Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

04 November 2007

What would you do to keep your job?

Would you:

  • Leave your child with the old lady next door that you really don't like?
  • Leave your child with a the guy you just met?
  • Take your child with you toting a box of crayons & coloring books?
  • Go back to work less than a week after giving birth?
  • Hide your pregnancy as long as possible?
My reaction is "hell no!" But I also know I'm one lucky chick. I work for an organization where I get a ton of sick and vacation days AND there has to be one hell of a good reason for me to NOT take a day when my girl needs me. The only time I ever felt like I needed to choose between my job & my daughter was a very short time I worked for a nonprofit and since I was less than six months didn't have ANY sick days.

I also know that many women, too many parents, have to choose between their job and their child's safety. Screw the mommy wars, we're talking about choosing between a sick kid with a 102 degree temperature and reporting to your hourly job where you live paycheck-to-paycheck without sick days.

Rhonda Present, Founder & Director of ParentsWork, recalls to us in the latest newsletter:
A few weeks ago, I was in a coffee shop working on my laptop when I noticed a little girl around five or six years old sitting alone at a table. She seemed to be entertaining herself with the piles of coloring books and toys spread out in front of her. Just as I was wondering where her parents might be, she called out "hi Daddy" to a uniformed man who appeared behind the sales counter. Could it be "Take Your Daughter to Work Day?" No, that doesn't come until April, I thought. So, there must be some other reason for the girl being here.

In my never-ending quest to understand and find solutions to the challenges parents face in juggling work and family life, I decided to ask the father about his situation. He explained that he is a single parent and that his daughter had been home from school sick all week. His own mother was going to come in from out of town to help but had to cancel in the last minute. So, he had no other choice but to bring his sick child to work with him.
Rhonda then points us to a new report out on working parents, Family Values at Work: It's About Time!, that outlines the hardships that happen out of bad luck and family UNfriendly values in our workforce.

Womenstake points us to a recent Nation piece on the plight of working poor mothers and the lack of subsidized child care. I am always honest with how much we pay for child care and when we first started at our fabulous child care facility 4 years ago, we were paying about $300 a week for 5 days of care. Yes, that's $1200 a month and yes, I understand that is some people's mortgage payments. Even the less than stellar places we looked at weren't that much less.

I am lucky...I bet a lot of you reading this are just as lucky...to have a job that pays you what you are worth, get to use sick & vacation days, and you can (barely) afford your child care.

Thus there is a good movement out there working towards paid family leave and paid sick days. What does business say about giving their hourly workers sick days? NO. Why? Because their schedules are already flexible enough that they can schedule their doctor's appointments on their days off. That makes sense because the flu lets us know when it's coming, right? And yet again, teenagers are the excuse for not providing benefits (they are also the reason some don't want to raise the minimum wage because teens don't deserve to earn a real wage)*:
[John] Maddox, the pizza parlor franchisee, said absences among his largely teenage workers were already a "constant problem," especially on Friday nights, when many call in "sick" an hour or two before their shift starts to attend a football game or a hastily called party.
Of course this all on the heels that research shows we are taking FEWER days off for illness:
Most employees with sick pay don't use it all each year, noted Ophelia Galindo, a health and benefits consultant for Mercer Human Resource Consulting. The amount of sick time they've charged has dropped slightly in recent years, she said.

The employers Mercer surveyed gave an average of 8.1 sick days last year, down from 9 days in 2004. Workers charged 5.2 days to illness last year as compared with 5.7 two years ago.
When will we start to treat each other as human beings and not just cogs in a wheel to earn each other money? Looking at this stat, I doubt anytime soon:
The United States is virtually the only industrialized nation that does not mandate sick pay for private-sector employees. Nearly half of full-time workers — an estimated 57 million — don't have the benefit.
Cross-posted at Chicago Moms Blog and Chicago Parent
.

*I do admit to calling in sick to go to a Cubs game with her family & boyfriend in high school.

Technorati tags: ParentsWork, Womenstake, Paid Leave, sick days, family values, work, child care

2 comments:

I'd say no to all those questions, too. But of course, I'm also one of the lucky ones. Like you said, a lot of working parents don't have many choices when it comes to child care.

(Thanks for the h/t, by the way.)

I just returned to work from maternity leave and my husband and I are using a combo of a traditional daycare, my mother-in-law and a semi-flex schedule for the 2 of so we can make the child care costs manageable. It is crazy that something to basic and necessary is so difficult to attain for so many people.