The past two years living in a pandemic have not been good to anyone, but especially women, particularly moms. We've all seen the headlines by now about the child care crisis that has been keeping women out of the workforce. Most mothers would increase their earning and seek more job opportunities if they had greater access to RELIABLE and AFFORDABLE child care. A majority of women become the default parent by, well default, leaving females the majority of the burden when it comes to child care. But as adults choose to have children later in life, women's health care rights and access is under attack, and women begin to gain equal pay in the workplace we can't help but wonder what will happen moving forward.
The pandemic really brought to light the difficulties families face when it comes to finding reliable and affordable child care. An astonishing 1.1 million women left the workforce in 2020. An alarming number of parents sited high cost, limited availability, and inconvenient program hours were the driving force for them to leave the workforce. This issue existed pre-covid but we really saw a surge as women left (and many did not return to) their professions to be full-time caregivers as daycares and schools shut down. The United States lags behind most first world countries when it comes to child care. America lacks paid parental leave, public education options for early childhood learning, flexible hours and times for care and price points that are unattainable or illogical to families. We decided to explore and share different child care options that may be available, but not always attainable, to everyone. We are sharing three parental viewpoints, options, and opinions from three different households. Not only did these new mothers face the challenging task of choosing and securing childcare, they also faced the criticism and scrutiny of deciding to continue working in their chosen profession or staying home as a primary caregiver. Mind you there was never a question of if their husbands would continue in their profession and none of the men received any paternal leave (let alone paid paternal leave).
Katie: Family Child Care
For my husband and I, there was never any question if/when I would be returning to work. I would complete the allocated time given for maternity leave and we would then brainstorm a plan of action for childcare. I am a higher education administrator at a college and completed graduate school in 2013. I have always wanted the family and career, but how would I make that work.? As I neared the end of maternity leave the thought of missing any milestone would leave me in a panic and filled with mom guilt.
Having a baby during a pandemic puts a lot of things in perspective. Under pre-covid circumstances I was looking at daycares and asking friends for their childcare contacts. Cue the pandemic and once she joined us earth side, I became very unsettled about having her go to anyone other than a family member or close friend. After some brainstorming, review of benefits and many logistical conversations, my dad was able to retire and take on watching Remi while I worked full-time. The man is a SAINT. He spends his days watching Encanto, learning Cocomelon songs and shopping on Amazon for the latest piece of jungle gym equipment to be delivered overnight so she can have something to surprise her in the morning. They have their daily routine and I wouldn't trade it for the world!
So how exactly do we make this work? I've been asked quite a few times, how do you make it out of the house in the morning? I pack my work bag and Rem's bag the night before and make sure my clothes are laid out. We leave the house while she is in her Pjs which is comfy for her and saves time for me. She has a snack in the morning while I make coffee for the house. We brush our teeth and are out the door just in time for my husband to take his first work call of the day.
Lets circle back to the milestones because I feel like this is a huge issue for most working moms. We all have the fear that we will miss out on the milestones and the "firsts". This may sound insane, but in this instance the universe was on my side, Remi must have felt my energy and decided to wait for me. She crawled for the first time at home one evening with my husband and I. I took a day off for a playdate with my cousin and she decided to take her first few steps by her house while I was recording her. I was even sitting on the bathroom floor while she peed on the potty for the first time. These may seem minuet to some but these moments are EVERYTHING to me. My parents are great about sending pictures and videos throughout the day to keep me posted on what she is up to and the funny things she says.
Working full-time not only benefits me personally but it benefits my husband and my daughter. By keeping my career and caring for my child, I have learned how to multitask more effectively, communicate more openly and embrace the moments together more efficiently. I found what works for us (in this moment). Am I exhausted at the end of the day? ABSOLUTELY! Do I miss her madly while she is away? 100%! When we spend time together we get lost in the moments being just "us".
Dina: Daycare Child Care
Like Katie, going back to work was always the plan for my family. When I was about 20 weeks pregnant, we started touring daycares nearby. After extensive research and lots of meetings and tours, discussions with friends and family members who have been through the childcare search, etc., we chose the daycare that best suited our family and made us feel at home.
Fast forward to March, and everything changed - daycares were shut down and we were left very unsettled and unsure of what was to come. Imagining having a new baby home with me every day while working (or attempting to…) was unimaginable to me. We rode it out and waited to see what would happen, as we really didn’t have a choice. By the time August rolled around, daycares were back open with safety precautions in place, so off Dino went! A few (LONG) quarantines due to exposure came and went, making us more grateful for our childcare than ever each time, and we all survived!
We couldn’t be happier and more confident in our choice to send Dino to daycare, regardless of the circumstance. He is a happy, social, well-adjusted two-year-old, and we credit a lot of that to daycare. In addition to the socialization aspect, a huge benefit we saw to choosing daycare is Dino is building a strong immune system that will hopefully help him combat germs when he starts school. Though (especially in the pandemic) it is not the choice for everyone, the daily interactions with other kids of all ages, the engagement from his teachers, and curriculum have shown through in the development we see in him every week. His teachers are like family to us - we adore them (as does he!), and it makes every drop off easy and exciting!
Are there things I feel I miss out on with him being at daycare all day? Sure! Is getting us all out the door on time a shit show? Almost every day! The good outweighs the bad, though. My husband and I both have something “separate”, our time with him is so much more intentional, and his sheer happiness to be both at daycare and at home makes it all worth it.
Amanda: Stay At Home Mom
I'm JUST a stay at home mom. I can't tell you how many times I've said this phrase with the emphasis on JUST. There is no JUST about being a primary caregiver to your children. There is no JUST when you become the default parent. But let me start from the beginning...
I am well educated. I have a degree in kinesiology and a minor in health with K through 12 teacher certification. I taught physical and health education for 7 years in an affluent suburb outside of Chicago and eventually left that profession to help my husband grow an incredibly successful appraisal company (side note: emphasis on helped - he build his company from scratch at the age of 18 by himself). At the same time I got my real estate license and started a new career path as a realtor (insert shameless plug: call me for any of your buying, selling or rental needs in the Chicagoland area). I'll summarize the drama, but for a brief period of time my husband merged his company and they put me in a salary paid position with benefits. This company did NOT offer any paid maternity leave and I used up what limited vacation and sick time I had left for maternity leave considering most was used for my wedding and honeymoon (well worth it by the way). As many of you know I gave birth during the pandemic and when I returned from my unpaid maternity leave my position was no longer available with zero warning. So here I was... new mom with no job. I had worked from home for years with the exception of showing property. The original plan was to continue working my 9 to 5 for benefits and additional income, but plans change. I didn't need to figure out childcare. The decision to become a stay at home mom was made for me. It didn't make sense for my family during a pandemic or financially to try and find a new 40+ hour a week job that required the added expense of childcare. Although I continued to help my husband’s company and practiced real estate my main profession became mom.
You’re probably wondering why the hell is she telling us all this. Well, I want to emphasize that I worked my entire life, like most stay at home moms. I didn’t aspire or dream of being a primary caregiver. Not having a salary paid position and making my own money was and still is a real mind-fuck. As you can imagine a career in real estate is a roller coaster and not consistent income. Some months are incredible while others are flops. So I hate when SAHM get categorized as lazy or unmotivated. The notion that being home all day with children is relaxing is mind boggling and anyone who thinks that clearly has no experience. I wish my days were carefree and spent lounging on my couch eating bonbons. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The past two years of being a stay at home mom have taught me so much. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I’m in the trenches 24/7, my patience is tested in ways I never imagined, the days become redundant (have you seen the movie groundhogs day?), I crave adult interactions and ”me time” but I swear I wouldn’t have it any other way. I truly believe this happened for a reason and we have really adapted well to our situation! As real as I keep it on this blog I know I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom. I recognize it is a luxury and privilege not everyone can afford. Time moves extremely quick when you have kids. Too fast. So although I see the benefits to daycare and alternative child care options I believe I am lucky to be able to spend this quality time with my son. This period of my life is temporary. In the not so distant future when Sonny starts school I know I am going to miss our time together and crave the one-on-one interactions. I value these years focused on being JUST a mom. I’ve never feared missing a milestone. I’ve been there for every first and that is AMAZING! We have an incredible bond and countless memories because of the quality and quantity of time we are together. And even though there is a lot of pressure on myself to create and facilitate a positive learning environment I get the opportunity to manage that aspect of our life. Our schedule is flexible yet consistent allowing us to make what we believe is important a priority. When I do get the opportunity to work or for “me time” or date night or vacation or a girls trip sans child I have absolutely no guilt saying yes since we have so much time together. I don’t know how I would feel the same if I worked full-time.
Being a stay at home mom is the most challenging and demanding job I have ever had, but it is also the most rewarding. SAHM are incredible just like working moms. There are benefits and downfalls to every child care option. Every parent needs to decide what option is most conducive for their family lifestyle. I find it extremely frustrating to feel categorized and looked down on because I am a stay at home mom. Choosing my family over a career, even temporarily, doesn’t make me a better or worse mom. I also find it extremely frustrating that I feel like I have to justify and explain my situation when the truth is I am happy with this lifestyle even though it is exhausting and challenging. Maybe if I had to make the difficult decision to walk away from my career I would feel different than I do. But if I'm being honest I have no clue how working mom gets themselves and their kid(s) out the door in the morning when I can barely get us looking half decent to run to target! I am in constant awe of you.
Good parents put the needs of their children first. Great parents make sure they prioritize the needs of their children AND themselves. The truth is Sonny, Remi and Dino have all thrived under completely different child care options so we see the benefits to all of them. No one option is the right choice. They all have incredible benefits and unfortunate challenges. The entire point of this piece is to emphasize there is no perfect fit. No one has this completely figured out. No matter what your child care looks like you are going to miss and sacrifice something. That’s the truth about parenting! We hope this piece serves as a friendly reminder to keep an open mind, to stifle our judgements of others, and to support everyone even when they choose a different path than us. Just because someone doesn‘t choose the same path as us doesn’t make their journey less valuable or inferior to our own. We are all doing what we believe is best for our families.
XO - Katie, Amanda & Dina