Child Care Is a Career Tool
As I have previously shared, for the 186 women I personally interviewed and the 1,476 who responded to the Women on the Rise survey, the number one piece of advice they offered was “stay in
the game.” They didn’t necessarily mean don’t pause; they meant keep your industry knowledge up to date, volunteer in ways that build your skills and are advantageous to your re-entry, and, perhaps most important, stay connected to your professional network. But doing all of this takes time away from caring for your children.
Many of the women I spoke to who had volunteer leadership positions that enabled them to stay engaged professionally found that they were working nearly as hard as if they had full-time jobs. Alison Cormack who raised millions of dollars for her town’s library foundation worked nights and weekends in her role as chairwoman of the foundation. She had child care because she could not have done her unpaid job without it.
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Sharon Meers believes one of the smartest things a woman who pauses her career can do is to keep her child care arrangement or to secure one before she pauses if she doesn’t already have one in place. As I shared in chapter 2, Sharon left her big job at Goldman Sachs, decided to use her time away from her full-time job to write a book, and then pivoted to the tech industry. Throughout it all, she never gave up child care.
“It’s about human capital,” Sharon told me over coffee one day. “I valued my contribution and therefore it made sense for the five years I was not working full-time to keep the same support systems in place. I shared the cost of household help and child care with my husband. I didn’t consider it a luxury. I considered it a requirement for my future career.”
Before you just dismiss this as a solution for the One Percent, think about it: It’s true most of us can’t afford to keep our child care situation while we lose an income. But if you consider your pause as a temporary blip in the lifetime arc of your career AND if you and your partner recognize that child care is a shared expense, not just something to be docked against your salary alone, then it might just make sense to keep some type of care, even if only part-time, available to you.
I know of women who’ve traded care with other mothers, switching days on a regular basis so they could each devote part of their time to volunteering and/or skill development. I’ve heard of others who’ve pooled their money and hired a caregiver a few days a week to give them freedom I have heard of still others who have used drop-in day care at their local YMCA or gym. The reason smart women who pause use child care isn’t so they can perfect their yoga pose; it’s so they can use the time to commit to activities that keep them relevant and employable while they’re out of the paid workforce.
Consider maintaining some sort of child care while you pause so you can be sure to continue to keep your career alive and well.