Ask An Expert·6 min read

The Child Care Cliff is Here. Here’s How Working Moms Can Stay on Top.

Woman holds child and works on laptop
September 28, 2023

Navigating the workforce as a mom can be… a lot. Especially now that scarce child care options are about to get a lot more difficult to find thanks to limited Federal child care funding. For moms with younger kids, or kids that need care after school, finding affordable child care can seem impossible. That’s why we chatted with Bonnie Dilber, a recruiting pro with 15 years of experience and the creator of the career and job search newsletter Landed!, about what moms can do to secure the support they need from their employers to balance work and family amid the child care cliff.

Featured expert: Bonnie Dilber

Bonnie Dilber

Bonnie Dilber - Recruiting manager at Zapier and creator of the career and job search newsletter Landed!

What child care accommodations can I ask for from my employer, and what can I say to my manager to get that support?

This may vary based on your workplace culture, work hours, and relationship with your manager. But I would suggest letting your manager and/or HR know if you have challenges with navigating child care, and come ready with solutions or options to navigate your challenges. Some of the accommodations that most corporate workplaces should be able to provide would be hybrid/remote work or flexibility around hours. You can also inquire about child care assistance, backup care programs, child care FSAs, etc. 

I would say something like, "Unfortunately, I've had some changes to my child care availability. I want to ensure that this doesn't impact my work, and wanted to discuss potential accommodations to help me manage my responsibilities as a parent with my responsibilities at work. I have some ideas and am committed to finding a mutually beneficial solution."

You could then propose some ideas, for example:

"Because I no longer have after-care, I will need to pick up my children from school at 3:30 every day. Fortunately, most of my meetings take place before that time, so I'd like to start leaving at 3:00 each day, and then wrapping up work asynchronously after my children go to sleep."

"Our daycare closed and I was only able to find a program for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I should be able to get a solid workday in with my kids at home given their nap schedules so I'd like to work from home on Tuesday and Thursday. I can also put in longer days while they are in daycare."

You can wrap up by saying something like, "I appreciate your understanding and support as I navigate balancing work and parenting responsibilities. I’ll make sure to keep you informed about my schedule and any changes that may occur, and I’m committed to ensuring that my work and productivity aren't compromised in any way. Please let me know if you ever have any concerns so we can adjust as needed." 

You might also talk with HR about collaborating with other parents — you might be able to come together to start on-site child care, find nanny shares, etc. This will also help you feel less alone in balancing parenting with work. 

How can I manage how I'm perceived at work if I need to work fewer or more remote hours? 

Be transparent about your schedule and availability, and maintain strong communication with those around you so they know how your work is progressing. Showing that you are still reliable, productive, and collaborative will help alleviate concerns your colleagues may have about your schedule. There may also be feelings of inequity among some of your peers. If you're in a position to do so, show similar flexibility for your team, and advocate for a more inclusive workplace for everyone.

What child care resources might my employer offer that I can tap into? What should I be searching my benefits package for?

Some examples include:

  • Paid parental leave.

  • A child care FSA, which allows you to set aside $5,000 pre-tax each year to use towards child care.

  • Financial assistance for child care. For example, some employers offer a subsidy or have a lifestyle budget that can be used flexibly toward things like child care.  

  • Emergency backup care programs.

  • Flexible PTO policies. For example, can you work from home if your child is sick or has a day off from school, or will you use your PTO? 

  • Ability to work remotely. For example, is there flexibility around working from home at times, adjusting your hours to work around your children's schedules, etc.?

  • Potential partnerships or discounts on child care services.

Once you have an offer, you can also have more candid conversations. Ask to talk to a parent in the department you're joining and ask them about their experience, how much flexibility and support they have, etc. This will help you ensure that the culture is one that's supportive of caregivers.

Any tips for women who are reentering the workforce after needing to take a leave of absence due to a disruption in child care?

If it was a short time, I wouldn't even mention this on your resume. If asked, you can say something like, "I was fortunate to be able to take some time off after my last position, and am now focused fully on finding the right opportunity." We're in a difficult job market right now, and job searches are easily taking 5+ months so be ready for a long search. Make sure you have a strong resume that highlights the impact you've had in previous roles, and leverage your networks to help you learn about opportunities and get referrals which can increase your chances of getting an interview. Prioritize looking for family-friendly workplaces. Sites like Glassdoor, Comparably, and LinkedIn can be great places to learn more about the company culture. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

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