On the subreddit r/Mommit last week, one mom juggling child care responsibilities, working from home, and generally living under the constant threat of the deadly pandemic of COVID-19, had a story to tell — and a question to ask. In a post on the subreddit, she revealed that while the pandemic raged on, she had become responsible for providing child care to her one-year-old daughter while she worked from home.
Before the pandemic, her parents helped out with child care, but because she feared her parents could get sick while caring for her one-year-old, she, like many parents, and especially moms across the country right now, took on caregiving and parenting at the same time. Apparently, this did not fly with her bosses, who brought her to a meeting and told her that she needed to put her daughter in daycare because it was affecting her workload.
u/EmptyXzero, the mom in question, said in the post: “I don’t feel comfortable sending my child to A daycare during the pandemic. Daycares in the area are either booked or too expensive.” She continued, “I am meeting all goals based on my weekly assessment sheet but they are still requesting I get my child into daycare so I can be MORE proactive and work later.”
Obviously, the Reddit post caused an outcry, both on the thread and from media outlets who picked up the post shortly after it went viral on the subreddit. There’s plenty to be mad about it when it comes to the post itself — from the fact that the mom notes that other parents are her company are in the same position and aren’t receiving the same backlash from the bosses to the fact that these are the exact pandemic related working conditions that have led to a 30 percent unemployment rate among working women across the country since the pandemic began.
But perhaps the most reprehensible part of it is that her employer would suggest she pay out of pocket for child care in a time when taking your child out of the house could be dangerously unsafe or even deadly, especially when the working mom is meeting all of the goals her boss has set for her.
On average, child care costs can take up to 40 percent of a dual-income household in America. And that’s even if child care centers are open at all: across the country, hundreds and hundreds of child care centers have closed their doors for good or are only open for essential workers like people who work at hospitals during the pandemic. Even if the mom could get into a child care center, the cost might be so exorbitant that it would make working a full-time job not worth it. So what’s a mom to do?
A top commenter on the thread mentioned that the mom could take advantage of the FFCRA, a CARES Act expansion to the FMLA that might allow the mom to take 12 weeks off at reduced pay. But most of the comments are commiserative: one mom mentioned that she was in the same boat.
“I work in tech and I live in a COVID hotspot,” u/ActuaryRepulsive said. “My daughter is a 4 month old and I had just returned from maternity leave and I was told that I was a paranoid first time mom… I doubled down and I told them no to daycare… they went ahead and hired a new director and have me coming into the office 2xs a week to meet with him even though I’ve been meeting quotas. I’m putting in my notice tomorrow as he’s been on the team for a full month now and I’m confident he can meet department goals. Follow your gut and don’t be afraid to look for a new job.”
Working conditions, benefits related to child care, and job protections for parents were already quite flimsy before the pandemic. But posts like these reveal just how broken our professional world is — and how broken it is that we live in a society that does not even subsidize child care as a regular benefit for working parents; much less provide it through the government. Hopefully, the mom will be able to figure this out. But she wouldn’t be alone if she couldn’t. Hundreds of millions of moms have left the workforce since March, erasing decades of gains of workplace equity for women. It’s moments like these that make it clear why it happens.
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