Who Will Watch The Children Today?

In my HR position, I see many of our employees struggle with the issue of child care. I see its effects on both men and women, but I see it more often with the female gender.

Since women are expected to do it all these days, many of them end up in the unenviable position of juggling their schedule almost daily. Men, in general, are not raised to think about who will watch their children if they are unable to do so, or what needs to happen if their children are ill or out of school for the day.

In many modern families, two full-time incomes are needed to maintain the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed. When one parent has to stay home, there is the possibility of a reduction in income. Childcare is expensive and most caregivers charge by the week or month and won’t give refunds for days that children don’t attend. In a lot of families, Mom’s income is lower than Dad’s, so Mom stays home when kids are sick, out of school, or have appointments.

I’ve talked with quite a few women about these issues. Not surprisingly, guilt runs rampant; guilt for missing work, guilt for not giving enough of themselves to their families, guilt for not taking time to recharge. What was surprising to me were the assumptions women make about their responsibilities to their families. Most of the moms with whom I spoke wouldn’t even consider seriously discussing with their husbands the difficulties they encounter juggling their lives. There was a pervasive, “that’s just the way it is” attitude, with unspoken resentment simmering just under the surface.

I don’t think men are wired to be mind readers. Somewhere along the line, they learn to be much more straightforward than women. One of the great things I’ve seen at my company is a willingness of men to step up to the childcare responsibilities. I’ve seen our guys ask for PTO to care for sick children, days off of school, and just because mom needs some time away.

Family responsibilities are not a male or female issue. They are a human issue. As in most situations, clear and honest communication makes it easier.

What have you seen work for families struggling with managing their responsibilities? What has worked for you?

Photo credit iStockPhoto

About the Author

April Kunzelman

April Kunzelman, PHR, has a wide range of experience in many aspects of personnel management. For over 10 years, she served as the HR Director for fatwallet.com, building an award-winning culture. April now spends her days working with the non-profit organization Chemo Cargo, aimed at assisting first-time chemotherapy patients. Connect with April on Twitter as @akunzel and @chemocargo.


Lois Melbourne

I love April’s company policy. It is similar to ours, but their’s is said with a lo tmore fun. We are filled with professional employees, but all employees are expected to put family on high priority. Telecommuting is one of the best tools to aid in this flexibility.

Because people can often have a long drive to our office from home, allowing telecommuting means they can duck out for the school program and dentist appointment very easy – because those activities are all right there in their community and they don’t have to add drive time to the issue. They get their work done and nobody cares which hours they work. If they are going to miss a meeting, they need to plan in advance. They are also really good at working together to back each other up to give customer coverage, if needed.

April Kunzelman


My company agrees with being involved in your child’s activities if you’re able. To this end, we have what we call our “No Miss” guideline. This is how it reads in our employee handbook:

“Remember to practice a good work/life balance! If you are out of town on business over a weekend, have spent a lot of late evenings in the office, etc., please remember to make it up to your family.

We have a “No Miss” guideline. If you have kids/family/etc with school programs/graduations/plays/etc, you may not use work as an excuse for missing the occasion. If you just don’t want to go, that’s one thing; but don’t tell yourself, “I can’t, I have to work.” We don’t want you missing important milestones in your families’ lives.

Pay attention to the things that are truly important (good, bad,whatever). Make your decisions accordingly. We will accommodate you (within reason of course) to the best of our ability.”

Granted, we are not in a manufacturing environment. We do this for everyone, janitor to the CEO. Some positions, such as reception and on-demand customer service, take more planning for absences than others, but we commit to our employees to make it work. In return, they are some of our most rabid raving fans.

Lyn Hoyt

This is such a hard topic. I deal with it personally and I empathize when my employees struggle dealing with missed work while a sick child is at home. Hourly workers in manufacturing are especially vulnerable since they cannot do their work on the computer at home.

But, what about the engaged aspect of parenting that can be scheduled around work hours? I would love to know of any reward or recognition programs that promote attending PTO, being involved in your child’s school or rewarding child attendance records. Might lessen the guilt a bit when you know your employer is supportive of your time as a parent.

April Kunzelman

Ann – Terrific point. If we’re not honest with ourselves, we can’t be honest with anyone else!

Ann Farrell


Great topic! In our home, my husband and I would assess this logicially by looking at who could best afford to stay home based on what was on our plates or calendars for the day. And then after the logical assessment, even though my work role was almost always the more demanding one, I would then apply the “I wanted / needed to be with our son if he is sick” or “I want to be home and play with him ” trump card to overrule the logical answer whenever I could!

I would also more than make up for whatever I needed to for my job. “Being where I needed to be when I needed to be there”, is how I have defined “balance” or “integration” in my work life wihich now includes the needs of the teenaage years and a Dad with Alzhiemers, and support my clients to do the same. Sometimes that means needing to be with a sick child during a work-day and sometimes that means needing to work all weekend. Balancing it all this way, has left me with very few regrets or guilt in either my great career or my great life.

Sometimes it is not just about having the conversation with our spouses. Sometimes it is about having the honest discussion with ourselves about what we need for us too.


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