With the U.S. childcare sector teetering on the precipice of insolvency, young parents are now increasingly taking childcare into their own hands—often at the detriment of their jobs. EnrichedHQ dispels the dilemma that parents face between their children or their careers. In partnership with employers, EnrichedHQ unveils an exclusive selection of bespoke online programs for school-aged kids, empowering parents to pursue their professional aspirations while equipping their children with real-world applicable skills.
BRISTOL, Vt., Oct. 2, 2023 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- While the end of the pandemic has ushered in a period of renewed optimism, the return to normalcy has not been uniformly embraced by all Americans. Those most impacted by this shift are working parents, who have found themselves compelled to return to the office or hybrid work environments. In the face of mounting childcare costs or the unavailability of care services, one parent, usually the mother, is often forced to remain at home. "The 'mommy tax' not only severely stunts women's careers and future earnings but also has adverse effects on the economy by removing thousands of women from the workforce," says Carleen Haylett, CEO of EnrichedHQ.
The childcare crisis is an economic crisis
By necessitating parents to work from home, the pandemic has caused lasting harm to the childcare sector. To this day, the industry remains 50,000 employees short of its pre-pandemic levels.(1) As a result, parents, more than ever, have been struggling to find affordable, accessible, and high-quality care for their children, as they angle to return to the office.
This childcare crisis is essentially an economic crisis, as parents who cannot find adequate childcare options may opt for part-time work or even leave the workforce altogether. Since 2020, the annual losses incurred due to parents missing work have more than doubled, now totalling $122 billion.(2) Within this total, businesses experience a yearly loss of $12.7 billion as their employees grapple with childcare challenges.(3)
Mothers exert a disproportionate effect on the childcare-induced economic crisis. Among the 10,000 mothers surveyed in March 2023, the percentage of those staying at home has increased from 15% in 2022 to 25%.(4) More alarming is the 52% of working mothers who are currently contemplating exiting the workforce.(5)
The source of the crisis: a need to bridge the gap through high school
While the pandemic has not been kind to the childcare industry, the childcare crisis has been brewing for some time, originating from a fundamental misconception that childcare ends after kindergarten.
Increasingly fewer programs are tailored for school-aged children, putting parents in the unenviable position of enrolling them in expensive extracurricular activities or allowing them to stay home, where they are at the mercy of electronic devices and video games.
Consequently, working mothers have stepped up to bridge this gap. More and more mothers now await their children's return from school, ready to teach them real-life skills that many school programs overlook.
While mothers can be counted on to make excellent educators for their children, their absence from the workforce is acutely felt in the economy—and in the companies they have worked for.
Employers struggle to support working mothers
Employers typically serve as the primary source of support in alleviating the dual responsibilities borne by working mothers. However, succumbing to the misconception that childcare concludes after kindergarten, most employers only offer benefits during the early phases of parenthood.
Expecting employers to expand their childcare benefits to include older children would be a difficult proposition. For instance, many companies are already stretched thin with paying out support for the first five years of a child's life, of which the costs have significantly increased in recent years.(6) Furthermore, considering the scarcity of programs designed for school-aged children, not every company would be in a position to extend their childcare coverage.
Until employers devise a way to support parents (and mothers) with older children, the childcare crisis (and the economic crisis by extension) is unlikely to be resolved.
A marketplace of online activities for school-aged children
A marketplace that hosts life-centered educational activities for school-aged kids, as provided by EnrichedHQ, Marketplace may hold the key to making cost-effective childcare more accessible to all parents.
First, by bringing together hundreds of high-quality programs taught by vetted online educators, a marketplace can address the issue of finding stimulating after-school options for middle and high school children. Priority should be given to courses with real-life applications, such as cooking, budgeting, investing, and coding, as they are sometimes not included in school curriculums.
Second, a marketplace ensures that parents no longer have to browse the internet to find personalized virtual learning tailored for their children; parents can find, book, and pay for multiple children across multiple providers through a single interface. Such a platform promises to save a considerable amount of time and effort, which can be redirected toward spending quality time with their children.
Third, a marketplace can collaborate with employers to extend these online activities as part of their existing childcare benefits. Even small companies can grant their employees unlimited access to these virtual learning opportunities at a low cost. This offers parents, especially mothers, an alternative to enrolling their children in expensive extracurriculars or staying at home, enabling the former to fully commit to their jobs.
Considering the challenges faced by both parents and employers, a marketplace-type learning platform marks a significant stride in accessible childcare; it provides practical learning opportunities seldom experienced in school at a price point employers can easily subsidize.
An immediate remedy for the childcare crisis
The pandemic has simultaneously shrunk the childcare industry while raising its prices to record levels. The outcome is that an increasing number of parents (and mothers) are taking time off work or exiting the workforce to care for their children. Current approaches are unlikely to rectify this crisis, as they are erroneously founded on the assumption that childcare ends after kindergarten.
A marketplace aggregating programs specifically centered on developing life skills can serve as a superb substitute for after-school parental supervision. Because they can be seamlessly integrated into an employer's benefits package, these skills-oriented courses can be made available without restrictions. Their affordability, combined with the assurance they provide for parents to confidently return to the office, contributes to eliminating an important barrier in addressing the childcare crisis.
As Carleen Haylett of EnrichedHQ says, "It's due time that all children, regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic status, have available and affordable access to the best programs that prepare them for 'real life'."
In 2020, single mother and technology leader Carleen Haylett witnessed pandemic-driven gaps in the U.S. educational space when her fifth-grade son began to thrive with homeschooling. The schoolwork was manageable, but the lack of affordable virtual extracurricular programs available, which would stimulate his development as a student preparing for middle and high school, was a shock. Torn between motherhood and her career, corporate pressure mounted, she left her job. She founded EnrichedHQ to solve the logistical nightmare of finding and managing options for kids who no longer need day care or a sitter, bridging childcare through high school. Leveraging her 20+ years in
technology development, product management, and sales, she developed a platform that offers virtual extracurricular programs for middle and high school age children that enrich and prepare them for life. Working parents are able to find an immediate remedy for this common parental stressor through their employers. EnrichedHQ handles all the logistics, letting parents easily find, book, schedule, and pay for multiple virtual programs for multiple children across multiple providers. Both corporations and parents benefit from EnrichedHQ's commitment. Visit https://enrichedhq.com/
1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "All Employees, Childcare Services [CES6562440001]. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CES6562440001. Accessed 13 Sep. 2023.
2. Bishop, Sandra. "$122 Billion: The Growing, Annual Costs of the Infant-Toddler Childcare Crisis." Council for a Strong America, strongnation.org/articles/2038-122-billion-the-growing-annual-cost-of-the-infant-toddler-child-care-crisis. Accessed 13 Sep. 2023.
3. Bishop, Sandra. "Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Childcare Crisis." Council for a Strong America. strongnation.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/602/83bb2275-ce07-4d74-bcee-ff6178daf6bd.pdf. Accessed 13 Sep. 2023.
4. Motherly. "State of Motherhood: 2023 Survey Report. Motherly. mother.ly/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2023-Motherly-State-of-Motherhood-Report-FINAL.pdf. Accessed 13 Sep. 2023
6. ChildCare Aware of America. "Catalyzing Growth: Using Data to Change Childcare." ChildCare Aware of America. childcareaware.org/catalyzing-growth-using-data-to-change-child-care/?doing_wp_cron=1694643552.4951848983764648437500#SupplyandQualityTrends. Accessed 13 Sep. 2023.
Karla Jo Helms, JOTO PR™, 727-777-4619, [email protected], jotopr.com