"Parents from CEO's of corporations down to people who run temporary janitorial services are worried about the childcare that both they have and their employees have," says Barbara O'Brien of the Colorado Children's Campaign.
Access to affordable daycare has become a recruiting tool in today's tight labor market and hits close to home for communities looking to attract a young vibrant workforce. Denver's Mayor Wellington Webb believes if his city can't meet a family's needs, they'll find someplace else that will.
"While they have the kids, they may move to another area. They vote with their feet, they'll move out."
The mayor is pushing voters to pass a sales tax hike this November. That money would help parents with tuition and raise the pay of child care workersmost of whom earn than $15,000 a year.
And Webb doesn't think he's asking for too much. "How can you look these kids in the face and say they're not worth 2 cents on $10, or 20 cents on $100. After the tax breaks we've given business and we've given sports teams, how can you say we're gonna do less for kids?"
If the referendum passes Denver will become the first city to have a sales tax dedicated to child services. Other cities are headed in a similar direction.
Seattle and San Francisco are using tax money to supplement salaries for day care givers. And in Chicago the city has announced plans to help finance preschool at its public schools.
But all of this has critics questioning whether taxpayers should be asked to foot the bill for the care of other people's kids.
"Only 30 percent of families use or want to use daycare, 70 percent don't. And it's simply not fair to force the vast majority of families to subsidize the child care choices of the few," says Darcy Olsen of the Cato Institute.
Jane Marsh's answer to that: "You have to look in the long term, that this is an investment in the future."
But even with the support of the Marshes and a powerful mayor, the Denver referendum is far from a sure bet. But the outcome could be key to determining how cities deal with daycare in he future.