The way we work with kids…
By Julia Pedersen
Going crazy balancing work and children at home in this surreal situation of isolation while there is a virus on the loose outside?
The internet is filled with smart advice on how to use this time to learn a new skill, adopt a healthier lifestyle, read a lot, appreciate life…But then, there are those of us with young children who are slowly going insane trying to replace both their peers and their educators. Many of us doing so while we are working at our paid jobs as well. The internet has many helpful tips on that too – but who has the time and energy to do all that reading after a non-stop day switching from work to kids and back again, all the while feeling guilty about both?
These are all brand-new challenges, at least at a brand-new scale and everybody – including me – is too exhausted to appreciate all the advertised “zen-ness” about appreciating time with the family more and finding new ways to approach work. And yet, approaching work differently and including our kids is what we do at Sandburg:
Imagine if you could work in an environment as comfy as your own home and as equipped as your office. Imagine that you could share meals and special moments with your child while getting as much work done as you do when you go into work…
Just before the crisis hit, we successfully conducted the Sandburg proof of concept. On three Friday mornings in January and February 2020, five parents with one under-three-year old child each participated in our experiment to prove that childcare and working parents in the same room without separation works.
Before our proof of concept, the most frequently voiced concerns from both potential Sandburg-workers and – partners were:
- “no one can concentrate with all that background noise”
- “the kids will never separate from mummy/daddy if they are right there in the same room”
- “productivity levels will decrease; the parents will be too distracted to work efficiently”
Well, we can now proudly announce: Wrong, wrong and wrong! More specifically:
- It was not any louder than in any other co-working space, mostly because the kids felt safe and secure which translated into no crying. Our proof of concept happened in a room that was NOT a fully equipped Sandburg, meaning it did not even have the sound-attenuating features an operational Sandburg would have!
- A quote by our early-childhood-educator about her experience working with the kids in the proof of concept says it all: “The children turned away from their parents and towards the activities I offered voluntarily and without any effort necessary on my part – it was liberating really, so much easier than my experiences with the assimilation phase in daycare, when parents are stressed because they need to leave for work and the children can feel something is off and they are anxious and clingy because of it.”
- One of the parents summed it up: “I was able to work more productively as I was significantly less stressed with my baby right there, I could see that he was cared for and well rather than having to trust that this is happening somewhere out of my sight”
The consensus was that this type of environment was happier and gentler for everyone involved and thus enabling concentrated productive work without fear of missing out and that constant, nagging guilt we as working parents have grown accustomed to.
We hope that everyone will come out of this global crisis having re-thought the sustainability of what we did pre-COVID 19. Because all it takes is a tiny, little thing we can’t even see to derail everything we thought works within a few short weeks. Scary on the one hand, a great opportunity on the other. Join me in thinking of this as an opportunity, even if you are – like me – not always “zen” about your current situation!
Why is Lisa a bad mother but Tom is a great Dad? – child penalties are a thing!
By Julia Pedersen
“Despite considerable gender convergence over time, substantial gender inequality persists in all countries. Recent work highlights the importance of parenthood for the persistence of gender inequality in labor market outcomes.” These are the first two sentences of a recent study on child penalties (Kleven et al. „Child Penalties Across Countries: Evidence and Explanations”, March 2019).
The study looked into so-called “child penalties” in 6 countries, conveniently for us including the 3 countries Sandburg currently focusses on: Denmark, UK and Germany. The results show that up to 10 years after the birth of their first child mothers earn 21%, 44% and a whopping 61% less respectively.
And fathers? They remain unaffected. In other words, the world keeps turning as it did before their child was born, earnings continue on the trajectory they were on before.
So why does this happen? Of course, we can do the age-old song and dance of the conservatives and say women opt out of full-time work because they want to be with the family, they are just very “nurturing”etc. While that may well be true for some, it is
1. Not “not true” for men
2. Simply not right. A person – whether male or female- should not have to choose between earning money and being with their family.
In addition, while some of the argumentation may be true for some women, there are just as many for whom this is not true. I do not need to venture far for anecdotal evidence of this – my close friend Lisa (her name is changed) regularly receives flak for having her daughter in daycare full-time while she works: “How can you leave your poor child in daycare for so long?” “I just think she is too little for that, it’s a bit cruel” “Everyone should of course do what they think is right, but I just feel people who do that are bad mothers” “Why have children if you are just going to give them to someone else?” are comments she regularly has to endure.
But, I can hear you think right now, if those people feel that way? Surely they should be allowed to have an opinion? Absolutely! They should. What gets me is: why is no-one (literally!) ever (literally!) asking her husband Tom (his name is changed) the same questions?
Because no-one does, I asked him.
Why is Lisa a bad mother for doing the exact same thing Tom does but Tom is not a bad father?
No need to rely on my anecdotes though, Kleven et al. uncovered the same trend:
They present a chart showing results from the International Social Survey Program, focusing on a question of whether women with children under school age or in school should work outside the home or stay at home. The chart plots their estimated child penalties against the number of respondents who think women should stay at home, revealing a very telling correlation between the child penalties and conservative gender norms.
So, for mothers, the choice is: do you want to be guilt-tripped consistently while staying on the salary trajectory you were on before your child was born or do you want to give in and become dependent on someone else financially? For fathers, there is no choice that needs to be made – other than speaking up against this.
Because you can and you should.
In conclusion, the more conservative the country, the higher the child penalties for mothers, making Germany the number one offender in the Sandburg “universe”.
If you are an employer who just realized you do not want to be seen as gender-conservative and attract talent that would not define themselves in that manner, reach out to us to help counteract child penalties by building a Sandburg: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are working for an employer who would benefit from having a Sandburg or in a city that should have one for freelancers, please reach out: email@example.com Also visit www.sandburg-hub.com and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
“But they need to learn that!”
By Julia Pedersen
When I speak to people about the parental guilt and the heartbreak of leaving children in the care of a stranger at a young age, I often hear “but they need to learn that”. I hear this from both parents and non-parents. I never openly disagree but I do wonder what the sentence means exactly.
Who are the “they” referred to in this sentence?Surely it should refer to children of a certain age? Or are all children from the day they are born included in this “they”? And what to “they” “need to learn”? That their parents are not always there for them? That they can leave them in the arms of strangers even if they are scared?
I can literally hear the eyes of many parents and non-parents roll at my “über mother” statements right now… I can hear them go “oh my god, you are not abandoning them, you are putting them into the care of professionals” or as my partner once put it when I wanted to pick up our daughter early “you know it’s daycare, not a torture chamber right?” Both parents and non-parents feel that daycare is not only necessary but also not harmful. Why?
Because a) we have been conditioned to believe this as modern life puts demands on us that we cannot meet without professional daycare options and b) the parents amongst us would be unable to live with the guilt if we considered the option that this was not so. Yet, research shows that stress levels in young children starting daycare are significantly raised and will not return to “normal” for as long as five months after their first day.
So, what am I saying? Parents should stay at home and look after their children? How is that going to work, both financially and in terms of career-fulfillment? Am I saying parents (let’s face it, with the gender pay-gap still in place, this will end up being women, rather than all parents) should stay at home and neglect their careers? No. Anyone who even remotely knows me will know that that is not what I am saying. For those of you who do not know me: global gender equality always has been and still is one of the goals that strongly motivates all of my thoughts and actions. Probably even more so since I have become a parent. What I am saying is: what we have today doesn’t give us the options we need. We need to rethink daycare options and how we combine looking after children with our careers. The only option cannot be that we have to leave our children in the care of strangers while we go off to work.
Human babies are amazingly underdeveloped when they are born. Compared with most other animals, they are completely helpless. Most other mammal babies can walk, communicate and feed by the time they are born. Human babies are not even aware that they are a being separate from their mother. Research shows that human babies are able to fend for themselves in a similar manner as most other mammals can do right after birth only at the age of three. Separating them from their parents before seems unnecessarily cruel and is dictated by modern life’s lack of options.
So I think when people say “but they need to learn that”, they should consider the age of the “they” in that sentence. Also, again following research and comparison with other mammals, if we talk about children 3 years of age and older it is unlikely that they need to be forced to “learn” to be separated from their parents. Instead, it is likely that they become less dependent on them gradually and naturally, without being pushed.