Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why America Is Bad For Working Parents, Part II

I know I should be all patriotic and such on July 4th weekend.

And it's not that I don't love my country.

But sometimes it sucks for working parents, as I've said in this space before (see Why America Is Bad for Working Parents, on this blog a few months back.) The reason I'm revisiting it now is because of an article from July 5's New York Times about how the otherwise employee-friendly company GOOGLE has royally screwed up its corporate daycare (On Daycare, Google Makes A Rare Fumble).

GOOGLE used to offer its employees terrific on-site daycare, contracted out to a company that specialized in such things, for a reasonable though not bargain cost. But the waiting list became too long, and the geniuses at Google who think they do everything better than other companies, including entering businesses they know nothing about, dropped their daycare provider, built their own crazy-expensive facility, then passed on the cost to employees -- and cut that pesky waiting list way down -- by making tuition so pricey, only the richest employees can pay it. It costs more than most colleges' tuition to send a kid to Google's supposedly state-of-the-art daycare.

Now I know company-provided daycare centers are a perk in the U.S., not a right. But I also know American workers work damn hard -- often harder, for longer hours, than their non-U.S. counterparts. We get less vacation. We have less flex time, less comp time, less call-it-what-you-will, time to spend with our families when they need us (which sometimes happens during working day hours). So in my view, Google gets ZERO props for providing a daycare benefit the majority of its working parent employees can't afford and can't get their kids into.

I've endured my own backup childcare center loss at my company due to budget cuts, and been left scrambling many a time when the kids' preschool is closed but I have no vacation time left. It seems like working and having kids is made virtually incompatible by corporate America, and the American government is doing squat about it. Many companies -- and the government -- are sending a message. That message is, if you wanna raise kids, you can't work.

The problem is, raising kids costs money. I'm not necessarily talking private school money -- though the dearth of public preschools has pretty much made some years of private school education a must for most families who live in urban areas with high costs of living. Parents and kids also need access to healthcare plans, which are often only available through their jobs (just try and get decent health insurance on your own, I dare ya).

So this July 4th weekend, I'm mad as hell.

I count my blessings about living here everyday, but I also demand more from my country than the crappy deal working parents like me are getting. Many parents would give up part of their hard-earned salaries for a safe place to leave kids when school is closed -- or for flex time when they get sick, or to have the chance to pick them up from school an hour early occasionally and get quality time. But often, parents don't get that choice. Meanwhile, the heads of the big companies, who can afford nannies and exclusive private schools and the like for their kids, don't ever have to sweat it.

We all deserve better. (Think so too? Check out MomsRising.Org. At least what they're doing -- pushing for mandatory paid sick days and paid family leave in every state -- is a start.)

So happy fourth. Now let's go about the real business of being patriotic: forming a more perfect union, with flex time, more paid sick days, and paid family leave for all.


Anonymous said...

Late Blooming Mom,
Thanks for your passion about flextime. As I always say, work should work for moms, too! And it doesn't yet. But just as our country was formed by our forefathers, this too is ours for the changing!

Amy@UWM said...

AMEN. Tell it, sister!