Working moms report child care difficulties 3 days per month, creating a retention problem

Working moms experience child care difficulties about 3.6 working days each month, according to media company BabyCenter, and research indicates those hiccups can have real implications for employers’ DEI and retention efforts.

In a survey conducted this summer, moms said many of those problems involved unreliable providers or sick children who could not attend school or day care. But finances play a role, too. Nearly half of those polled said they’ve considered reducing their hours or stopping work altogether to save money on child care. Another 13% already left their jobs due to the costs.

Those issues may pose hurdles for employers’ DEI and retention initiatives as study after study — including the most recent one from BabyCenter — reveals that women tend to bear the brunt of child care logistics. When child care supports fall apart, it’s most often women who leave the workforce. Overall workforce participation rates plummeted, for example, in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. But while participation rates for men recovered quickly, the rates for women didn’t. That statistic did eventually recover to a new high, but the flip side is parents say they’re burned out.

To mitigate burnout along with diversity and retention concerns, employers have turned to a variety of child care benefits, such as stipends, dependent care flexible spending accounts and emergency backup care. Others have found success with benefits that may prove useful for even more employees: remote work, schedule flexibility and paid sick days that can be used to care for others.

But those offerings can only be one piece of the puzzle, according to some. “There is often a thought process by policy leaders that we should just leave it to industry to create these competitive benefits — that government doesn’t have a role. I believe it is both,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, said at an event last month. Omar has suggested Congress mandate national paid leave, among other things.