When I was growing up, I wasn’t raised in a dual-working-parent home. My father worked, and my mother tended house. Just as their parents before them, and so on and so forth. However, due to economic changes and the incredibly high cost of childcare, it’s not a choice for our family. In order to provide the level of care and childhood experiences at least equal to what we were given, both my husband and I have to work full-time jobs. And not just that, jobs with long hours.
For many working parents like us, childcare is something we take very seriously. If we can’t be with our children, we want them to be around those who are highly qualified to take care of them and enrich their lives in ways we wish we had the chance to during working hours. But those childcare centers come at a price, and a hefty one at that. Do you need childcare 6:30am – 6:30pm? You can count on shelling out several thousand dollars a month for one of the “premier” childcare facilities and schools.
But what if we didn’t have jobs that, though they keep us away from our child during the day, couldn’t afford us the ability to place our children at the schools we felt were truly best for their development? What if we felt we had to “settle” based on our income and the growing cost of childcare? Further, where does the money come from when your children are on holiday break for 2.5 weeks and then there’s Spring break? Some jobs don’t allow for parents to take off this amount of time.
Many parents, and we’re not just talking about those living below the poverty line. . . we’re talking about hard working, middle class, blue-collar workers. . . are increasingly trying to “make it work.” They feel trapped and wind up placing their children in facilities that are either unregulated or those that they can afford based on their salary. (Find out more about the fight to provide alternatives to unregulated facilities by visiting www.kellierynnacademy.com)
Further, many couples are putting off the decision to have children until they reach a certain financial point in their professional careers, so that they can afford childcare that is commensurate with their wishes and desires. Whereas my parents had me in their late 20’s, many are waiting now until their late 30’s or even early 40’s to be able to provide the quality of life and not sacrifice their placement in a competitive workplace. After all, the cost of raising children is so expensive that financial income does matter.
Each fall, I think to myself, “It’s October. I better start reserving babysitters for the few days around Thanksgiving and the 2.5 weeks around Christmas and the New Year.” Once I do, I realize that we’ve spent more money on childcare during the holidays than we ever did on presents under the tree. And is that even okay? I don’t really think so. Do you? Surely there has to be a better way.
I think it’s worth a conversation. At what point do we demand quality childcare at reasonable prices for working parents? And how do we do it?
Ivanka Trump has made this one of her platforms, and as a working mom, I can get behind that. (Even though I know she probably has several nannies and as much help as she wants.)
She has a point, though. Should mothers and/or fathers who work outside the home be forced to turn over entire paychecks to childcare just in an effort to stay relevant and present in the work place?
As for me, I’ve got your usual dose of mom-guilt over it all. Missing one of my children’s first steps due to being at work was difficult. Thankfully, a teacher caught them on her iPhone camera. However, to stay competitive in an ever cut-throat work environment and professional landscape, I felt I had no choice but to go back to work. Plus, I needed to pay for the tuition to our children’s’ school.
Others aren’t so lucky. They are mandated to be back on the job at 6-8 weeks post-partum.
We want to hear from you. What are your experiences with balancing work and childcare? How do YOU navigate the waters? How do you make it work? As a community of parents, it’s about time we start trying to find solutions and demanding that workplaces enable us to be who our children need us to be: present.