Gothamist City Council Is Trying To Make NYC Parenting Less Impoverishing by Jake Dobkin

Gothamist
Gothamist
City Council Is Trying To Make NYC Parenting Less Impoverishing
Jake Dobkin
03/31/2015

Having kids is great. They're cute and you'll find that it's spiritually deepening to care for them, and you get to buy a lot of toys that your parents never let you have when you were a kid. You also get to eat a lot of pizza, because kids want to eat it all the time.

The downsides to parenting are that it is exhausting, because kids keep really weird sleeping schedules, that it is annoying, because kids can act really badly if you don't let them eat cookies at 9pm or watch a tenth episode of Octonauts, and that it is financially ruinous, because child care is New York City is very, ludicrously, punishingly expensive.

So expensive that most working and middle class couples find that it makes more sense to have one parent stay home with the kids, rather than employ someone else to watch them, miss most of their childhood, and basically come out only ten dollars ahead after paying for all of it. (The De Blasio universal pre-kindergarten program does help, but remember: it doesn't start until age four. That's four long years that parents are on their own.)

The problem is that once you leave the work force to parent, coming back isn't so easy: your skills are rusty, your old job is filled by a 24-year-old who doesn't have to pick his kids up at 5pm every day, and you have no idea how to use hip words like "fetch" in normal office conversation.

Today I went to a press conference at City Hall, for a new bill sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos, Laurie Cumbo, and Robert Cornegy. It would expand New York's Workforce 1 job centersand website to add some new resources for parents returning to work after taking time off to raise their kids.

The bill would provide tech training, public-private partnerships with firms willing to hire returning parents, some specialized assistance polishing outdated resumes, a better website for the program, and advertising to let people know that the service exists. (The cost of these improvements will be minor, and determined during budget negotiations- the cost of Workforce 1's eighteen centers, serving 40,000+ people a year, is around $42 million, which is about 0.05% of a nearly $80 billion city budget.)

This is a well-intentioned, reasonable, and extremely modest bill, given the stats from the Pew Center that were mentioned at the press conference: 39% of women take "significant" time off (as well as 24% of men.) 31% of those moms said taking time hurt their careers (compared with 18% of men—even in an extremely progressive city like New York, in 2015, parenting responsibility still falls disproportionately on women.)

During the Q&A session, a number of reporters asked about paid family leave, which, unbelievably, is still not part of New York State law. The councilmembers seemed somewhat unhopeful that was going to happen very soon, and reiterated that this bill was a small step in the right direction.

Even if Albany did pass paid family leave, we'd still be far, far, far behind the other developed countries in supporting young parents. Most of the current proposed bills at the state and federal level would give up to 12 weeks of paid leave, financed by a payroll tax in a way similar to disability leave.

This is a lot less than the paid year off offered in much of Europe. Many countries also throw in free diapers, protections if you want to work part time while you raise your young children, and far better subsidized child care. I heard from a friend that France literally sends a laundry worker to help you wash your baby clothes twice a week.

Of course, we can't have that here, because giving even the most basic help to young parents strikes Republicans in Albany and Washington as the first step down a slippery slope to full blown Communism. This despite the obvious benefits to businesses and the state of keeping more young mothers and fathers in the work force, growing our GDP and keeping the fires of Capitalism burning.

But one step at a time. Hopefully this bill will pass and help some parents polish up their resumes and learn how to use Twitter, and that will be the first step in a long march towards European-style parenting policies, and perhaps by the time our kids have kids it won't be so backbreaking to procreate in America. Keep hope alive!

N.B.: This is the 4th in a series of 8 articles Jake is writing in order to renew his NYPD Press Pass.

Issue: 
Jobs