I hopped off the plane at 2 a.m. in Boston after a West Coast business trip, turned on my phone and there it was. A message no working mom wants to receive: a voicemail from our nanny saying she can’t make it in the morning.
Taking the day off wasn’t an option based on the meetings and work I had scheduled. In my Uber home, I pulled up the Care@Work app on my phone and submitted a request for Backup Care. A few hours later, I awoke to confirmation from Care.com that my request was in process. By 8:30 a.m., I had a caregiver at our home. It was magical, as if Mary Poppins herself had blown in on the East Wind.
Mornings like this aren’t exactly par for the course in our family. But we, like so many others, are a dual-income household, and with two young daughters it feels like we’re forever trying to crack the work-life code. Sometimes, we just need an extra set of hands to help bring our best selves to work without sacrificing anything for our girls.
I truly believe all working parents can relate to this struggle. I hear it firsthand from my colleagues, friends and family. As the Vice President of Account Management for Care@Work I also hear it from client employees across all walks of life and industries. While I know there’s no singular solution that fits all families, having benefits like Backup Care are the kind of practical magic that make a meaningful difference for mine.
Helping Employees Make Life Work
As a working mom, I can separate my career into two distinct parts: before and after Care.com. You hear about “great places to work” or “family-friendly” cultures but you don’t fully appreciate what it means to be in that kind of environment until you live it … or live without it. I lived without it first.
There was a time in my not-too-distant work history when I remember closing the door to my office and leaning against it, barricading myself in so my co-workers would not see me struggling with nausea. I was afraid of being seen as weak or worse … I was afraid of being seen as pregnant. It wasn’t anything that my colleagues had said or done, but in the male-dominated environment I was worried that my pregnancy could signal that I was somehow less committed to my career.
Now fast-forward a few years. Shortly after the birth of my second daughter, I decided it was time for a career change. I had been in the research industry for more than a decade when Care.com crossed my radar professionally. We had used Care.com years before to find a nanny for our girls, but I was not aware of Care@Work and the company’s enterprise products and services. For all the work-life challenges our family had faced over the years, I hadn’t even realized family-care benefits were a growing industry until I began the recruiting process.
So here I was, grappling with managing motherhood and building my career. Care.com felt like more than an employer to me … it felt like an opportunity to transfer my years of account management experience to a new industry that resonated with me personally. It felt like a partner, offering the philosophy, culture and family care benefits that I knew would help me – and my family – make life work.
Our household is always changing. As my career has grown, my husband has shared more in the care of our daughters and our household commitments. It’s affected both of us professionally and made us realize that we can’t manage it all without help. And it’s not always last-minute issues.
It wasn’t long after I started at Care.com that I needed to turn to my Backup Care benefit to help with our girls. They attend and receive care at school Monday through Thursday, and a nanny comes to our house on Fridays. I knew right away of several holidays at their school’s care center when neither my husband nor I would have the day off at work. I had pre-loaded the Care@Work app on my phone with our core information and needs, and it took me less than three minutes to put in my request. Within a few hours, I had been matched to caregivers for each of the days we needed.
From past experience, I know how big a challenge it is for working parents when the school days and workdays don’t align. And, based on our clients’ utilization of their BackupCare benefits, it’s evident that holidays, gap weeks during the summer and other quirks of the school year are times when care benefits can make a big difference for working families.
Fort-ifying Household Balance
What strikes me most about each of the backup caregivers we’ve had is the sensitivity and understanding they have about the situation they are entering. They’re trained to jump right in, to sort through the chaos and help bring balance. My husband and I have been impressed with their professionalism and how immediately we were put at ease. Most important, we love how quickly they pick up our routine. They’ve asked us questions about our needs and schedule we’d never even thought of. And the pictures and text updates throughout the day about how the girls are doing help fend off any worries for us.
One of our favorite caregivers, Brie, noticed the moment she walked in how much our girls loved playing princess dress-up and building elaborate cushion forts. She jumped right in and had our girls laughingand playing within minutes. Whether she’s talking about the pictures posted on the fridge, or referencing their favorite toys (after a quick peek into their rooms), we felt wowed by her ability to connect with our girls — within minutes of walking through the door. Even if months go by between Brie caring for our girls, she always picks right up where she left off and never forgets a thing.
I’ve learned from my own experiences – at home and at work — that care needs come in many forms. And while other families’ needs might be different from my own, I know what it feels like for those facing care challenges, especially while trying to juggle parental and professional identities. I’m not sure it will ever be possible to crack the code on work-life integration, but Backup Care has certainly gotten our family one step closer. To me, that’s magic.
Alyssa Johnson is VP of Global Account Management at Care.com, where she leads the U.S. and European B-to-B account management teams for Care@Work, helping corporate clients successfully launch, manage and communicate their care benefits to employees. Before joining Care@Work, Alyssa held many key roles at Yankee Group Research, including VP, Strategic Client Service, and Account Management. She also worked as a Merchandise Analyst for May Department Stores. Alyssa lives in Weston, MA, with her husband, Bryan, and their two daughters, Julia and Jacqueline.
This post is part of a series authored by Care.com employees, where they share firsthand experiences using Care@Work benefits, and reflect on the impact it’s made on their personal and professional lives.
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