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Creating Solutions to the Carework Dilema

business plan sarah Jul 10, 2024

Care work is critical to keeping our economy and society functioning. But it’s unpaid and often underestimated. Yet all this free labor is essential.

Thankfully the trope of couch potato bon-bon-eating mom from the 90’s has all but disappeared. A recent study found that stay-at-home parents do about US$4,500 of unpaid care work per month. That’s the same as the average, after-tax, monthly US salary. Defined by Congress in 1934, care work is not included in the definition of GDP and therefore historically overlooked by politicians and economists. 

Raising kids is seen as a personal choice and not a societal benefit, giving society and governments little legal obligation to support the individuals raising the next generation of humanity. Before the industrial revolution care work was much more distributive amongst the extended family and community.

It seems that somewhere in the mix of capitalism and the patriarchy - parents have been given the sh*t end of the deal. 

This leaves parents to navigate raising kids with little to no support. If you’re a parent, I think you know what I mean. For example, in the US there is no federal paid parental leave, and school calendars don’t match most full-time work requirements - the full-time work you need for family healthcare coverage. 

And so parents face the first of many parenting paradoxes - you love your kids and wouldn’t send them back and at some point, you might wish you could.

AND maybe you want to stay home because you’re done with corporate politics and facing burnout from the impossible meritocracy lie that keeps you overachieving. 

Or you want to do something different but don’t know what - so you stay at home with your family while you figure it out. 

What if your partner travels or works 60+ hour weeks and you staying home makes the most sense for the family unit? 

But also, what if you and the other parents are now the glue that holds your community together? What if you want to do some paid work, without giving up the community that you’ve built and that gives you purpose?

Short of a political, economic, or systematic revolution, what can we do sitting here overwhelmed by unpaid duties - often on top of a full-time job? 

I’m here to encourage creative or even mundane business ideas that could support home life. I’m not talking about becoming a mom blogger, influencer, or joining an MLM. Please don’t join an MLM.

I’m talking about doing what you’re doing now, but getting paid to do it. Let's start with childcare.

The childcare and homecare industry is ripe for disruption. For people already raising children or who like to work with kids, there is an opportunity to develop valuable businesses that serve their community. OR maybe just earn enough to give yourself a couple of days off.* 

Babysitting for others with your own. You can babysit with children in tow or from your own home. In many places, you can care for at least two children, plus your own without registering. (check your local regulations). When you care for someone else’s child and yours, you aren’t just making what the person pays you, but also saving on the cost of childcare. Make sure you build that into the equation! 

Add-on additional services. You can make a childcare service even more valuable by providing additional services for the home such as grocery shopping, meal prep, house cleaning and organization, outings and enrichment activities, or transportation for after-school activities.

Childcare Co-op or Community for Parents. Any stay-at-home parent will tell you how lonely and tedious the day-to-day can be. How hard it can be to keep your child busy every single day. What if you paid a monthly fee for someone to organize weekly drop-off playdates with people in your neighborhood? Date night swaps, afterschool pick-up, child-friendly meetups and outings.

Btw, I’m aware that these things exist and (mostly) moms’ are doing this organizing for free. So what if you got paid to do it - like it was a real service with value - ‘cause it is?

Household assistant agency with robust training and reliable services. The weight of managing a household team, hiring, training, and outsourcing services is heavy on working parents. You are the household CEO.

Even if you can afford to hire all the help you need, most companies would call the leadership of the team a management position and give you a raise. 

The cleaning, cooking, tidying, organizing, donations, purchases, gardening, household projects, plus watching over those helpless humans is a LOT. What if you opened an all-in-one agency that would hire and train the customized support families need?

Those are just a few businesses you could start around childcare and the household. There are infinite more ideas we could brainstorm that a default parent could start.

If you’re feeling that it’s unfair that society expects you to do all this work for free, it’s because it is. Even if you have decided to do it because you want to, it sucks, that we have to fight for it to be valued.

If you have a business or income-earning idea you want to try, but can’t figure out how to make it all work (we understand you’re already overwhelmed) - book a call with us.

Talk to you soon,

Sarah  

*Because of our society’s low value of childcare and household work we might feel shame or embarrassment at the thought of doing it for someone else. I went from running my own successful business to starting an NGO in South Sudan to childcare from my home and in stranger’s homes when I became a mother. Because our economy doesn’t value childcare, it’s easy to not value ourselves for doing it for others.

At the time, I played it down and felt a bit embarrassed by my business caring for kids, but in hindsight, I'm proud of what I did and grateful to the many families who trusted me with their kids. Tripling up my hours by caring for 2-3 additional kids at the same time as I cared for mine had these unexpected benefits:

  • Gave myself a day off from childcare by hiring a nanny for my kids.
  • Allowed me to breastfeed my 2nd child and provide enrichment activities for my 1st while my husband was in an intensive graduate program.
  • Affored our rent in the crazy Oakland California market with two kids. Babysitting provided a steady income for us in times of big transition and allowed us to take risks that eventually paid off. 

After-school care I provided for my neighbors at Stanford while Seth was in grad school.

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