-Work opposite shifts
-Depend on extended family, especially grandmas
-Enroll the children in a large daycare center
-Enroll the children in a home-run daycare
-Trade babysitting with friends
-Take the children to work
-One parent stays at home
By the way, that is just a list of the strategies my family has used.
When we moved to our newest military base my husband and I had to put the boys into the base’s daycare so we could attend an all day meeting. For each boy I had to fill out a ten-page packet that outlined the daycare’s rules and regulations. I also had to provide medical clearance forms signed by their doctor.
One of the sheets outlined the behavior rules: should your child cry continuously for over an hour you will be called to retrieve your child, should you need to be called more than five times the daycare center may drop your enrollment. A second sheet outlined what illnesses required you to keep your child at home: temperature over 101 degrees, vomit, diarrhea, and if your child has a contagious disease (ex: pink eye, chicken pox, lice, etc.) your child cannot return to daycare until you get a doctor’s note that the child is no longer contagious. A third sheet was about hours. First, there is the ten-hour rule. The ten-hour rule states that children cannot be at the center for more than ten hours. Second, you cannot be late in picking up your children. If you are late you will pay $1 for each minute. Those three sheets of rules and requirements are pretty standard across the daycare world. Many of those rules are written into daycare licensing procedures and if daycares don’t follow them, they risk losing their licenses.
That’s why articles like this are so infuriating to me. All too often the conversation about mothers in the workplace completely ignore the practicalities of childcare. Someone somewhere has to be watching the children while the parents are at work. It’s the day-in, day-out reality of making childcare work that puts a lot of constraints on parents’ (especially mothers’) work habits.
Finding childcare for my two sons has been the most important factor in my work history. Like a lot of other parents, I spent a lot of my working career depending on relatives to watch the boys when I couldn’t. When my first son was born, my husband and I worked opposite shifts and my mother-in-law worked part-time. Between the three of us, my son always had the complete attention of at least one adult who adored him. When my husband joined the military, we were moved across the country and we no longer had any childcare help from family.
A few months after we moved, I got a part-time job. I got the job while my husband was in-residence at school. I had to find childcare, fast. The base’s daycare offered hourly care with the caveat that it might not always be available. I couldn’t reserve a spot more than a few days in advance. My only other option was enrolling him full-time, but that would have cost more than I was making. I had to find a permanent affordable solution.
We did two weeks of hourly care before I found a home-based daycare that had a part-time opening. It worked great for four months until the provider went on maternity leave. I suddenly had to find care for the summer. Luckily my son’s best friend’s mom agreed to watch him for me until my daycare provider re-opened.
Before my second son was born, the part-time home-based daycare was 35% of my pay. My need to put both boys into daycare coincided with a pay cut. Daycare was suddenly 79% of my pay. When my daycare provider moved, I decided to not find another daycare and changed my schedule so I only worked during the weekend when my husband was available. I only attended staff meetings or special events if a friend could watch the boys or I could just bring them with me. Thank god I had understanding bosses.
My childcare problems and solutions aren’t at all unusual. Within my group of friends, most of their kids have attended at least three or four daycares. Parents are always on the lookout for more convenient and more affordable childcare. If you can find a daycare a bit closer to your job, you can spend a few extra minutes there each day without breaking the ten-hour rule. If you can find a daycare that charges even a few dollars less, you have more money to buy food.
Instead of attacking mothers for working fewer hours, we need to be questioning the idea that we’re all supposed to be working 50+ hours a week. As long as that is our society’s idea of a devoted worker then mothers will never measure up… it’s simply impossible if you have to stick to the ten-hour rule or make sure you’re home in time for your co-parent to go to work.