Childcare for Dual-Career Couples.
by Leslie Morgan Steiner
My children are 13, 11 and 8. In other words, practically grown-ups. Finding daycare, nannies, and babysitters is a distant memory. Actually, more like a nightmare. Wait lists, reference checks, interviews, worries about missing pick-up or a nanny calling in sick on the day of an important business trip, these stresses all lodge blessedly in my parenting past.
Hiring and managing childcare providers was one of the only aspects of parenting young children that I truly, consistently despised. It was an important factor in deciding not to have a fourth child. It was a source of near-constant marital friction.
And not because childcare is so expensive – although it is. National childcare finder Care.com estimates that over 15% of families’ household budgets are spent on daycare and babysitters; and 50% of the total childcare expense comes in summer, when school is out and it’s harder to find consistent, temporary childcare.
No, the childcare knife in my gut was more complicated than dollars and cents. Being dependent on someone else to care for my children so that I could work made me feel more vulnerable than I’ve ever felt. As a new mother, I simply could not, would not leave my kids with caregivers I didn’t trust 100%. Yet I couldn’t go to work for a single minute without childcare. I felt squeezed between razor-sharp maternal love vs. employee duty.
My husband was one of the only people I trusted 100% to take care of our kids. Unfortunately he wasn’t willing or able to cut back his hours at work – due to the norms of his industry he felt pressure to show how committed he was to work even though he had young kids. Additionally, he saw the cement-like childcare burden as mine to shoulder alone. I researched, found and kept good caregivers and daycare centers. I also handled drop off and pick up for all three children since he felt he had to be at work early and stay late in his male-dominated, stay-at-home-wife-dependent industry (let me note that I worked fulltime in the male-dominated, high-pressure world of daily journalism).
God knows we – like most new parents -- needed more help. We had three children born in a five year span, two intense careers, and no family in the area on a consistent basis. Many women might be grateful to have a husband willing to spring for live-in, round-the-clock care including a second shift of nannies. But I hated that my husband always saw the solution as "hire more help." It still bugs me.