“Moms: ‘I can’t afford to work'”

Yep, I’m in full-on rant mode…read on only if you have a strong coffee by your side.

(from an article on CNN.com, Moms:  I can’t afford to work)

“In 2010, the cost of putting two children in child care exceeded median annual rent payments in every state, according to a report by Child Care Aware of America.”

An article about the cost of childcare and the reality that there are families who cannot afford to have a mother go out of the house to work until their kids are of an age where they don’t need care.

All the talk about Ann Romney the last few weeks prompted so many articles about working mothers and how ‘most’ mothers work outside the home. Stats say 70% apparently…but anyone quoting the stats didn’t cite the age of the children, and that’s pretty damned relevant. Childcare is FREAKING EXPENSIVE. When this is pointed out the suggestions are “get a neighbour or a family member to babysit” because, of course, every one has one of THOSE just waiting around to get asked. Child care is a significant chunk of time and energy—many a grandmother loves the grandkids but is happy to be past the stage of constant childcare…not every one is itching to start up again. And caring for someone else’s child? That’s a full-time job. Called childcare. Why would you expect that a neighbour, a friend or a relative has eight-ten hours of time to GIVE you because you can’t afford to pay someone else.

And don’t cite how easy it is to get home daycare providers—with the lack of supervision, that many of them will take lots of kids in order to make some amount of money themselves, and myriad more issues. I did home daycare myself for a while—in the GTA (Ontario, Canada) standard rates were $135/week per child. That was from 8am-6pm. So…$27 a day, which means $2.70 an hour. At a time when the minimum wage in Ontario was $10, and babysitting rates were $5-10/hour depending on the number of kids. So, less than $3 an hour to babysit someone else’s child. And that included feeding them lunch and two snacks. Which cost money. And when you babysit someone else’s child you’re expected to provide a lot more attention than you might for your own children (who you can leave to entertain themselves while you do the dishes, the laundry, the cleaning, etc. etc.). So, you might be able to find someone who enjoys living in that kind of near-poverty, but if you do find someone to do home daycare—even at $135 a week, that’s $540 a month.

I get so bloody tired of the young twentysomething women cheerfully snarking about women who stay home with their kids as being ‘privileged’ or ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’ or variations there of.

Or—the other big one is “when I was a kid…” There are a lot of stories of how they were latch-key kids and their mothers (who are clearly better people than all those lazy, stupid stay-at-homes using their kids as an excuse to not get a job) went to work and worked endless endless hours. The stories always end with “and I turned out all right.”

‘All right”—but presumptuous and rude. For starters—don’t know about elsewhere, but in Ontario it’s illegal to leave kids under the age of 10 home alone. And there is considerable societal pressure for more parental supervision than most of us had as kids. At my kids’ primary school, kids in grades K-gr3 are not even “released” to go home unless it’s onto a bus or in the care of a grownup. At the start of the year, we have to fill out a form as to what people are ‘allowed’ to pick up our kid. The school will not release children to walk by themselves, even if the parents wish it to be so (means there’s a lot of high school students who get their volunteer hours requirement filled by walking kids home).

Obviously, this is a subject that ALWAYS makes me angry—because for me it comes down to this…why is it okay for someone else to look after my kids because I pay them and it’s their job, but if I do it, it’s because I am too lazy, stupid, privileged or unmotivated to get a job? Why is there this idea that looking after your own children is not actually work?!

I have said on many occasions to people who have been rude about me being home with my kids, “If what I do isn’t work, then you are completely overpaying your childcare provider and your cleaning person.”

(And I haven’t even started on how depressing it is to end up as a stay-at-home mother for whatever reason and then find, that once your kids are old enough to not need care that it is well-nigh impossible to get a job. I have friends with multiple degrees and much experience who can’t get hired. When you’re out of the workforce for any amount of time, it does not look good on an application. Saying it’s because you stayed at home with your kids just means that the employer thinks, “Oh, so if your kid gets sick, then you’ll be calling to tell me you can’t come in.”

Or, after years out of the workforce, most of us do not have appropriate clothes for an office anymore, even in a world where office wear is much more casual than it once was. I have friends who apply for jobs in the business world then are completely stymied by not having the money for an appropriate wardrobe.)


2 thoughts on ““Moms: ‘I can’t afford to work'”

  1. The assumptions people make about the situations of others are stunning. And this is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t deals. There’s a group of folks that still think women shouldn’t work. I was reading a bunch of moms on a forum going on about how they would never let a “stranger” raise their kids, like those other moms do. Which I thought was hilarious. Like these moms are heading over to the LCBO to pick up a homeless guy to watch their kids or something.

  2. Absolutely. And it’s a hard decision because you’re terrified if anything does go wrong–then it’s because you made the wrong choice. I’m a big fan of daycare for kids–but I had to ultimately take my oldest kid out of one when he came home with bruises on his neck that were exactly the shape of an adult hand around his throat. The director of the daycare told me that I’d imagined it, he was lying…then, luckily, a student interning at the daycare overheard the conversation and fell compelled to speak up (not having felt so when she witnessed the originating incident). I got a lot of flack from people for that one…

    And between that and a few other incidents, I did end up with a kid who had some significant issues when he was in-care–and every time, people suggested that it was because I’d made the wrong decision.

    The thing is–I want access to this mythical feminism that tries it’s damndest to support women no matter what the choice they make. It doesn’t matter if it’s the choice YOU’D make–it’s her choice. Every single woman does not need to live her life as an example for the girls growing up in a performance piece called “Here’s What We as a Society has decided Women Get to Be”. How about we live as we choose, and that’s the example–make your choices, stand by them, be a good and responsible person.

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