It’s Time for Upgrades to the Tired Systems we Work in
“(I need) safe childcare so I can work well to ensure our financial security and then to be able to better enjoy the time I have with my kids. …I’m always trying to work while always trying to parent and take care of my children and our home. And I’m never actually able to do any of it well.
“(I need) close, reliable, Covid-friendly, affordable childcare and a boss that has realistic expectations from a freshly finished breastfeeding new mom.”
“It is impossible to achieve any semblance of balance between work and family responsibilities. I am able to work from home 1 day/week, but that is challenging while trying to help kids with their school work. On top of everything, I’m going through a divorce and navigating a complete upheaval of my identity…”
Over 1,500 parents have shared their stories in our pandemic survey since March. They’re primarily Moms (95%) working from home (73%) without childcare (80%.) And almost one year into lockdown, they’re trying valiantly to hold onto their jobs and sanity.
Pre-pandemic, most parents worked and relied on the income. But now, if you want to keep your career afloat, there are 3 options. And they’re not great. You can either work around-the-clock, find childcare – which is harder than winning the lottery right now — or negotiate a leave of absence. It shouldn’t be this way. But Covid, although devastating, is leading to new ideas for real systems change that will make working parenthood better.
Childcare Was Always Hard, But Now It’s Harder
“(I need) a helper so I could actually do work it’s hard to work when kids are remote.”
“I need More access to childcare. Most childcare is locked up due to high demand or closures.”
“I was forced to get a job when my husband was laid off and had to start over in his career. My 15 year old does school and watches his brothers. The school is starting back up, but we can’t find someone to pick them up from school and there is no after school care.”
Anyone who has tried to focus on work and respond to pleas from hungry, tired or distant-learning children, knows that it’s unsustainable. Pre-Covid, childcare was expensive and elusive for most families. And now, the largely un-professionalized industry – a patchwork of daycares, sitters, nannies and activity centers — is eroding under financial pressure.
Because Care Isn’t Valued in Our Society
“(I need) money because I have been unemployed to care for my kids since May”
“… I had to quit my job because they wouldn’t allow working from home and childcare expenses would have actually caused me to spend more than I was making in salary.”
“…I need to be able to care for my home and family, as well as return to pulling a paycheck to add financial support. I can’t do all of the care and cleaning and errands and work at the same time. We can’t risk care or education outside of the home without the protection of vaccines for us and all others.”
In the US, there has been little support for how we raise, train or educate the next generation. The lack of paid leave, anemic tax credits, paltry pay for educators and slow support for care workers’ rights, all sing the same song of indifference. Parents have had to just ‘figure out’ an unfriendly system. So, they’re bubbling, podding, moving in grandparents, shifting schedules and liberally employing the use of screens to keep their jobs.
But the Pandemic Can Lead to Real Systems Change
“(I need) more time in school for kids or greater tax benefits and employer sponsored grants for childcare solutions.”
“Making sure that our children are safe and that any parent or guardian is not penalized due to unknown circumstances regarding childcare, or school closures or being forced to take time off or lost wages with fear of potential job loss.”
For decades, proposed solutions to these problems were met with inertia or resistance. And awareness, that work can’t exist without childcare, only became real when the closure of schools and daycares threatened the economic recovery. Enlightened employers, also reliant on parent productivity, are offering more flexibility than ever. Many have upgraded paid time off policies and are subsidizing childcare expenses. Although it’s progress, only 12% of surveyed parents have access to these perks. And most are crying out for permanent solutions.
Paid Leave and New Child Tax Credits are on The Table
Paid leave, a political hot-potato for years, has made a comeback in the pandemic. There’s growing momentum to make paid family leave permanent. Although millions have left voluntarily, many more have been laid off and furloughed. And surveyed parents continue to share stories that childcare responsibilities threaten their jobs. As one Mother stated, “I need a nanny so I can keep my job.” Paid leave can protect income and mitigate caregiver bias that’s still common at work.
And the new administration’s stimulus plan includes a proposed benefit of up to $3,600 per child. This would be for all families, whether parents are in the workforce or not. The level of support is highest for the most vulnerable, to help alleviate the heartbreaking poverty now rampant across communities.
And There’s a Mom-Stimulus
The Marshall Plan for Moms, with a proposed monthly stipend of $2,400, is perhaps the boldest initiative yet. Passionate advocates, including celebrities and industry leaders, have signed an open letter. The plan takes aim at the economic losses that disproportionately affect Mothers. And the larger, underlying issue, that care isn’t valued in our society. Although there are legitimate criticisms, if the unpaid domestic labor required to maintain our economy suddenly had a price tag, it would force different solutions.
In this time of grief, chaos and unrelenting pressure, there are glimmers of hope. The pandemic may ultimately create meaningful improvements to systems that support working families.
Share your experiences of how life has changed during social distance, it’s quick and the results from this study will be used to advocate better support for parents.
Employers, let us help you transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.