“I know you don’t feel like doing all of this, the nursing and taking care of your baby here, is professional, but I think it’s good for the students to see it. They need to get used to seeing it. And to see mothers balancing all of these aspects of their lives.”
That is some of the best encouragement I’ve ever received regarding my career.
The Associate Dean in the Gonzaga School of Business told me this after finishing a meeting where I nursed my baby the whole time. The dean had given me permission to bring my 6 week old baby to work. My husband had just graduated and couldn’t work until he took his licensing exam. We had no income while I was on maternity leave, so I went back pretty quickly.
Ryun was home, but the baby wouldn’t take a bottle from him and she nursed 30-40 minutes out of EVERY hour. Yes, it was crazy and no, she is not a good eater now.
But her comment has stuck with me these last 3 years. “It’s good for the students to see it. They need to get used to seeing it.”
Fast Forward to Now
This pandemic has been nuts. And hard. On everyone.
Because I fall into one of these categories, I can’t help but see the struggles that two-income and single parents are going through with this.
From a woman who was fired after going to HR about her boss who was hassling her about hearing her children in the background, to a huge childcare crisis, to people contemplating quitting their jobs so they can take care of their kids, to Florida State University announcing that come August, all of the people who were working remotely wouldn’t be allowed to care for their children at the same time anymore –it’s hard to see.
And it’s everywhere.
Even if you don’t utilize childcare so you can work, you should be able to see what’s happening. If you’re stressed out about schools not opening, imagine if your job was also on the line. You should be able to recognize the pain and anxiety that people you care about are going through.
Childcare cannot be an afterthought as people plan how our society will recover from this. It’s a simple concept: If there’s no childcare, people can’t work and the economy will not recover. People need childcare.
So what do we do?
What do we do when the people who are making decisions to force people back into the office with no childcare or quit, don’t seem to have participated in their own children’s upbringing enough to understand that it doesn’t work like that?
What do we do when the government gives $25 billion dollars to the airline industry and $7 billion to childcare?
The words of my Associate Dean echoed through my mind this week:
Let them see.
Who needs to see?
Here are people I believe we need to let see into the childcare side of our lives right now.
Write to your local leaders. Last night I wrote to my Mayor, Governor, and federal representatives. I’m going to write to my state legislators tonight. This website will help you look up your federal and state legislators, from your mayor up to the President. It’s important that they’re constantly receiving feedback on what their constituents need. And if they don’t care, then you know who to vote out.
I am very blessed to have a great employer. I won’t get fired by talking to my boss or anyone at the university about the childcare struggles in the area. In fact, I do it regularly. I even wrote a letter to the editor for the university newspaper (they’ve since contacted me about being a source for a piece they’re working on). I know it is not that way for everyone. But please, do what you can with your employer and/or your partner’s employer to help them see what the issues are and your suggestions for what they can do as a company.
I am so impressed by the FSU faculty and staff who tore into them with fury on Twitter so swiftly that FSU amended their policy. Twice, because the first amendment was just as terrible. I know that’s not possible in every situation, but if you’re in a position to do it, be the squeaky wheel.
Also, praise the companies that are doing a good job. Let the world see how your company is doing great at helping you take care of your family and your job.
Your friends & family
Half of my readership are not working moms. There’s a mix of stay at home moms, some women without kids and/or partners, and some dads that follow. I think that’s great! I try to be open about the challenges and awesome parts of being a mom who works outside the home. Not only to commiserate with those who “get it,” but also to help give insight on things that maybe someone who isn’t in that situation wouldn’t think about.
You can share relevant articles on social media (not just memes, though they are great) about the current childcare situation.
Share petitions, or form letters like Zero to Three has put together for legislators. Encourage people to share with their elected officials the need for family support right now.
You can share pictures and anecdotes of what it’s like to work from home with kids.
Be open with people who ask how you’re doing. Let them know you’ve loved the extra time with your kids, but you’re also worried about how you’ll work and homeschool/oversee online learning/get your kids to their half days at school when you have a meeting. Let’s go a little beyond the habitual “Good, you?” response. They probably have some worries they want to share, too.
I think it’s important that our kids see how we’re working to meet the different responsibilities in our lives. Always, and especially now.
Let them see you writing those emails to your legislators. Talk to them about why you’re doing it and explain some of the intricacies involved in a politicized public health crisis.
Let them participate in some conversations you and your partner have coordinating schedules so you can both work and spend time with the kids on their school work.
Let them see you love them and your work enough to fight for the ability to do both.
One person at a time
I don’t have the answers. I genuinely don’t know what the best course of action is. Unfortunately, some people won’t care until it affects them or someone they love. But I firmly believe that we need to let people see what is happening and how it is negatively impacting our country.
And someone who sees may be able to help.
Last year I had a conversation with one of my committee chairs about how we needed a daycare on campus. He nodded more and more, then said, “That’s it, I play basketball with Vice President _____ and next time I see him I’m going to talk to him about this. How do we not have one?”
There still isn’t a daycare on campus, but there is a committee looking at the viability of creating one, which is a huge step. The more buy-in from different people of authority on campus, the better.
That applies everywhere. It’s wrong that we have to look at protecting our ability to work and parent as something that needs buy-in, but that’s our situation. Honestly, wasn’t it always that way? Haven’t we been trying for years to convince people that our concerns as mothers who work are valid? Haven’t we been advocating for family-friendlier policies for mothers and fathers so that both can participate in the beauty of child-rearing?
This isn’t new, but at least more people are seeing the urgency. I feel like once this Covid stuff is behind us (or maybe just more manageable), many things will go back to business as usual. But I *really* hope the concern for how families work doesn’t. I hope we make changes.
To do that, we have to let them see what needs to change. In whatever situation you find yourself in with childcare, please let others see. Share what you’re experiencing, your ideas for solutions, what is helping and what isn’t.
The advice to me to let them see was a pivotal point in my motherhood and career. I hope we can practice letting them see so it can be for all families.