By Hanna Nichols, The Civic Canopy
Parenting can be the most rewarding experience of one’s life, and it is also likely the most challenging. Having a career devoted to collaborative efforts supporting the needs of children and families, I know the powerful impact parents and caregivers have on children and the importance of working together to ensure families can thrive. But this desire and understanding became a much bigger reality when I became pregnant with my daughter Nora, born earlier this year. With 64 percent of children under the age of 6 with both parents in the workforce[i] and the United States being the only advanced country not to mandate any paid leave for new parents[ii], we can do more to ensure families are supported and children can thrive.
Even as someone armed with an array of resources and copious amounts of support through family, friends, and colleagues, navigating the world of pregnancy and raising a child is harder than I ever could have imagined. Receiving pre- and post-natal care, organizing leave from work, finding child care, and how it all plays into scheduling and finances adds a large burden to the everyday experience of caring for a newborn.
Every family deserves the ability to make the choices they need for themselves, but not all families have the opportunity of choice afforded to them. Many are overextended and struggle to make ends meet. I work in an incredibly supportive workplace that provided me with three months of leave, lactation accommodations, and a part-time position to return to so I can spend valuable time with my daughter. I have family nearby, which means I have the choice to use consistent Family, Friend, and Neighbor child care without a financial burden and have the comfort of knowing Nora gets to build strong relationships with family members who have tools and resources to ensure she receives nurturing experiences every day. The reality is that most families in Colorado are not in the same position with flexible work policies and child care options. In fact, 14 percent of Coloradans reported child care issues affected their employment in 2011-2012 [iii].
It’s exciting to see issues around family friendly workplace policies gain support nationwide, and to see early childhood partners working together to identify ways we can better support families in Colorado. To learn more about how you can get involved, take a look at the Family Friendly Workplace toolkit on the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership website, and make sure to keep an eye out for the next blog post later this month from partners with Essentials for Childhood and EPIC, highlighting how partners can use this toolkit and engage in supporting workplaces to meet the needs of families to create a more prosperous future for Colorado.
[i] U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-year estimates.
[ii] Livingston, G. Among 41 Nations, U.S. is the outlier when it comes to paid parental leave. (2016). Pew Research Center.
[iii] Child Trends analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014, reported in KIDS COUNT Data Center. Annie E. Casey Foundation.