Who pays for flexi-time parents?

Evidently workers without children have had enough of carrying the load for their colleagues with children who work flexi-time. Or so reports the Dominion Post, in a feature article on Saturday 25 August (not on-line).

The gist of the article is that childless workers have to cover shifts when workers with children head home early, or arrive late, in order to deal with children. They can’t take breaks in the school holidays, they never get time off over Christmas, if they ask for extra time to go and say, let a tradesman into their house, they can’t get it. But parents can walk out the door anytime they like. Child-free workers think that they are being imposed on, and asked to carry an extra load, because other people have chosen to have children.

Right….. that’s just so tough.

Here’s what it takes to raise a child.

$250,000. You can verify this through a google search – try: cost raising child. It doesn’t include childcare costs.

It’s not cheap.

And that’s not counting the sheer stress of juggling children and work. I can’t stay late to get a task finished, because I need to get home to feed the children. I can’t get in early, because I need to get the children to school first. Sometimes I can arrange to do these things, but I need to sort it out well in advance, because it depends on getting our after-school care giver to work some extra hours, which costs us more, or getting my partner to cover for me. As a rule, we try to come home together, so we can have a family dinner with the children, but sometimes, one or other of us will work late. But that needs to be organised in advance.

I simply must take my leave in the school holidays, or otherwise, I’m up for a minimum of $1,000 in childcare, and likely more, because I’m not keen on having my children in a school holiday programme for the entire break – they are tired at the end of term, and they just need some downtime at home, hanging around and not doing much. That means that I am paying someone else about $15 an hour for childcare, for 40 hours per week, out of my after-tax income. It also means that at the start of the year, my partner and I sit down with our diaries, work out when the school holidays are, when our workload peaks are likely to hit, and what big must-attend events are on (you know, like family reunions, or graduations, or weddings) and we book our leave accordingly. It all gets done months in advance. Every year, one of us has had to take unpaid leave at some time, just to cover our family’s needs. That means income forgone.

In the evenings, when we get home after a full day of work, we work a second shift, cooking, cleaning, caring for three other people, not just ourselves. If one of our children is sick, we have to frantically compare diaries, and work out who has meetings when, and if one of us needs to take the entire day off, or we can do split shifts at home. On rare occasions, I have had to take a sick child in to work, and get my team PA, a real champion, to keep an eye on her while I go to a meeting. And in my line of work, the tasks on my desk don’t go away just because I am not there. I simply have to work harder once I am back, to make sure it all gets done.

I have chosen all of this, by choosing to have children. We struggled through fertility treatment in order to have our babies, so we can hardly say it was a spur of the moment thing. So I am not complaining about the stress and the cost, or asking for it to be taken away: I am simply trying to enumerate it.

There is a straight forward, prudential motive for the child-free to support parents.

What the child-free need to remember is that we parents are providing a vital service for their future. In twenty or thirty or forty years time, today’s children will be the doctors, the road builders and the checkout operators needed by the working generation of today. They will build the houses, grow the food, and make the clothes. They will research the medicines, drive the taxis, and make sure the water keeps on flowing out of the taps. Some of these needs we can meet through immigration, but not all, and in any case, we will be competing in a global market for migrants. The children you see in our cities and villages today are a critical resource for our future.

But even if that doesn’t make sense to you, remember that you too can buy a bit of work flexibility. I can arrive at work late, and leave early, and take time out for school trips and visits to the doctor, but I pay for that, with 20% of my salary. Anytime you are willing to take a substantial pay cut, you too can start sleeping in, or heading down to the pub at 4.30pm. If your current employer won’t wear it, look for a new job. Employers are finding it hard to recruit staff these days, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to find one who will pay you less, but let you out the door earlier each day.

As for wanting time off in order to let a tradesman in – pah! Do what time-poor parents do: leave a key in the box.

While you are at it, how about contacting your siblings who have children, and volunteering to look after them for a weekend, so that your brother or sister can have just a little bit of time to themselves. It’s an extraordinarily practical way to help. And on that note, I want to pay tribute to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, my parents, and my mother-in-law, all of whom have helped us, and other parents in our families, along the way.

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2 responses to “Who pays for flexi-time parents?

  1. I would much rather pay for the next generation through taxes. Simply because that spreads the load. Otherwise there’s a real incentive for me to look for a job where none of my coworkers are parents, and jobs like my current one have the potential to suck greatly. Likewise, companies that discriminate against parents will get a significant competitive advantage, and a second one through non-parents preferring to work for them.

    Where I am now only two of us in a team of eight are child-free, and while I do see the other workers taking time off for child-related stuff, I also benefit from flexitime, working from home and a work environment where children aren’t an excuse – people either work part-time to do kidstuff, or they do a full time job. We have people doing both. We all benefit from working for a company that doesn’t impose unpaid overtime on its staff. Unfortunately they also refused my offer of a couple of extra weeks annual leave instead of a pay rise. So I took unpaid leave to keep my salary the same (which is different, really, at least in their minds).

    So yes, while I support increased taxation to pay for sensible help for parents I am vigorously opposed to excess paid time off for parents (including smoker breaks). Far better to have paid parental leave, decent childcare for everyone, rather than only for the rich and other fortunate sods. What about parents who work for themselves, for instance, how do they get help if it’s supposed to come from their employer and coworkers?

  2. The CF are already supporting parents through taxes. Property taxes go towards schools. Other taxes are used to fund child/parent initiatives. We don’t get a Child Tax Credit.

    People paid for me when I was a kid and I don’t mind my taxes going to support the next generation. What I do mind is this sense of entitlement that you seem to have simply because you chose to have children. You made a choice; so did I. You took on the responsibility of having children; I didn’t. I already support your children; I don’t feel obligated to support you for the choices you freely made, knowing the sacrifices that you might have to make in the future.

    The thing is, a lot of CF don’t mind occasionally taking an unpopular shift or working late for someone who arranges it with them beforehand or truly has an emergency. We just don’t want you to assume that it’s okay to take advantage of us every day, every holiday, and every weekend.

    However, your attitude appears to be that we should be happy to do it all the time because kids are just so damn hard to raise. Your children are, no doubt, the best kids that ever lived. Despite that, I have seen too many children who grew up into criminals, abusers, and exploiters of others to be comfortable investing in your free time.

    Perhaps, instead of enumerating your trials and tribulations caring for children, you might consider that, while I can respect your choice to have children, I do not respect your claim that having children somehow exempts you from supporting your co-workers in your business.

    If you feel you can’t do this, then I think it’s time you took your own advice. I have it on good authority that employers who pay less, but have more flexible working hours are hiring.