[caption id="attachment_218128" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Child care is becoming tied to the future of women in the workplace. | PHOTO VIA UNSPLASH COURTESY OF THE CDC[/caption]
The older I get, the more I realize my mother is a superhero. Not because she’s obviously my Mom, but because she raised four children while working an 8-to-5 job. There’s a three-year age gap between my older sister and my twin brothers. For a few years, all four of us were in diapers.I finally asked her about it, and of course, the answer is more complicated than what a child remembers or gleans from family history. She worked as an accountant at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, before she headed to Chase Manhattan when the bank arrived in downtown Wilmington. After that, she temped for DuPont and worked at a small pharmaceutical firm.By the time she and my Dad had the four of us, we started attending the YMCA on Kirkwood Highway more than we
[caption id="attachment_218124" align="alignright" width="300"] Katie Tabeling[/caption]
attended church. First it was for short daycare stints while Mom used the gym, but then as we started the Terrific Twos and Giant Step preschool programs, she got a job watching the camp programs.“We were there all the time, especially in the summer with the pool. The job was really to pay for the membership,” she told me. “It’s much harder now.”She believes a family membership at that time, the early to mid-1990s, was around $600 a month — and she was likely paid $5 an hour. Now that I’m married, the issue of child care becomes more real to me. I watched many of my mentors and colleagues fight their way through the pandemic while trying to keep toddlers entertained and simultaneously working from home.Some days, I feel like there is a ticking clock over my head. It’s counting down how much time I have left to achieve what I want to achieve before my husband and I welcome our own child into this world. I’m anxious that I’m going to have to choose between being a caring mother and being successful in the office.I’m not alone. Cinnamon Elliottwas just promoted to chief talent officer at Dover Federal Credit Union when she was out on maternity leave. She described herself as always career-driven, earning an MBA and working her way up the ladder — wanting to reach the top so her family can enjoy what she’s earned.“It was overwhelming when I was promoted,” she told me. “My daughter was born premature at 28 weeks, and she was in the NICU, and I was wondering, ‘Who’s going to care for her?’”As she’s waiting to get her daughter Journey into child care, she's managed the reality of remote working. She keeps her camera off when her daughter has to sit in her lap. But for many mothers, it’s a situation that can’t last forever.Today, child care for a child under the age of 5 can cost about $918 per month, according to the RoDel Foundation. It’s an expensive price to bear for any working parent, but perhaps higher for women.We are promoted to manager positions at far lower rates than men, with 72 women promoted for every 100 men and leaving many stuck in entry-level positions, according to a study by McKinsey & Company. The number shrinks when it comes to women of color.Millions of women left the workforce in 2020, many likely to take care of their children as they Zoomed into classrooms or daycare centers shut down. This year, they are returning to work at a slow rate, as yet another COVID-19 variant clouds the future.Federal and state lawmakers and business leaders need to design long-term solutions for child care. In the early 1990s, women were told they could “have it all,” and yes, my mother returned to accounting after we were old enough to go to school. But that meant she had to leave her career for a time and re-enter it after a lengthy hiatus.Today, it’s becoming clear that women can have it all, but at a high cost. We stand to lose thousands of women, their talents and innovative ideas, unless our leaders act now.Editor’s Note: Reporter Katie Tabeling is guest editing our annual Women In Business issue this week. Editor Jacob Owens’ column will return next edition.
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