Read Connect Reflect #19
Child care cliff: 3.2 million children likely to lose spots with end of federal funds (The Century Foundation)
On Saturday, the pandemic-area federal funding that helps subsidize childcare centers is set to expire. This so-called “childcare cliff” is predicted to have a disastrous impact on families, as 70,000 childcare centers are projected to close leaving 3.2 million children without care.
It continues to blow my mind that more people don’t see the direct link between the availability of quality childcare and a healthy economy. This thorough report. by the Century Foundation, predicts that parents will lose $9 billion in earnings as they either cut back their work hours or leave the workforce altogether. Additionally, the childcare industry—which has not recovered from pandemic-related attrition—is estimated to lose an additional 232,000 jobs if funding is not renewed.
I encourage you to text CHILDCARE to 1-888-418-5699 to urge your congressional representatives to pass the Childcare Stabilization Act.
The other work remote workers get done (The Atlantic)
The reason I love working from home is because it allows me to run my life more efficiently. I can throw in a load of laundry between calls and schlep my kids to guitar or gymnastics class after school—it’s a fallacy to think that most people are spending their WFH time watching Netflix and eating bonbons. This is an excellent article that completely nails the reality of working from home for most people: remote work isn’t a matter of work-life balance, it’s a matter of work-work balance.
Yes, I signed up for these tasks when I became a parent, and yes, sometimes they can even be fun sometimes (after school sing-a-longs to Taylor Swift are the best), but they are—fundamentally—work. As the article’s author, Stephanie H. Murray, points out, “Our entire economy hinges on human labor, but the unpaid work that goes into raising a productive laborer is absent from economic indicators.” When companies set arbitrary policies (return to office now!) that continue to devalue unpaid care work, they not only fail their employees, but they fail to understand the implications for the larger economy.
Another month, another reminder that we are living in a broken system and it’s not all your fault. Zara Hanawalt describes it perfectly (the quote is long, but well worth reading in its entirety):
The structural issues—particularly lack of paid leave, inaccessibility of childcare, and unequal pay—set mothers on a journey of guilt that begins as soon as they step into the role. There’s also the culture of toxic positivity surrounding motherhood, which leaves us wholly unprepared for the messy, exhausting realities. But instead of recognizing the role systemic and societal issues play, we blame mothers for imposing guilt on themselves—effectively guilting them for experiencing guilt.
We tell moms that if they don't figure out how to ditch the guilt, their “misery” will affect their children; we urge them to shift their focus from feeling bad about themselves to “filling their own cups,” without them that filling your own cup is impossible when you can’t find affordable childcare, or hand off the mental load of parenting, or even scroll social media without a parenting expert (or “expert”) making you wonder if every interaction you’ve ever had with your child will inflict lifelong trauma.
The solution to all this is, of course, too complex and ambitious to identify individually…but maybe it all starts with a narrative shift. “Guilt comes from feeling like [we’re] failing. And we’re not failing, we just live in a country that makes us fail. We’re set up to fail,” says Saujani. “That’s the narrative change. It’s an awakening that we all have to fight for structural change.”
Why meetings suck and how to fix them (WorkLife with Adam Grant)
Is there anything more frustrating than a poorly-run, unnecessary meeting? This podcast explores ways to make meetings less painful. My favorite suggestion is to structure a meeting agenda around the key questions you’re looking to answer. This serves several purposes:
It ensures that you’re actually benefitting from having a group together. Information-sharing can be done over email, iterative problem-solving cannot.
The questions you want to answer clarify who should be invited, so you can avoid inviting the wrong people or too many people.
Having a question-based agenda makes it clear when the meeting should end. If you solve the problems in 45 minutes, everyone can leave!
Circulating questions beforehand gives participants a chance to prepare, making the meeting more thoughtful and efficient.
5:01 and done: No one wants to schmooze after work (Washington Post)
It’s not just working parents bowing out of after-work happy hours—since the pandemic, there’s been an overall decline in employees’ willingness to partake in after-hours socializing with colleagues. Is this a sign that people are more confident drawing boundaries or an indicator that people are feeling less connected? Surely, a mix of both.
BONUS: A Day in Her Life Podcast
A Day in Her Life is a newish podcast in which Ellie Rineck sits down with interesting women to learn about how they structure their days. I was honored when she asked me to be on, though I questioned whether I was really all that interesting! It turns out we had plenty to talk about, including the importance of date night, rediscovering creativity as an adult, and the current Go Fish craze in our house. Give it a listen!
One of the biggest complaints that I hear from other working moms is that they are just too damn busy. They realize that they need to set better boundaries and say “no”, but it’s often easier said than done. Now, I’m generally not a fan of “hacks”—I always want to root down to the underlying issue—but I came across one that I think is helpful: For the next two weeks, keep a list of all the things you say “no” to.
One of my clients wanted to try this and she found that keeping track appealed to her competitive side. After a few days, she realized her list was pretty puny so she felt compelled to up her “no” game. Plus, writing it all down gave her a sense of having accomplished something.
I was chatting with a group of girlfriends about turning 40 and reflecting on what about our current lives would have surprised our 20-year-old selves. One shared that her 20-year-old self would have been shocked to know that she loved being the mother of 4 boys—after thinking that she only wanted daughters. Another shared that her younger self would never have believed that she stepped away from medicine to spend 5 years as a stay-at-home mom. 20-year-old Jessica would be surprised that she’s now an entrepreneur, living in Connecticut.
What surprises you most about where you ended up in life?
A Cup of Ambition is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.