Childcare is a huge issue

Images My friend always brings this up, childcare is a huge issue.  She is so right.  The cost of childcare is significant.  Childcare can make or break a womans career.  Many times the cost of childcare equals one salary which for some people makes that decision hard to rationalize.  Should I go to work when my salary is only paying for the childcare?  It is terrible that anyone has to make that decision. 

Childcare is clearly needed prior to a child entering pre-school.  Why aren't companies doing more to help women particularly doing those times.  Childcare on the premises?  Companies willing to help pay for childcare during those years as an additional perk?  I am just tossing this out there.

Many of the women I am working with these days are in the young children mode or are going to get there sooner than later.  The good news for all of them is that they are entrepreneurs.  The beautiful thing about being an entrepreneur is that you are master of your own destiny.  More than likely your board will be happy to pay a salary that allows any of these women to cover their childcare as well as they have complete flexibility in their day to day lives.  Although they probably work longer and harder than most but they still control their time. 

I was speaking with someone today on the phone, a female entrepreneur and she has two young children.  As much as she enjoys being a Mom, being at home is not for her.  She worked in corporate jobs prior to having kids but now she has her own company and she wouldn't go back to the structured demands of corporate world for anything in the world. How would she deal with her kids? 

These days I rarely hear the rumble about childcare.  Are the start-ups that are becoming multi-million dollar companies making intelligent decisions about helping their employees with childcare as well as flexibility with their lives? I certainly hope so. 

Years ago I ran a company in the garment center.  I left the company for a variety of reasons which is a story in itself but I chose not to start my own company afterward even though I had the ability to because I was concerned that I would not be present in my kids lives.  Instead I opted to take a job in another company feeling that it was the right choice as a Mom.  Truthfully it was a bad decision because not only was I bored out of my mind, when the guy I was working for fired me (another story) he said that he should be reporting to me and that the person who he reported should be reporting to me too. So in essence he confirmed for me that I should have taken the right job for me because I would have been happier and happy parents make happy kids.  So back to the story.  Emily is sick, she has pneumonia.  I had to take her to get a chest xray, she is 10 months old.  I was upset and a little flipped out.  I leave the place where we had the xrays taken and call the office to check in.  They want to know when I am coming back.  Seriously?  My kid has pneumonia, I am obviously getting the job done and will showing up for a few hours at the end of the day make or break the work week…no.  The first thing that came to my mind was when I ran the company in the same industry, although I was the second person to a one man band company, I completely controlled my own destiny and coming back to the office was my choice not someone else's. That was the last time I worked for someone else.

Childcare is one of the reasons many women make decisions in their careers.  That is one thing that I hope the next generation of companies are figuring out….happy workers, happy families, happy communities and in the end more profitable companies. 




Comments (Archived):

  1. Tereza

    Massive issue.  But people not in it think it’s an exception.I can only afford to do what i’m doing bc my parents died and I decided to spend the money I inherited on childcare while I re-cast my career and started something of my own.  BC my husband’s salary does not cover it.And thing is, I view what I’m spending as an ‘investment’ — it is in a way, in my kids and in my sanity.  And probably in my marriage, too.  But really it’s an expense.  Not an asset that’ll grow.  So it really is just extra pounds in our backpack.And I agree — flexibility is essential as a mom.  The choice of when to be present with my kids needs to be mine.  It can’t be something I negotiate for every day.  And as you know it often changes on the fly.We need childcare “scholarships” for moms starting businesses.  That would go a long way.  The childcare credits we get today are useless, completely out of line with what people earn and what childcare costs.  

    1. Tashagajewski

      Timely post for me!Can I, entrepreneur & mom of two, write childcare into my biz plan as part of my burn rate?

      1. Gotham Gal

        why not. someone has to start somewhere.

      2. Tereza

        Not everyone is OK w it but I did. But not as biz plan per se. It’s buried in your salary requirement, so when they push back on why you need a salary or why it’s so high, be ready to explain (or warn them in advance so they don’t freak at a number they think is high). It’s a clunky discussion but is what it is. I’ve not been smart enough to figure out a smooth way around it. In fact I have to say it’s a bit emotional bc fighting for it feels like fighting for your reason for being. But, whatever. Be strong, GF.

  2. sharon

    I could agree more…  It’s been 50 years since Betty Frieden wrote in The Feminine Mystique,about the “disease that has no name”– and how women were going out of their minds because they could not use their minds— Now, Women can use their minds, but they are still going out of their minds– for exactly these reasons. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      sharon…great comment. you are so right. women are totally going out oftheir minds with this. they can work and use their minds but on the otherhand they still have to deal with childcare and that is more like going outof your mind.

  3. deirdre

    Right on.  I know a lot of women who would make a tremendous contribution to start-ups and/or corporations, but the lack of flexibility and lack of child care has in essence forced them out of the work place.  (Just as you say.)  Horrendous.  We need more good options.  Big step is to have entrepreneurs create those options.  

    1. Gotham Gal

      what would an entrepreneur create? that would be an interestingconversation and biz plan.

      1. Tereza

        Entrepreneurs who are more experienced managers can plan the day and meetings and the work people are doing so that the company culture isn’t all about face time.  Inexperienced managers think everyone needs to be sitting in front of them every second of the day.  But in fact they’re wasting a shitload of time.Given the amount of workspaces you walk into where either everyone is staring at their own screen, or, people are shooting the shit but talking about everything BUT the business.  There are a lot of people who have no idea how inefficient they are.Sorry to rant but i’m obviously passionate about this topic.  This is where there are seriously differing perspectives on the planet and how it works.

  4. Helenerosenthal

    child care is the issue and it affects everyone. it’s nice that entrepreneurs have the luxury of calling their own shots but these women do no represent the majority of women who have to juggle mediocre child care options with a job that barely covers these expenses. i believe that the nordic countries have a mandatory paternity leave but that only begins to address long term child care issues. i remember having to occasionally bring my kids into the office when my babysitter got sick and i would have to hide them—not an easy thing to do with twin toddlers! 

    1. Gotham Gal

      you are absolutely right.when i did business with sears, many years back, in their corporate officesthey had day care. the facility was beautiful and the ratio of kids topersonnel was pretty good. if your kid was there you could walk down andsee him/her during the day for a little bit. it was absolutely fantasticand really forward thinking.i’d love to see the statistics on how many large corporations or even mediumsized corporations have something to help their employees work with theseissues. i am not so sure it is even remotely better since you tucked yourkids underneath your desk.

      1. sharon

        I think it depends on the industry.  Some– like academia have child-care facilities/day care. I know of a few places.  Others, like financial services– I know of very few. And, what about if you return to work, while still nursing.. where do you pump? A friend of mine returning from maternity leave wanted to know where she could pump, other than the bathroom floor. (they had few private offices–mostly cubes) Do you know, they had no answer, because no-one had asked the question– and this is NYC in 2011. And because she  dared to ask the question, and kept escalating– they saw to it that a private room was designated for her and all other women!! Sooo..maybe having the courage to speak up is a start. I know I never did– and looking back, I wonder why? And this is yet another reason why having your own business is so appealing.  

        1. Gotham Gal

          In 2011 it is truly amazing how far we have come yet how far we haven’tcome.

        2. Tereza

          At PwC we had a full-fledged ‘corporate lactation program’ that the women.  They loved it so much that the MEN rose up and fought to have it for their wives as well.They’d first subsidize a $300 high-end travel pump — you get it for $75.  And you’d have about 3 months of private by-phone lactation consultant.  This included establishing your mild supply, and eventually, getting you on a pumping/feeding schedule for work.’mothers rooms’ for pumping that were private with a sink, fridge, comfortable chair. Really nice.  If you had to travel, they lactation consultant would teach you how. did you know you can FedEx milk home on dry ice?  They taught us this stuff.  Any decent hotel can get you what you need if you know what questions to ask.  Really helps to have that guidance on that first biz trip away, which is a total freak-out.This program is an outsourced one — any company can sign up for it and offer it to their employees.  It’s not even expensive to do.But until someone asks for it or thinks it’s a need, people don’t take it seriously.  They hear “Corporate Lactation Program” and they just laugh.

      2. Tereza

        the places I know of that have had it had super-loyal employees.a bit more common in the suburbs bc it’s harder to find nanny out here and having to drive 30 min for daycare is a non-starter so the big co’s tend to be more like a example is Mastercard in white plains — i knew people who’d claw to hold onto that job bc of the on-site childcare and other such perks.another is diageo in norwalk, which had an open bar to sample the goods. oh, wait….

  5. kirklove

    Lili is definitely struggling with “What to do?” Not an easy topic, especially when you are trying to balance mind, heart, and what you think is best for baby.I will say this: I’m old fashioned and at first thought a parent (not assuming her) should stay home with the child. Upon further reflection and discussions with Lili we feel that if we are both happy and fulfilled the child will benefit most from that.Still, it’s a tough call.

    1. Gotham Gal

      happy parents, happy kids. lili will see how she feels once the baby isborn. the key is being true to yourself.

      1. Tereza

        and it evolves over time too, doesn’t it?  baby grows, school starts, market changes.  Nothing is permanent.

  6. Whatever

    “Childcare is clearly needed prior to a child entering pre-school.  Why aren’t companies doing more to help women particularly doing those times.  Childcare on the premises?  Companies willing to help pay for childcare during those years as an additional perk?”How does your husband’s portfolio of companies do on these issues?

    1. Gotham Gal

      I have seen complete flexibility with the companies but I have yet to hearabout a situation where someone walked away from the job because ofchildcare issues. Doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. I see the people in thecompanies that I am working with and these issues are very few and farbetween because of the nature of many of these businesses the employees haveyet to enter that part of their life. Yet I see it starting.

      1. Tereza

        I suspect there’s a self-selection process happening on both sides.  I’m not talking USV companies or your portfolio, but in general. (i’m not qualified to opine on either portfolio as such)In the few circumstances I know of where a mom fit into a startup (I can count them on one hand) there was a strong and specific professional or social connection bringing the company and the candidate together.  Which is normal in any job but i think moreso here.Co’s that are all young(-ish) single guys and then women who are moms … their social circles have almost no overlap.

        1. Gotham Gal

          i agree that their social circles have no overlap but my experience, maybe iam too optimistic, is that the younger men in the start-up community arevery aware of these issues and would really like to figure them out. theydo understand the value of a smart woman.

          1. Tereza

            I agree with you on that. We need to help them understand what help means and where it matters.

          2. Gotham Gal


  7. Stephanie

    This us such a good post – I often wonder why it isn’t brought up more. I left a regular corporate job to start my own business because, in part, of this very issue. I have been home with a sick child, with a fever of 102, and had morons call me from the office asking why I couldn’t come in. I have put up with idiots droning on with fake sympathy about “the pink collar problem” which in their minds justified why women shouldn’t advance as fast in their careers because of their inability to stay late at the office. Ironically these are the same people who spend half of their work day following their personal stock portfolio or reading Google news. Being an entrepreneur is the best fit I can think of for a working mom, but it is a scary prospect for many. Most still have to worry about how they are going to cover the expense  of running a business and a household. Also, our school system trains people to be good employees, not good business owners (especially up here in Canada where our culture is very risk adverse)I think the ideal system would be two fold: better childcare options and better tools for women to start their own businesses. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      i totally agree. better childcare and a better education system to trainpeople to start their own businesses.

    2. armaity

      Most organisations have pared their staff to the bone. while your sick child is keeping you at home, who is going to pick up the slack at the office? why should other people do your work for you? we can’t have every thing in life, if a woman needs to work, find a company that has childcare, or make companies have childcare. but don’t expect other people to not resent you when you stay at home and the work and emergencies pile up. if we women expect equal pay and opportunities, we either have to make the issues that come in our way of achieving this go away or accept the fact that we can’t have it all stay at home and then come back to the workforce when we don’t have dueling priorities.

      1. Gotham Gal

        It’s called the computer which allows you access to anythingThere is also phones and Skype. We live in a virtual world and anyone cando their job basically from anywhere.Men do it all the time

        1. armaity

          True, but women complain they are bothered at home, when they are attending to a sick child so then what are the others in the office to do,. You can have skype at home but if you do not want to use it because there is a domestic emergency going on, what is the point of having it. most jobs need one to be at the place of work, it depends on the nature of the work, and there are not too many jobs out there where you are allowed to work from home and say i will attend to work when i get around to it. maybe at a very senior level one can do so. or if one is the owner of the business in the first place.

          1. Gotham Gal

            it is called flexibility. trust that people are committed to performingtheir jobs no matter what the circumstances and I guarantee you that youwill have a better workplace and a dedicated staff.perhaps women complain because they are losing their minds not working.

          2. armaity

            the women complaining are the ones that are working! how could i write about women complaining about calls from the office if they were not working!

          3. Stephanie

            I was going to write a long, detailed rebuttal to these comments, but I’m too busy working…

          4. just a thought

            armaity (btw – i love the screen name).. i have to disagree with much of what you’re saying..  to achieve a better society, we have to avoid misanthropy…  that means that we help each other out… perhaps you don’t plan to have children and you’ll never have to make the difficult decision to leave the office to attend to a sick child, but one day you might need a hand.. you might find yourself in a rough spot, either sick or having to help someone you care about deeply… hopefully the people you work with you will treat with compassion and you will find yourself touched by how many people there are who truly rally when people are in need..

          5. Gotham Gal

            i couldn’t agree with you more. when my mom was sick, my sister was barelyin her office for five weeks and they couldn’t have been moreunderstanding. she hadn’t even been there that long. in my book, that goesa long way.

  8. RichardF

    I’ll be honest as a young guy in a corporate environment it never even crossed my mind what a huge issue this was.  Once the table was turned and it was my wife who was having to think about career choice vs childcare cost it became very evident!My wife returned to work four months after the birth of our son because in reality it was the only way that she could ensure an up coming promotion and continue with her career.  (She was entitled to take a year off)  We were fortunate that I was able to be flexible with my working hours and have had good childminders.Occasionally my wife still has to remind her boss (who herself is a female and has had two children) that staying in work beyond 5.30pm is not an option because that’s when she has to pick up our son from our childminderIn the UK at the age of three you are entitled to 15 hours a week free childcare, which is not means tested.  This is a help but I think it would be better if it was cut back for parents that do not work and extended for those that do work

    1. Gotham Gal

      interesting. but those who don’t work and stay at home, honestly need abreak on occasion too. sanity makes for better parenting.

      1. RichardF

        I absolutely agree with you, just not sure that UK Plc can afford to pay for it at the moment and I do not want to see it become another means tested benefit that is handed out to people (male and female) who choose not work.  We have enough of those.

        1. Gotham Gal

          For sure

    2. armaity

      So if there is work to be done after 5.30pm who does it? other people will then have to adjust their schedules around your nanny. will i get the same consideration if i need to walk my dog ? women trying to juggle work and family is a real problem. women are as important to the workforce as men are, and as a society we have to accept that there will have to be a give and take to make this happen . but society has to be prepared and ready to do so. but let us not pretend that there will be no conflict and others will not be required to make compromises. it will be a juggling act.britain and europe are enlightened, try getting these government benefits in the USA and you will be accused of being a socialist.

      1. Gotham Gal

        it is all about being flexible and understanding.

      2. RichardF

        Nobody else does her work and nobody else adjusts their schedules, she’ll either do it later at home or will do it the next day.  Most requests to stay after 5.30pm in my wife’s case are because it’s convenient for her boss rather than an urgent deadline.Women are absolutely as important in every way as men.  It’s employers that need to incorporate flexibility into work practices not work colleagues.I have a dog who is a major part of our family but to even start comparing when it needs a walk to a child’s needs is frankly ridiculous.

        1. armaity

          Why is it ridiculous? MOst dog owners will agree with me when i say that they do not feel happy leaving their dogs alone at home to be walked by a stranger.  .In any case my walking the dog comment was meant to illustrate the point that everyone has a reason to go home early. why is it only considered a valid reason when one has to attend to a child. why this feeling of entitlement to special treatment because you have a child, one is not entitled to maintain a career whilst inconveniencing others.big presentation next day, sorry I can’t stay, have to pick up my kid. everyone else since you have nowhere important  to go after work stay and finish. generally it is the woman who is doing all the picking up and the cooking and the housework while trying to juggle a career. maybe if husbands picked up kids and had to race home to cook dinner and told their bosses they wanted to leave early to do so, society would change faster. Until husbands do a fair share of the heavy lifting and women stop expecting bosses and colleagues to pick up their slack, people are going to grumble about hiring mothers with young children.

          1. armaity

            sorry i should have made it clear that I am not writing this specific to richard and his situation, these are my just my general thoughts on the subject.

      3. Meg

        armaity, it sounds like you have had some bad experiences with working mothers. As one who leaves before 5:00 to pickup my children from daycare, I can assure you that if there is still work to be done, it is getting done that night or early the next morning. I think most of us are professional enough to not leave “work and emergencies piling up” in the office while we’re home taking care of sick kids. Granted this isn’t the case for all professions and all situations (such as public accounting which I opted to leave behind for a more flexible situation) , but it’s been my experience so far.Life happens. One of my co-workers is an older lady with a husband in poor health. If she needs to take him to doctor appointments, we pitch in where we can so that she can spend time with him.

  9. ella

    there are a few companies out there who have childcare on the premises and are ‘family-friendly’ … the place i used to work at (a huge pharmaceutical), had a childcare on site and there was a 2-year waiting list to get in. but they were also very understanding about having to take sudden time off to care for a sick child, accommodating those who couldn’t work around certain chemicals while they were pregnant etc. we had some great talent and they knew how to keep them there. (there were other perks like a gym on site, etc)sadly this is not the norm… but there are places out there that get it.

    1. Gotham Gal

      That’s fantastic. You hit the nail on the head….they know his to keeptalent

  10. Andrea Barrett

    Really great post.  This is such a huge issue. Technology has given use the ability to work whenever from wherever (for better or worse), so flexible schedules are more and more common. Unfortunately, for women trying to get ahead, much of the important work needs to happen face-to-face (meet-ups, dinner with potential partners, drinks with investors ).  Even if we’ve got solid daytime childcare, this is the kind of ‘optional’ stuff we miss out on.  We can accept it, or we can try to find tools to help get back a bit of the flexibility we once had. When I returned to my startup job after the birth of my first child, I felt this pain and ultimately left to try to address the problem.  I’ve recently co-founded to give working moms an efficient way to find trusted, occasional sitters through their social network. This is obviously just addressing a small part of a very big problem, but I’m hoping it gives working moms one more tool to help maintain sanity while kicking butt at work.


    (as a mom of 4 and an entrepreneur – I decided to  test a “comeback mom” concept at AboutOne, where women can work part time – hours to match their schedules, sometimes from the office and sometimes from home dependant on the team schedule and workload and their family life –  So far the flexibility is working well for the women (moms) and me as the founder.  I have an amazing and experienced team on a start up budget.  There are definately challenges working virtually but technology is really helping.  Has anyone else tried somethimg similar, what was your experience?

    1. Gotham Gal

      I haven’t but I’d love to talk to you about your business.

      1. AboutOne

        In addition to come back moms, AboutOne has a philanthropic mission and so I actually would love to hear any feedback or ideas you have on this aspect given all your experience.  I am in NY on Wed 3rd, I am happy to buy you a coffee in return for your feedback??

  12. Scott Nixon

    Another great post which I completely agree with. Thank you, Joanne. Culturally, we are so out of wack that so many businesses still have the “are you coming back to work” mindset. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      the mindset should be, how can we create flexible jobs for women so that we can grab their brain share to help our company be better.

  13. Erica Zidel

    We’re one start up trying to solve the childcare problem. We’re making it easy for parents to trade childcare and schedule sitters. Would love to give you an overview of what we’re up to at SittingAround (, SittingAround (and mom who understands this problem all too well firsthand)

    1. Gotham Gal

      Let me take a look