“Hi Chantal. Do you have a second?” It was the young, incredibly chirpy woman in charge of HR for a smallish e-publishing company that I had interviewed with a few weeks ago. I had applied for their social media management role.
“I just wanted to call you to let you know that we felt the interview went really well, and we’d like to offer you the position.”
“Wow… Um, great! Thanks!”
“We’re looking at starting you out at $40K. There are some benefits, though not full medical, I’m afraid. We’re a small office, as you know. And to address your question from the interview, we are fine with some work from home, but really only on an exception basis. It probably wouldn’t be on a daily or even weekly basis.”
“Okay.” That was a surprise since this was a completely different tack than what was discussed in the interview. “Could I have a little time to think it over?”
“Um, sure, but can I ask why? I mean, do you have any concerns I could help iron out?”
“Well, to be fair to all of us, I have to figure out my childcare arrangements before I can say yes.”
We had talked about Nikki in the interview – since I write so often about her, there is no hiding her existence. I had asked about the ability to work from home on occasion so I could save myself a boat load of money for PA days and sick days. The publisher was all for it, saying that she often did the same thing when her nanny was sick, rather than trying to patch together some less than ideal alternate arrangement. Chirpy HR hadn’t said anything during all of this part of the meeting except to share that didn’t have kids.
“I got the impression from S, at the interview, that it wouldn’t be a problem to work from home once in a while. Did I misunderstand her?”
“Well, no, but she IS the owner…”
Ah. I see.
The irony is that I had JUST turned down a spot in an a private after school program that was located near Nikki’s school and could pick her up every afternoon. I had put us on the waiting list, just in case, never expecting a slot would open up within months. But at $1000 a month, I couldn’t afford to pay for it without a job. They had given me 24 hours to accept or decline. I said no, as I didn’t have a job at that point but asked to be put back on the list.
I guess I could have gambled and taken the spot, but I had just spent the previous Wednesday morning at 6:55 am refreshing and refreshing the Toronto Parks and Rec site to register Nikki for the local summer camp. At $140/week (average), it was half the price of the local private camp. Despite my best efforts, I was wait listed for three of the weeks, so fell back on the more expensive camp for those. That’s another $900 + the city camps: $1800.
And I haven’t even dealt with all of the PA days that are left this year yet. It wasn’t worth the risk of paying for after school care that she doesn’t really need right now only to find myself still jobless in 2 months time, $2000 poorer.
Of course, there ARE alternatives: there are other after school programs further from school; there are one or two local moms who would probably be willing to take Nikki on for a couple of hours a day; babysitters for hire and so on. All of these alternatives are certainly doable but here’s a question that’s been bugging me: can someone explain to me why all public schools in a district are required to take your child if you live in said district, even if the school is at a breaking point of capacity, but make no provision for after school care for these same children? There is a building, sitting there, empty after 3:15. Hello?
You want know what the real catch is here? That whole story of getting the job offer after turning down care? Never happened.
So, I don’t need after school care right now (yes, lucky, I know!) but I’m the kind of person who evaluates worst case scenario long before it happens, just so that I don’t get a rude surprise. I wanted to think through how I would handle a situation like this and I guess where I’m going here is that it’s no surprise to me that more mothers – particularly single mothers – have difficulty finding balance or even, you know, a life. I am VERY lucky to have a home and low expenses right now, so I can take my time and figure things out. There are plenty of women who would love that option.
Where is this all coming from? It’s the re-birth of yet more discussion about Leaning In etc. etc… that is cropping up on social media. All I can think about when I read about it is that we need to stop being distracted by enticing abstractions and start spending time on getting real family / human issues resolved. Like affordable child care. Like wage earnings parity. These are the things that must come first; they are basic and fundamental and we have to go there before we can worry about leaning in any direction at all. Because from where I sit, without the childcare, the job and the direction in to or away from which I lean, matters not a whit.