That's What She Said: What it's really like for "Women Who Work"
- Dawn Dumont | June 06, 2017
I was leafing through Ivanka Trump’s latest project, Women Who Work, a book with tips on how to be a successful working woman. Oddly enough the first one was not, “being born the daughter of a wealthy narcissistic monster” or “being able to look pretty while your father systematically destroys the rights of the middle class, minorities and women.”
Ironically, she says she wrote the book to “empower women.” But not to have the same rights and benefits of an old rich white guy but rather to ensure that they have the full right to work hard in “every aspect of their lives.”
That just makes me sweat thinking about that. Every aspect – so women are expected to be financially, physically, professionally, and maternally successful – and looking beautiful at all times too, of course. Even worse than its crazy expectations, Ivanka’s book glosses over the huge advantages that she has as a wealthy one per center.
I am a working mom and to maintain my harried day to day existence, I rely on the help of my partner, our parents and my daycare. Daycare – I always hated that word. So what am I – as the child’s mother - night-care? That sounds uncomfortably close to nightmare.
Like most reasonable people, I assumed that by the time I had kids that I would be a multi-millionaire with a driver, maids and a full time nanny. Kind of like Ivanka, actually.
As it turned out, I did not accomplish the Ivanka Trump lifestyle (I’m barely a Tiffany Trump) because you need a team to do that. Just getting good childcare was a battle in and of itself.
First off, I do not have a full-time nanny like good ole Mary Poppins. Though I don’t know if Ms. Poppins and I would get along in real life. While I applaud the use of magic, I’m wary of people who sing for no reason. And I find her wisdom suspect, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down...Seriously lady, have you not heard of Diabetes?
When I was kid, I remember announcing to mom that when I had children, that she would be my nanny in a rather Ivanka Trump-ish entitled tone. I even imagined her in a starched white apron with a little doily on her head. She responded that she’d have much better things to do than look after my kids.
I asked my friends how they had handled the childcare situation. How long did they stay on maternity? Where did they put their kids when they came back to work? Did they consider sneaking them into work with them? (They all did.)
Most women stayed off the year after giving birth which Canada’s maternity benefits allows for (now you can take 18 months off but you get the same amount of money as you would for the year so…that’s probably not a valid solution for many.) But it could always be worse. I also asked a girlfriend in the States about her situation. She said that she stayed off work for three months because, “Thank god, I had maternity benefits through work.”
Yikes. Knock wood that we never end up being infected with America’s “exceptionalism.”
So as work loomed, I printed off the Saskatchewan list of daycares and called every one of them. There were no spots available so I went on dozens of waiting lists. Out of desperation I even called the French daycare. The lady answered the phone in French and I awkwardly said, “uh…what?” Then I explained that I was looking for a daycare spot. She replied, “but you know that this is a French daycare, right?” I thought I would blow her mind and summoned up all seven years of French classes I’d taken and replied, “Oui, je pense…quoi.” Which I later remembered meant, “Yes I think…what.”
But there were no free spots so the Sunday before work, I called up my mom. She agreed, because as it turns out, grandchildren are like crack to kokums. And vice-versa. Our arrangement worked until my dad’s health complicated things. But I got lucky again and a daycare space opened up near work. My son’s daycare is full of toys and adorable, busy toddlers.
It’s not ideal, it’s not my dream arrangement and many days I feel like I failed as a parent. Like its my fault that we didn’t win the Home Lottery – and his dad’s too, of course, because he didn’t win either.
But there are ways to adjust – like I don’t even call it daycare anymore – I say “where the nannies are,” which makes me feel better.