Americans are counting on grandmothers to fill the child care void

It was a dream come true when Misa Chen joined a leadership program at Harvard Business School after a lifetime of battling dyslexia.

But her youngest son was only a year old and her daughter was only 4. Leaving them more than a week to attend in-person sessions didn’t seem feasible, said Chen, CEO and co-founder. of the Los Angeles-based company. Autopilot Reviewsrecount Fortune. Until her mother-in-law intervenes.

Since the birth of her grandchildren, Ana Léniz Mezzano – “Ani” to her family – has taken months away from her life in Santiago, Chile, to spend months with her son and daughter-in-law and their two children. . “I love being a grandmother,” says Mezzano. “It’s so rewarding.”

Mezzano, who still works as a nurse, spent three months with Chen when her eldest daughter was born. And when her grandson was born, she came back to stay with the family and help. “I have a huge bond with them,” Mezzano says of her grandchildren, but adds that it’s a challenge not to live closer.

“After giving birth – I had a very difficult caesarean section – having [Ani] here was so invaluable because she was a comfort to my eldest daughter, and I could trust her with a newborn,” Chen says.

Image courtesy of Misa Chen/Nathalie Cheng

These days, when Mezzano comes to visit, Chen says she packs in speaking engagements, work trips and Harvard classes. “I kind of optimize the time she’s here because it’s so comforting for the kids to have her here,” she says.

“My mother-in-law is one of the only reasons I can have a career,” adds Chen, saying Mezzano’s support of caregiving has allowed her to make headlines and attend conferences. course. “It’s the biggest game changer.”

Mezzano’s trips from Chile to Los Angeles to care for her grandchildren may seem extraordinary, but grandparents, especially grandmothers, routinely fill the caregiving void for their families.

In fact, 42% of working parents rely on grandmothers for childcare, according to a new International Women’s Day survey conducted by The Harris Poll of more than 2,000 American adults.

And when childcare issues arise – such as schools or daycares closing or when children are sick at home – four in 10 parents with children under 18 rely on unpaid help from grandmother, according to the survey. In many cases, grandmothers provide this care often at the expense of their own time and financial security.

But with many Americans struggling to find affordable child care, grandmothers provide critical support to both their families and the wider economy. Without this typically unpaid or underpaid help, many more working parents would be forced to make difficult choices when withdrawing from working life to care for their children.

The vast majority, 92%, of Americans believe that grandmothers make an important economic contribution through the child care services they provide. Moreover, about 83% say that without this care the US economy would suffer.

Without Grandma’s help, more working parents would feel the pinch

Colorado-based Kiki McGough says she was always waiting for the day when she could be a grandmother. With her experience as an early childhood educator, McGough felt she would be able to help her daughter and son-in-law navigate the childcare system.

But when custody of her granddaughter’s children suddenly broke down when she was eight months old, McGough, her daughter and son-in-law found themselves scrambling to cobble together a blanket. “We stuck to a schedule,” McGough says, but admits a lot of the onus was on her, even though she was still working herself.

Not only did she watch her granddaughter before and after daycare three days a week, but she also watched her two weekday afternoons when daycare was unavailable. But with her son-in-law traveling for work and her daughter, a teacher, on a strict schedule, it was the only way for the two to stay in the workforce.

Still, it can be difficult to juggle, especially for grandparents. McGough was up at 6 a.m. so he could pick up his granddaughter and drive her to daycare, as her daughter and son-in-law had to be at work before the center opened. Usually, McGough was also in charge of pickups. In addition, she was on call during holidays and sick days.

“I would call my granddaughter sick at work because my job is a little more flexible than my daughter’s teaching job,” McGough says. “All of this cost my daughter nothing because the cost of a toddler program was the cost of college tuition in Colorado.”

With costs soaring and long waiting lists, it is not uncommon for grandmothers to routinely provide childcare so parents can work. According to the Harris survey, about 4 in 5 working parents who rely on grandmothers for childcare say the support enables them to pursue their career goals. About 67% of these working parents say there have been times when they could have lost their job if not for the help of their child’s grandmother to help care for them.

Without the unpaid childcare provided by grandmothers, 72% of working Americans say their ability to work would be affected. As many as 20% of working parents who depend on unpaid childcare say they would have to quit their job without this support.

But it is not without challenges. McGough says she was lucky because she was financially secure enough to help out. “It’s not like I’m going to charge them the mileage to drive my granddaughter to school or to pick her up on Friday afternoons. I was probably better off than other grandparents. But nevertheless, it is a financial burden.

It’s not just financial challenges either. Yvonne Franklin, who helped look after her grandchildren and is currently helping raise her great-nephew, says childcare often comes at the expense of her own time.

“I have things planned, and something is going on with my grandchildren or my great-nephew, and I have to change my plans to be able to deal with it. Unfortunately, my plans have to take a back seat.”

Solving the childcare crisis has ripple effects

Since the start of the pandemic, many advocates, politicians and parents have pointed out that the child care crisis is an economic issue, as well as a personal challenge faced by many American families.

Without stable, quality child care, parents are unable to maximize their productivity at work. Children are not getting the basics they need to succeed. And, less discussed perhaps, grandparents and other extended family members are risking their financial, physical and mental health to bridge the gap.

Overall, the lack of adequate childcare for infants and young children across the country is now estimated at costs the United States $122 billion a year in lost revenue, productivity and revenue.

Even when parents have money to spend on childcare, finding a provider is a challenge. Seven out of 10 child care centers don’t have as many slots available as they would likeaccording to a November report from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

In total, about 12.3 million children in the United States have working parents, but there are only about 8.7 million licensed child care spaces available, according to a recent Child Care Aware of America report. This leaves a potential gap of around 3.6 million spots.

The pandemic, of course, did not help the situation. Thousands of providers have permanently closed, while many more remain open but grapple with increased operating costs and staffing shortages, as well as changing regulations and protocols.

However, the childcare crisis could get worse as pandemic-era stabilization grants to providers begin to run out this year. This, in turn, could put more pressure on grandparents.

Jacqueline Enriquez was looking forward to traveling in retirement. But babysitting can easily turn into a full-time job.

“My daughter has a two-year-old, and I cared for her from infancy until she was about six months old. [because] we struggled to find daycare for her,” says Enriquez. “The choice is: do I ask my daughter to quit her job and have no income, or do I make the sacrifice and just try to find a part-time job and take care of her? ”

For most grandparents, that’s not really a question. They will continue to sacrifice for their children, regardless of their age.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *