Working parents are master multitaskers juggling the responsibilities of jobs alongside the needs and wants of their families and children. Between client projects, board meetings, or retail shifts, they must balance homework, sports practices, well-child checkups, and household chores. Being both a parent and an employee is an enormous task, not for the faint of heart.
Today, being a working parent is the norm rather than the exception in the United States. At least one parent was employed in 89.1 percent of households, up from 88.5 percent in 2020. Increasingly though, just one working parent isn’t enough. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that in 2021 among married family couples with children, 62.3 percent of them had both parents employed.
While it may be easy to assume that only parents who work outside the home are working parents, studies show that parents who stay home with kids put in more hours than parents who attend a job. In fact, a survey conducted by the juice company Welches found that the average stay-at-home parent worked 14-hour days or 98-hour workweeks.
It is important to acknowledge the hard job of working parents and actively work to help ease their burden. Over the years, legislation such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act has improved some conditions for working parents, but much work still needs to be done. Affordable childcare, universal health care, and paid parental leave are just a few benefits that would help working parents immensely.
To recognize the hard work working parents do, September 16, 2022 is designated as National Working Parents Day. Continue reading to learn more about working parents’ challenges, what new legislation is on the horizon, and how to celebrate National Working Parents Day.
The challenges facing working parents are significant. Many parents find that work and family life can often conflict, making it hard to be at sports events, dance recitals, and concerts when deadlines loom or a client is in crisis. Having competing demands means sacrifices must be made, one way or the other.
Unfortunately, working parents often face problematic stereotypes at work. A 2022 study published in Gender, Work & Organization found that men who alter their working patterns to accommodate caregiving responsibilities faced three negative reactions from their managers and peers. The first was they were viewed as being idle. Secondly, they were considered suspiciously and lost the trust of their peers. And lastly, they were subject to workplace mockery disguised as friendly banters.
Working moms face a unique set of challenges as they wrestle with the ever-present socially constructed “mommy guilt.” Many mothers are shamed for choosing to work rather than stay home with their kids, even if they prefer to work or if the family’s economic status would suffer if they stayed home. This is further exacerbated by harmful stereotypes that working moms don’t care about their children, are unreliable, and work to avoid being with their kids.
Working moms often cannot choose between raising their kids or being employed because of circumstances outside their control. During the first year of the pandemic, over one-third of all mothers reduced the number of hours they worked or left their jobs altogether to help provide care for their children. In fact, having children is often considered one of the worst career moves a woman can make. Women who have children often see their careers penalized with the loss of work experience and reduced wages.
However, one of the most significant challenges currently facing working parents is the simple ability to find and pay for childcare. CNN Business reports that more than half a million families in the US currently do not have childcare due to a severe shortage of childcare employees. Unfortunately, the average pay for childcare workers sits below $12.25 per hour, which will likely keep many of these positions unfilled and parents desperate for help.
If parents can find childcare, the costs have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. According to Fortune, the average cost of center-based child care has risen 41 percent to an average of $14,117 annually. That is up from $9,997 before the pandemic. These high costs have driven many families to make different arrangements for their children, including staggering schedules, reducing working hours, or staying home altogether.
There have been numerous bills at the state and federal levels that have helped working parents. In 1976 the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed. This Act forbade discrimination against pregnant people in the workplace, including firing, hiring, layoff, promotions, and health insurance. The Family and Medical Leave Act enacted in 1993 afforded qualified employees job protection to care for sick family members or a newborn baby. It should be noted, though, that the leave is unpaid.
Still, there is much work to still be done. Organizations such as the National Partnership for Women & Families are lobbying to pass the FAMILY Act. This bill, if passed, would provide paid family and medical leave to qualified individuals. Currently, only 23 percent of the workforce has paid family leave through their employer, and only 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided short-term disability program. The FAMILY Act would afford workers up to 12 weeks or partial income to care for family members and would apply to all workers, no matter the size of the company.
Celebrating National Working Parents Day can be an excellent time to recognize parents working hard at work and home. There are lots of ways to get involved with this day. A great place to start is simply by reaching out to any working parents you may know and offering them an encouraging text or post on social media acknowledging how hard they work.
For those who don’t have kids, you can celebrate this day by offering to babysit for working parents so they can get a break, dropping off dinner to ease the weeknight meal burden, or taking a working parent out to lunch as a special treat. Other ways to participate can include advocating for working parents in the workplace and helping to banish stereotypes other co-workers may have about working parents.
National Working Parents Day is a day where employers can really shine. There are so many things they can do to make life easier for working parents, including having a flexible leave program so parents can care for kids or attend events, de-stigmatizing putting family first, and accommodating their unique needs.
On a long-term scale, beyond National Working Parents Day, employers can implement parent-friendly benefits such as paid maternity and paternity leave, adoption reimbursement, childcare stipends, work-from-home options, and, if appropriate, the ability to bring kids into work when needed.
Here are some resources for working parents: