Has Covid-19 Presented Us With an Opportunity to Discuss Childcare As An Economic Win For Everyone?

The Sophie Grace Blog

I launched this brand in January and well - we all know what happened then. We got Covid’ed. What a strange and stressful time. Death tolls mount worldwide. So many are suffering horrifying losses. People are losing their loved ones and others are having economic stability ripped out from under them.  Here in Canada we have fared relatively well compared to our neighbours to the south but if you are paying attention it is evident that those victories cannot be taken for granted. As the economy opens up so do the opportunities for the virus to take hold again. 

We have been incredibly lucky at Sophie Grace. Unrolling a new brand in the middle of this pandemic has not been for the faint of heart but really what has been. We so appreciate that you, our customers, understand what we are creating. A simple and elegant way to ensure dressing well is easy.

As I manage Sophie Grace and my real estate company during this time I have been remiss in blogging. To be honest I wasn’t even sure what I should blog about at the beginning. How to wear a necklace five ways? What are the best office appropriate sneakers?  Yes, I love all things fashion and style (I mean I did start a clothing line…) but our customers are demonstrating themselves to be an incredible group of hyper-engaged strong women and I believe that the content we create should be something that engages our audience on multiple levels. We love a great dress and also want to deconstruct the patriarchy. 

In this view, I am going to be bringing my own voice to the Sophie Grace monthly blog on topics that matter and deserve more attention. And I would love to hear your feedback and view of the same. We won’t always agree and that is ok.

And so — the first rendition: 

Has Covid-19 Presented Us With An Opportunity to To Discuss Childcare as An Economic Win For Everyone?

“In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both."

“Our struggle is not an emotional concern. We are not burned out. We are being crushed by an economy that has bafflingly declared working parents inessential.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/02/business/covid-economy-parents-kids-career-homeschooling.html

To start with, I am lucky. I am now the parent of teens. One was just finishing her first year at University when Covid hit, the other is now going into Grade 11. As other parents of teens will know, they generally try to avoid interaction with you during the course of the day, are better equipped to deal with online learning than I am and tend to resurect from their slumber well after my conference calls are done. But for parents of younger children Covid-19 has been a nightmare of trying to properly balance work and parenting.  For too many women that has meant having to make a choice between work and childrearing. And make no mistake women are bearing the brunt of the Covid 19 economic breakdown in more ways than one. 

While the statistics are showing us that women in low paying service sector jobs were hit the hardest. The “shesession” is playing out across the job divide as women in any number of jobs are faced with the reality of the choice of going back to work or caring for their children. Childcare and school closures forced families to create structures that would accommodate doing worksheets and online school while managing their own zoom calls. When a child would break onto the screen while a commentator was live on TV - it used to be a cause for a viral video -it is now a norm that we have all become used to. 

Perhaps therein lies the opportunity. Many moons ago my nanny Tess’s husband was tragically killed by a drunk driver. What unfolded for Tess and her daughter was a tragedy that left a massive hole in their lives. Tess needed job security and time off work and I attempted to work from home for about 6 weeks while caring for my 3 year old daughter and my 1 year old son. This didn’t go very well and in the end I lost my job. ( Tess and her daughter Ruby are a strong loving pair and Ruby graduated from university and is a thriving member of our communiry). I haven’t had to live the pandemic reality of being home with kids and working but I have most certainly lived this reality in different times and know that it doesn’t work.  (I also vividly remember trying to close a sale and leaseback transaction while breastfeeding my 6 week old in a dirty robe.) But because of the ubiquitousness of this circumstance right now - it is impossible to ignore the challenges that parents and most especially mothers are facing. The fact that in many households both parents are bearing witness to this daily struggle (despite women still wearing most of the extra workload) brings the issue of the importance of childcare to the forefront of the discussion around economic recovery.  It should also bring the discussion forward about the role of childcare in ANY thriving economy.  

A recent article examining the impacts of free childcare in Australia demonstrated that

“Not only is free childcare a form of fiscal stimulus, boosting consumer demand by increasing the disposable income of families with young children, but in the long run it will significantly grow GDP and make Australia a far more equitable country,” Oquist said in a statement.

“The empirical evidence makes clear that spending on services like childcare creates more jobs per $1m spent than expenditure in areas like construction. The government’s focus on stimulus spending in male-dominated industries risks stymying economic recovery.” https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/25/extending-free-childcare-could-fuel-huge-boost-to-economy-report-says

So while the challenges that face us in the middle of a pandemic are complicated - (let’s be real- no one wants to put teachers at risk and balancing the trade off’s between opening schools and the devastating impacts of both the virus and the impacts on parents is a no win situation) what this might be doing is laying the groundwork for a more meaningful and sustained victory in support of healthy economies and gender equity. Perhaps now is the time to push for free or heavily subsidized early childhood education. Perhaps now is the time that we tell the story that this is actually about the economy, unleashing the power of 50% of the workforce and creating an even stronger tax base.

Only if we seize upon it though.  Love to hear your thoughts. Find me on twitter at @emmamaymma or email me at emma@sophiegrace.ca

 

Emma