Such an interesting phenomenon for parents.
It’s a day in honor of working people. Banks and government buildings are closed. Schools are closed. It’s meant to be a day of rest, fun, and BBQ’s.
Now it certainly can be all of that, but it’s also a day (similar to the other 364 days) where parents continue to work, and that work is unpaid.
I have two children (who are currently glued to an iPad so I can work, #noguilt) and one more on the way (I’m currently eating a Haagen Dazs bar, #noguilt). Don’t get me wrong, no part of me ever thought “I’m going to have kids as a means to earn some additional income.” I knew that parenting duties didn’t come with a paycheck, and that was ok with me, but I also knew that I wanted to share the parenting and household duties evenly with my husband.
So we both have paying jobs. We both take care of the childcare/driving duties. And we both clean the house (ok, he does this slightly more often and definitely better than I do. But I make a wickedly good chocolate chip cookie, so that makes up for it.) It’s not always 50/50 depending on career and children priorities, but we do our best.
This is certainly not the norm, and I recognize that it’s not always possible, as there are many different family makeups today. My best friend is a single mother who does all of the paid and unpaid work in her household. She’s truly a supermom. Actually 35% of children live with one parent, and they are the true superheros around us.
But in general, and globally, this imbalance of work between men and women poses a problem.
Melinda Gates is a world-wide champion for women and children. In her annual letter last year, she wrote a response to a question she received from a high school student. “If you could have one superpower, what would it be?”
More time, she said.
She described how different life is today as opposed to growing up in Dallas (my new hometown) in the 1970’s.
“I had a lot of friends whose mothers, as we used to say, ‘stayed home instead of working’ (though now I know that staying home is working—and working very hard, even though you don’t get paid for it).”
As a society, we pay for this “unpaid work.” According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “when the time women spend on unpaid work shrinks to three hours from five hours, their labor forces participation increased 20 percent.“ By simply sharing family responsibilities, our economy grows.
As Gates said, “If we can add 10 trillion dollars to the GDP by looking at the unpaid work that happens at home and really calling it what it is – work – to me it doesn’t make any sense that we’re sitting in 2016 and we’re not labeling it like this. Why don’t we call it work and then why don’t we recognize the women who are predominantly doing it?“
And unless things change, she says “girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility.”
One example of this that is on our minds and close to our hearts at Pogo is driving kids to school and activities.
If you’re familiar with the novel “Where’d you go Bernadette?” by Maria Semple (”I heard Bernadette tried to run you over at pickup!”) or the book “People I Want to Punch in the Throat” by Jen Mann (”…that dreaded school pick-up line. I f*#k it up every single time.”) you know that parents love to discuss the social phenomenon of school pick-up and drop-off.
But all joking aside (and there is certainly lots to joke about—I’m definitely guilty of #4 from this list), school pickup and drop-off is one of countless examples of “unpaid work” done by parents everyday—and more often than not—done by mothers.
I love the story Gates tells about how she and Bill unintentionally caused “cultural change” in her school community by having Bill—then CEO of Microsoft—drive their daughter to school two days a week. Melinda was a full-time parent at the time. As she described, this caused a frenzy with the mothers in the school who went home and said to their spouse, “If Bill Gates is driving his daughter to school, you darn well better drive our kids to school!”
Now of course Bill’s schedule was different from Melinda’s (though no less demanding), and as I said before, the balance of household work isn’t always 50/50. But it’s important for our daughters and sons to see parents perform a variety of parental roles ranging from driving to placing a band-aid on an owie (for the 1,367th time), to paying bills, to taking time out for one’s own needs.
It’s also crucial that this “unpaid work” is recognized as “actual work.”
And that’s a big part of our mission at Pogo Rides.
We’re pushing against the notion that driving kids to school and activities has no monetary value. We think parents should have more options than simply working outside the home for pay and working for the family for free. Their time is worth money—no matter how society views it.
So at Pogo, we’ve created “Community Rides,” to promote the ”cultural change” needed to shift our thinking, to value the time of all parents, to balance the workload, to improve our communities—and of course, to help get those kiddos to their 5:00 pm soccer practice (conveniently scheduled smack dab in the middle of rush hour traffic.)
We are suggesting that parents who need a ride for their child pay another parent in their neighborhood $5 per ride if it’s not a reciprocal carpool. The dilemma we see over and over again is that parents who can’t reciprocate feel guilty for asking for help, and parents who are able to give a ride can sometimes feel taken advantage if it’s not balanced. By encouraging parents to compensate one another it acknowledges that this unpaid work has incredible monetary value to both sides.
So if you need a ride for your child, or want to get paid for what you are already doing, or both, then sign up. And join the movement.
On this Labor Day, we hope you are able to do a few of the things you love-—whether that’s time with family, accomplishing something in the office, or getting to that house project you’ve put off for far too long (I’m speaking of myself here and the endless number of boxes that have yet to be unpacked in my new home. I’m sure there’s an app for that—technology does make things easier, doesn’t it? 😉
Photo cred: https://annetaintor.com/