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February 21, 2011

Generation Working Mom: Knowing When to Ask for Help

There are so many metaphors working moms embrace to describe the constant push and pull between our home and work lives.  But whether we are juggling or balancing or burning or simply spinning, we're all trying to find something that is emotionally and physically sustainable.  I've never met a mom that isn't always trying to tweak or improve. Inevitably, I hear about moms who have found a solution by giving something up: sleeping, working out, being with friends, or even spending time with their spouses.

Tina Fey’s recent New Yorker article really laid it out. The rudest question you can ever ask a working mom: “How do you juggle it all?” Meaning, of course, “You’re screwing it all up, aren’t you?”

I think Tina Fey has spoken for millions of working moms everywhere.

I've chronicled my own life right here in this blog, after all. I realized long ago that there is no possible way that I could found a company and have the career I wanted without help. Frankly, Care.com wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for the amazing men and women that Ron and I have had the honor of working with on everything from keeping the house in running order to the boys’ homework projects at the kitchen table.

While I don't think it's possible for moms to escape that nagging feeling of guilt – we were always told that we could do it all - I have felt liberated to be part of a generation that is saying that it's okay to ask for help. 

On our site, the data says it all: 30% of our members join our site because their caregiver left. Since nannies and caregivers of all kinds can be major cogs in the family machine, we’ve found that their departures can be incredibly disruptive. Likewise, 39% of members need our services because something changed at work. Just a small schedule change or even a promotion that requires more time in the office can throw off the careful balance – how many times have you raced to daycare to try and make it before the 6 p.m. closing time?

Through our State of Care studies, we learned that fewer than 10% of families have access to the following employer child care benefits: off-site child care center, access to backup care, on-site child care center, or subsidized child care.

And when it comes to the cost of care, families with 2 or more children are really paying the motherlode. According to Census data, these families are paying 133% of the median annual rent payment or 60% of the median annual mortgage payment – just for child care.

I don't think even IBM's Watson computer – who beat out the best of the best on Jeopardy last week – could answer the question of a work-life solution for moms.

But I'm in it.  And I'm working everyday to make sure that moms – both at home and in the workplace – find help.  If there's one sure thing that all moms can agree on is this: help is necessary.

So no matter your situation at work or at home, take 5 minutes, and do something about it now:

Search for Your Dream Nanny or Babysitter

Find the Perfect Housekeeper

Get a Dog Walker

Set up Your Care Network

Hire a Tutor for Your Child

Talk with Other Working Moms

Take Our Working Parent Quiz

And once moms have a little help, they can work on the things they need for themselves, like working out, sleep and oh yeah, a little intimacy with our spouses.

 

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Comments

Stephanie

These options all assume that one has the extra funds to be able to hire more help. For those of us with two child care bills (together bigger than my mortgage), much as we would love to access and pay for more help, the financial realities don't support it.

Sheila

@Stephanie: Such a good point. I understand the financial realities of child care costs well. Do you have any local friends or neighbors with kids or pets? If so, I recommend setting up a child care co-op or a care exchange right here at care.com. For a co-op, you can exchange points with other parents instead of money. You only need one other family to be in your co-op. And it’s simple - you can swap care by working with each other's schedules. If you can make one of these ideas work for even one day a week or on the weekends for running errands, you can save a little money on child care. I also recommend joining or starting a local group on care.com. You might be able to find similar groups that have already started near you who would be inclined to create a co-op. And as a working parent, I encourage you to ask your employer or HR director about flex-spending options for care or other options such as on or off-site daycare centers for everyday or emergency situations. I hope this helps. Good luck!

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