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Editorial: ‘You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby’?

As International Women's Day approaches, many Squamish mothers tell us that they are anxious, burned out, broke, and worried about the future because they don’t have suitable childcare options.
working mom
Single mother working at home and babysitting at the same time: this is a reality for some Squamish moms.
At this time every year, The Chief puts out a feature celebrating Women in Business, just in time for International Women’s Day, March 8.

In a town where we have many women in powerful positions — our mayor, at the helm of several organizations such as the Squamish Chamber of Commerce, Sea to Sky Community Services, Tourism Squamish, the Helping Hands Society, etc. — do we still need to celebrate and honour the achievements of one gender?

The answer is a resounding yes!

The ugly truth is that for all the gains made over the last few generations, until women in the Sea to Sky Corridor have access to reliable, affordable quality childcare, most moms won’t achieve all that they could in their careers or at home.

The Chief asked Squamish moms how a lack of childcare impacts them at work. The answers that poured in fast and furious were diverse, inspiring and devastating.

“As a working professional, we are expected to work as if we don’t have children, and mother as if we don’t work. It is an impossible task and can result in extreme mental health breakdowns as women are torn between career and family,” summed up one mom.

Many local mothers told us that they are anxious, burned out, broke, and worry about the future because they don’t have suitable childcare options.

Many don’t feel they are the employee (boss/business owner) or the parent they want to be — or could be.

And the pandemic has set women back as more childcare responsibilities have fallen on their shoulders.

As one mom put it: “The pandemic has blown up the daycare issue exponentially.”

A recent StatsCan survey found that since the start of the pandemic, 64% of mothers reported that they mostly performed homeschooling or helping children with homework.

“Accessible, affordable childcare is basic social infrastructure that keeps our economy running — like roads and bridges. A chronic lack of it, layered on top the systemic gendered nature of care work, is a recipe for collapse and burnout. Look at any study of how the pandemic has impacted jobs and workers — the burden is overwhelmingly shouldered by those who have also had to take on additional care work. Double that if you’re not white,” another mom said.

We heard from women who lie awake at night and worry they won’t be able to keep working if they can’t find solutions soon.

We heard from business owners who say their own childcare struggles and those of their employees hold the business back.

Things are even tougher for single moms. We heard from solo mammas who were forced to leave well-paid jobs due to a lack of affordable care. Some single moms are burning through their savings or living on RRSPs to survive.

Others said they hover on the poverty line because they can’t enter the workforce without someone they can afford and trust to watch their littles.

Some are passionate about the careers they left but can’t justify the cost of care when compared with what they would make. Other women say they work, but all their wages go to childcare.

And it isn’t just daycare that is the issue — finding someone to watch children before and after school is a massive issue too.

Many feel guilty all the time either about their performance at work or their mothering.

Missing work to fill childcare gaps makes them feel unprofessional, but many have no choice.

Some are seriously thinking of moving away from Squamish, B.C., or even Canada in search of a more workable work-parenting solution.

Those juggling it all somehow tell us they aren’t where they could be in their careers due to the childcare shortage.

Others said the cost of childcare was the most significant factor in choosing to have another child.

Throw shift work into the mix, and life becomes even more challenging.

On the positive side, many women tell us they band together and help each other fill each other’s childcare gaps.

Women described stringing together a “tapestry of childcare options.”

“My daughter was on every single waiting list and has been for years. No luck. My friend, who has a little girl herself, agreed to take care of my daughter so that I could go back to work,” said one mom.

Others pointed out this issue is far more complex than providing care.

Why are women the ones predominantly expected to figure this stuff out?

Why are men still given a sideways glance if they step away from their careers to care for kids, but women aren’t?

How do we close the pay gap that makes it more likely women will have to sacrifice jobs for family?

And what is all this stress and juggling doing to relationships, kids’ development, and women’s health?

What does it mean if only a certain class of wealthy people can afford to live here, have children and continue their careers?

And, of course, fathers aren’t having a comfortable ride of it either, but that is for another conversation.

As we mark how far we have come this International Women’s Day, let’s also note how far we have still to go.

Clearly, if anything can help move us forward, it is tackling this childcare issue head-on.

As one Squamish mom said, “It doesn’t only affect parents but employers, teachers, childcare facility owner/operators, early childhood educators and nannies and au pairs as well. Our entire community!”

Write to our mayor, MLA Jordan Sturdy and MP Patrick Weiler with your personal stories and tell them what you need.

It has to get better.