It’s not news to parents that it costs a lot to raise kids today. But now a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, from the Center for Nutrition Policy Promotion, has put a dollar amount on this seemingly endless expense. The total for a middle income family to raise one child from birth to 18 years old? $235,000.
With transportation, child care, education and food being the largest, recurring, child related expenses, it is any wonder that three of five families with children under 18 are dual-income households? With both parents employed, it is an increasing challenge for working mothers and fathers to balance work commitments and schedules with that of their children. What happens when a child is sick, or the child finishes school earlier than the parent’s work day?
At Hollywood based start-up, Scorebig.com, co-founder Joel Milne realized early on that as a 30-some father, he had a desire for quality family time. “When I started the company I told my investors, well on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I leave at 3.30 and until my kids go to bed I’m not available.” Milne says it was critical that he was open about his family’s needs from the outset, “so I set that up from day one.”
The family friendly perks trickle down at Scorebig.com, according to Milne. He describes how some employees are able to “time-shift” and work flexible hours based on their family needs. “If you hire good quality people then they don’t need to be policed,” says Milne, “they’re going to have the motivation and drive to do good work.“ Milne recognizes that in this era of smartphones and laptops, “people are always working and thinking about the problems they need to solve and the issues they’re facing. So from our standpoint if you hire the right people it's just not an issue.”
Yet the downside of working at a 24-7 operation that many start-ups tend to be, says Aja Hashian, the Customer Service Manager at Scorebig.com, is that “I tend to never to fully disconnect from work.” So when Hashian leaves work and goes home to her one year-old son, her Blackberry is constantly buzzing with work issues she needs to deal with. While Hashian can rush off on a moments notice if her son needs her, the tradeoff is that she is always accessible. Says Hashian, “I find it really challenging.”
Not far from Scorebig.com is another family friendly workplace, Loyola Marymount University. Set on an idyllic campus, with stunning ocean views, it might seem that Loyola employees already have it good. Yet after a thirty year struggle by faculty and staff, the Catholic university opened a full-time child care center on campus. One of the faculty members who campaigned for the “Children’s Center” is Management Professor, Cathleen McGrath. “We really tried to highlight to the administration and the community in general that having a children’s center doesn’t just help the children in the center it enriches the life of the entire university.”
Loyola’s center has now been open ten years, and it employs best practices in child care, utilizing methodologies emanating from it’s own School of Education professors. Students of early childhood education complete internships at the center, but best of all, says center director, Ani Shabazian, parents can come by anytime to nurse or visit with children. She says this “peace of mind” is a big perk that all parents take advantage of. “I know a number of staff members have said this is a huge part in their retention at the university and in their decision to come to the university,” according to Shabazian.
So how many workplaces are there like Loyola or Scorebig that make it easier to be a working parent? According to Stanford economist and researcher, Nick Bloom, not many in the U.S. Bloom’s research has compared family-friendly policies of U.S. companies to similar sized firms in the U.K., Germany and France.
Bloom says his study looked at “practices around letting people work part time, work from home, job share and flexibility for childcare.” The results showed that U.S. companies, while leading in how well managed they are, lag well behind their European counterparts in terms of how family-friendly they are. “In terms of job-sharing, part time work, making it easy for women with kids to take the day off if their kid is sick, the American’s were bottom of the class. And the Europeans were a lot better, especially the French were extremely nice to their employees in terms of being very flexible.”
In the radio feature, hear Professor Bloom talk more about his research and results. Bloom says while his study found that family-friendly companies did not increase in profitability, nor did it cost them anything to allow this flexibility to employees with children. Also hear UPS chief executive, Noel Massie, describe why it makes economic sense for his parcel delivery company to be as family friendly as possible.