This week, a mom on my bulletin board ran an unofficial poll for and about working mothers. She has been staying at home with her son now for almost two years and is considering returning to work. She wanted some input from mothers who had already returned to work, and so she posted several questions asking about their daycare situations, daycare costs, household chores, and their feelings about returning to the workforce.
Twenty-five mothers responded. Of course it is a small population and I don´t know how it would relate to a study of a larger kind, but I thought I´d share some of the results with you today to give you some food for thought.
The first question that I noticed concerned daycare settings. For some reason, I´ve always thought that most parents sent their children to daycare centers. I suppose I guessed this was so since it is much easier to find a daycare center than it is an in-home setting. Centers are listed in the telephone book. You pass buildings around town with the name of the center written in bright paint across the top of the building. Daycare centers are visible, and so the name of the center sticks in your mind.
To locate an in-home setting, a parent must know someone who knows someone that has a center in her home. They must go by word of mouth referrals, which are much harder to come by than an ad in a phone book. Also, many in-home settings fill up quickly since the number of children is limited to a few.
One lady in my neighborhood did use a creative method for advertising her own in-home center: She handed out a business card with her Halloween candy, listing the center´s name, address, and phone number. Talk about creative advertising! Though I don´t still have the card, the lady´s name has stuck in my mind ever since.
So I was surprised to see that the majority of the respondents are sending their children to an in-home daycare setting. Only three of the twenty-five have family watching their children. One mother works for a company that provides on-site daycare, and no mothers that responded have children with nanny care.
I was really pleased to see that one mother does have a work setting that offers on-site daycare, but disappointed that she was the only respondent who did. In all of my research and writing about working mothers, I´ve found that most mothers who want to work also want the ability to work for a company that offers a flexible family setting, so that they can spend time with their children as needed: visiting for lunch, taking off for school plays or other related activities, volunteering in the school classroom, or leaving for doctor´s visits as needed. One step toward a flexible job opportunity in my mind is working for a company that offers on-site daycare. This allows the mother to visit during the day, and for mothers who want to breast or bottle-feed their young infants during the day, this makes that all the more convenient.
Cost-wise, the lowest setting mentioned was $320 per month while the highest ran the parents $1300 a month. The average ranged around the $400-$500 per month mark. The $1300 a month setting was located in Seattle, Washington, so I´m sure that location has something to do with the high price. Yet even in Southern California, where I´m located, the highest daycare cost I´ve found for fulltime infant care ran $1000 per month. Who can afford to pay that for more than one child? What if a parent has twins? When you begin creeping toward the $1000 mark for childcare, you can see why many parents with more than one child do not return to work for a while: The cost of childcare is so high that many mothers can´t afford to work even if they want to.
Another question that I found interesting revolved around chores in the home. Who does them? Are they split between the spouses or does one spouse do the majority? I´m happy to report that more than half of the mothers responded that both parents chip in when it comes to chores, and that those mothers with older children have them help as well. Several posters wrote that they take care of the cooking while their spouse cleans up the dinner dishes. Husbands tended to be responsible for things like taking out the trash and mowing the lawn while mothers reported laundry and dusting as their main duties.
One mother mentioned that she and her husband complete cleaning duties on Saturday mornings, which leaves the rest of the weekend for play. Talk about compromise! With two parents working frantically to clean the home, the job can be knocked out in a few hours, and then there is ample time left for doing fun, family type activities.
Finally, the poster asked if the mothers could stay at home, would they want to? An overwhelming number of mothers responded that no, they would not want to stay at home. Their reasons varied. Some said they felt like a more rounded person because they were working. Others said that they needed time away from the house to recharge. Still others mentioned that they loved their jobs and would not want to give up their particular job.
Four mothers mentioned that working part time would be a great alternative to either staying at home or working full time. Only three mothers out of the twenty-five responded that yes, they wish they could stay at home but cannot afford to do so.
I´m passing these along to you only because I thought the answers to these particular questions were interesting. It continues to amaze me that daycare costs are so high, and sometimes I wonder how people with multiple children are able to work and foot the bill. It also explains to me why so many families are struggling: If the mother works, most of her check goes to childcare and work-related expenses like wardrobe, and if she stays at home, the family loses an additional income.
I was glad to see that mothers who are returning to work are happy with the decision.
Yet unfortunately we do not have enough companies offering working mothers a flexible type work situation: part time with some benefits, on-site childcare at a reduced cost, and other perks that might make it possible for a mother to both work and bring in money after paying for childcare. Hopefully this will be the next step we take as working mothers: Working together to improve the family-related perks companies are offering.