I’m writing and posting this reflection on the first year “anniversary” of the closing of childcare center on UMBC’s campus. That was a painful and stressful time on campus for many families and their children. Thankfully, UMBC is committed to being a family-friendly campus not only in name but in actions and renovations to restore the childcare center back to working condition will take place this year with a slated re-opening date of fall 2015.
But the issue of childcare extends beyond UMBC. Here’s some startling facts about the state of childcare in the United States.
In many states, the cost of childcare is more expensive than college tuition.
This high price of childcare is particularly important you take into consideration the following statistics found in a National Women’s Law Center analysis of state and national data that addresses the concerns related to low-wage jobs and the intersection of childcare:
- Over 1.2 million mothers with very young children (children ages three and under) are in low-wage occupations (those that typically pay $10.10 or less per hour)
- In every state, working mothers of very young children are disproportionately represented in low-wage occupations.
Moreover, low-wage jobs often entail unstable, unpredictable, or inflexible schedules and lack any paid sick or family leave which can make it difficult to arrange child care. For more information, you can read the full report here.
Getting your college degree and being a parent also isn’t easy. Check out a previous post from our former intern, Emily that specifically focuses the childcare issues faced by college student parents.
There’s also this report from AAUW that specifically addresses childcare issues on a community college level.
And the issue extends beyond access to childcare. These are just two personal stories I’ve heard recently from moms in my life…
A dear friend of mine just had her baby. Leading up to her due date, we spoke about her struggle to understand the ins and outs of her maternity leave (because newsflash: out of 178 nations, the US is one of three that still does not require paid maternity leave benefits). With only weeks to go until her due date, she realized she had been told the wrong information about her leave policies and now had significantly less time to take off during maternity leave than she originally thought. In the moment she wasn’t feeling well and was contemplating starting her leave early before the baby came. She shared with me feeling torn about taking the time off now before the baby was here so she could take care of herself or to save the time for later so she could spend it with the baby once he or she arrived. She asked: “how can I take care of my baby, if I can’t take care of me now?”
Upon coming back from maternity leave, my sister-in-law, J, inquired with her HR department about a private space she could pump. She was referred to a single-use bathroom that was generally known around the office… and this is her exact quote… “as the place the guys went to take a dump.” J questioned that location as the only solution and asked if she could use a conference room when it wasn’t in use. She was told that using a conference room wasn’t sanitary for other people who use it… you know in case breast milk got all over the place. Needless to say, she left the meeting crying and feeling pretty hopeless. Thank goodness, HR went back and did their homework and changed their statement when it became apparent that state law made it illegal for workplaces to designate public restrooms as lactation rooms. The next day they turned an empty office into a “wellness center.”
They were probably worried this would happen….
But all joking aside, for UMBC folks, please know the University System of Maryland has a lactation facilities policy and the Women’s Center is the official lactation room for campus. Moreover, on all college campuses that receive federal funding, pregnant and parenting students can find protection under Title IX which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities.
During the various conversations I engaged in last year when the campus childcare center closed, it was important for me to emphasize that access to childcare wasn’t just a women’s issue. It was a parent issue. A student success issue. A retention and graduation issue. A work-place satisfaction issue. And, while all of that is true, access to childcare and family-friendly work policies are still also women’s issues that impact pay-equity issues, tenure and promotion issues, work-life balance issues and more. As a society, we need to do a better job at supporting our moms and families. It’s time for a culture shift and we all need to be a part of the solution.
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The Women’s Center has several resources that may be of interest to our UMBC moms and parents:
Mother’s Group list-serv: This list-serv allows members to connect with other moms and parents on campus. Looking for a suggestion for a babysitter, pediatrician, or childcare provider? Email the list! If you’d like to be added provide your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org
myUMBC Moms and Parents Group: This is clearinghouse of sorts that the Women’s Center created to put all the parenting and childcare resources we know of in one place. Examples of links and documents include the childcare resource guide, employment protections, Grad’s School maternity leave policies, information about Title IX. This can also be a place for parents to post their own discussions or questions.
Childcare Resource Guide: Before the childcare on campus closed, the Women’s Center with the support of the President’s Commission for Women put together a guide to help parents find alternatives to childcare on campus, especially for kiddos between the ages of zero and two. Since the center closed on campus, we’ve added to the guide and continue to update it on a semester by semester basis.
Women’s Center Lactation Room: In addition to the private space, there is also a hospital grade breast pump and a mini-fridge to store your milk (away from everyone’s lunches and dinners).
Mother’s Group Meetings: This is a time for mothers on campus to get together and connect. We’re in the process of re-envisioning what these meetings can look like and how we can make it the best use of time for our busy moms. Stay tuned for updates on when the next meeting will be by following the myUMBC moms and parents page or joining the mother’s group list-serv.