Childcare costs a small fortune in the US. It’s one of the most frustrating things about being a parent. As this article from Parents Magazine states, “You can’t afford spiraling child-care costs, but you can’t afford not to work.” I found myself in this position when I was laid off for the summer. I looked into a few daycares because I figured I would have to work at a brick-and-mortar business that would be from 9-5 — and I quickly discovered that even with two incomes, my husband and I couldn’t afford to put Mary in daycare. Not a chance. It’s crazy the amount of money that is spent at these places! I’d have to take out a second mortgage. No really. I’m not kidding at all. And that’s not even for a fancy shmancy school. It’s for a regular, everyday daycare.
I actually interviewed to be an assistant at a daycare in Pittsburgh not too long ago. I would have been in the toddler room; before the interview, I thought Oh the toddler room is perfect! If I get this position, I’ll be able to bring Mary with me! Haha, so naive, right?
So the first issue was the interview itself. It’s a daycare, sure, but I wasn’t allowed to bring Mary to the interview. Which is fine, I kind of get that (except, not really, because she could’ve just played with other kids while I was interviewed, but okay, we’ll let that one slide). But it caused a headache for me and my husband, because he had a full schedule of meetings the day of my interview, and he had to cancel them in order to stay home with Mary. Now, he didn’t mind it — I mean, given the choice between sitting in meetings and playing with his daughter all morning, he’ll clearly take the latter — but still. It was stressful. And we really had no clue as to what time I would be returning from it, so he couldn’t really give a time for when he would be back in the office. But like I said, we’ll let that one slide.
During the interview, I asked about bringing Mary to work with me, if I was hired for the position. The owner became slightly uncomfortable, then said, “Well, she would be put on the waitlist. We don’t have an opening right at this moment, but give it 4 or 5 months.” What?? Basically what I’m hearing is “You will be taking care of kids your daughter’s age all day, but she can’t come with you, even though this is a daycare and you have to put her in daycare.” I mean, I guess I kind of get it? … No. Wait. That’s a lie. I totally don’t get it.
Sometimes I feel as though the world is totally against moms. Working, not working, part-time working, whatever. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. Why in the world would I want to pay someone else to watch my kid while I watched kids? It just didn’t make sense to me. It still doesn’t make sense to me. I wonder, how many mamas out there are watching kids in order to pay someone else to watch their kids? Now, I don’t think that these daycares should offer free childcare for the moms they employ; but I do think these moms should be allowed to bring their kids at a discount. Without a waiting list.
Needless to say, I didn’t take the job. There was no way to make that work, because aside from the fact that we would’ve had to put Mary in a different daycare, we also would have been on a waiting list, so who knows when I would’ve been able to start working?
When I met Jess and Priya, I knew instantly that they “got it.” Jess let me bring Mary to my interview with her: in fact, she provided toys for Mary to play with while we chatted. That’s amazing. Mary didn’t interfere with the interview at all, either: She just toddled around the room, and occasionally brought us toys. This was huge for me. Not only was this woman willing to talk to me with my baby in the room, but she also made me feel completely normal and welcomed. Which makes me wonder, why can’t this be a thing? If a mom needs to go to an interview and can’t find help, why can’t she simply bring her child? What does it hurt? It’s not “professional”? Why? Moms can multitask like no one else on earth: They can hold a baby, eat lunch, and hold a conference call all at the same time (I know, I did it this afternoon). So if a woman is truly in a bind, why can’t the potential employer just say, “You know what? You can just bring your child. No big deal.” Because otherwise, she will likely have to cancel her interview; then she doesn’t have a chance at all of getting the job. And that is the real tragedy.
So what do we do? How can we help moms? For starters, we can try to make moms feel less awkward if they need help. We could try to be understanding instead of hostile. Let that potential employee bring her child to her interview; she might just be the person the company needs, and if she has to cancel her interview, you’ll never know. Flexable is hoping to work with businesses and create a culture of childcare everywhere – so that moms don’t have to work themselves silly to pay for daycare, or miss an interview, or feel as though they cannot attend an event because who will watch the kids? It’s a real need in our society, and it’s time that parents, moms especially, speak up and aren’t afraid to ask for what they need.