Childcare, it’s considered one of the last big hurdles of feminism. We’ve come a long way in the last 100 years from getting the right to vote, to outpacing men in post secondary education, and literally having the whole world, and space available to us.
As a “Gen X-er” I’ve always been told, I can have any job that I want,* the world was my oyster. I attended post secondary institution and graduated with a degree in Communications, finished a diploma in Human Resources, and took courses about broadcasting on the side, purely because I could.
As Sheryl Sandberg in the Book “Lean In” mentions, time and biology started to factor in my decisions. I was married, we owned our own condo, it was time for me to make some choices. In 2005 I had my first child, a little boy, 19 months later, I had a daughter. Twenty four months later, another baby girl. My husband and I wanted to have kids, and having kids so close together made sense because I wanted to go back to work (among other reasons), and I could go back to work all ready to take on the world. This was my choice.
Childcare for three little ones is expensive and it made sense that I stay home since he was now doing so well at work and my salary would be eaten up with daycare costs for three kids. I had also been out of work for 5 years, could I possibly go back to work? Who would hire me and would it pay enough to help cover childcare for three?
Taking a look back, as I was walking the stage of convocation from University was this part of the great plan? To stay at home and look after my children while my husband got the career, the professional highs, the recognition for being super awesome accountant extraordinaire? Heck no. Who was going to look after the kids (if I had any) was in no part factored in my grand scheme. This optimism might be the problem (and also the route to greatness) of my generation of women. We were led to believe that we could have it all, go to space, and have a baby. Have home cooked meals, equality of chores in the household, exercise, holidays in the sun and make darling crafts for our children. The women before us have carefully planned a time, THIS TIME where women could have it all. Gen X/Millennials, whatever you want to call us, are about to reap all that was sown over decades and decades of fighting for women’s right in North America to choose their destiny. What we found is that it’s completely impossible to have it all, unless you have an army of assistants, and childcare.
We get back to the crutch, the last giant hurdle of feminism: childcare. Like all things in feminism, the important word is “choice,” that we have a choice for ourselves and our families. Reality is, is that grownups have to make hard choices that are not always what we really want, and what we want isn’t economically viable. Despite all the opportunities that are open to us, women become the primary caregiver for our children. For the most part childcare becomes a “womans” priority (and care itself which is another topic unto itself). Take a look at your day homes and daycares, they’re run and operated by women! In spite of our aspirations of the thrill of the “big sale,” the majority of women stay home to raise our children, or take lesser positions at work while the kids are little so the career doesn’t get in the way of family life (granted, there are many men that stay at home or work at home as the women leave the house to conquer the commerce dragons). This is not to say we sit at home, or sit at our desk and bemoan all the opportunities lost. We get on with it, business as usual, and raise some pretty awesome kids. Isn’t that the point? To be able to raise our awesome kids, we sacrifice, we scrimp and save and take on crappy jobs to help them get the best out of life.
What would it look like for women, and men, if childcare wasn’t a hurdle. What would being able to actually afford childcare mean for small business owners? I’m not saying we pay less for childcare, heck no! The job of caring our children is such an important and vital job, those are our babies they’re looking after! Pay those people!!. But what would it mean to you as a women, if childcare wasn’t such a large part of your expenses? Would you be to sleep at 2 am instead of working and get more done during the day? Would you go back to work a “regular” job? Would it mean you wouldn’t have to work as long hours because childcare isn’t one of your biggest expenses? Or would you work more because you can actually afford it? Would it mean nothing at all because your choice is to stay home with your kids?
Women are the fastest growing segment of small business in Alberta, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. Entrepreneurship allows women more flexibility and to be able to use the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired over the years in a productive way. Many even fire up skills they didn’t even know they had. It can ben pretty empowering. The opportunity to be with their kids, attend field trips while still being able to earn money is that golden pathway to having it all (I’ll wait while all tired entrepreneurial moms who were up until 2 am working while children sleep and it’s quiet in the house have a good laugh at that). The last hurdle of feminism, has made us evolve and we’re leaping in two feet forward to create our own reality of work-life balance, embracing the internet and working from where ever we want.
It’s a big mind jumble for me, I’ve been a stay at home mum first, entrepreneurial mom second over the last eight years. Would I go back to “regular 40 hour a week work”? I’d like to say no I wouldn’t (although my husband would sure love it). In all honesty, I don’t think I make a good 40 hour a week employee**. I like staying home with my kids (most of the time) and over the last 8 years I’ve managed to keep those neurons and synapses firing with many of my entrepreneurial endeavours. That’s not to say that for me, to be afford some sort of childcare wouldn’t be some kind of Godsend. This is especially true when you’re on a deadline for a client and you’re building your own empire and dealing with all the things that you need to get done with children afoot. However that’s one of the other cruxes of being a woman, I want to be able to do it all.
I’m interested in hearing what you think as childcare as this is an extremely personal issue and looks different to everyone and their unique situation. Alberta has the added factor that many people work out of town on rigs or in the oilsands with moms staying at home. There is no right choice and no wrong choice, just your choice for what works for your family.
What do you think?
*Except if it meant I needed Math 30, I couldn’t pass that class no matter how many times I took it (3 times).
**apologies to future employers