Every day I’m faced with questions of principle and policy. What decisions can we make to improve the experiences of parents or of caregivers?
The thing is, often optimization for one comes at the direct expense of the other. Those are the hardest to navigate because then we have to dig in and understand what’s currently happening vs. getting to the first principles of the matter.
Here’s the thing about childcare though – it’s a pretty messed up industry. Few standards, tons of informal work, lots of power dynamics holding one party or the other hostage.
It is not an industry that has their proverbial shit together. Reasoning by analogy (eg. making incremental improvements based on currently held assumptions) is not going to fix it like returning to the fundamentals and building the right solution from scratch.
In other words, looking at what IS isn’t often the same as what SHOULD BE.
But fighting that fight can be hard when we’re also fighting the fight to exist and be known and tried out. The classic problems of all startups.
Take for example just two issues: cancellation fees and sitters “flaking” on parents.
On the first, very few of us parents, if any, pay sitter a “cancellation fee” even if we cancel on them last minute. We just text them and say “SO sorry, my kid’s sick, going to have to cancel, I’ll text you another date.”
And even if that sitter was counting on that money, what choice do they have but to text back and say “Bummer. No problem – hope he feels better soon!.”
That’s what IS. But I don’t think that’s what should be. Late cancellations should come with some sort of compensation for that other person’s time. Just because we don’t do it and no one has been able to set that as the expectation doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do to incent more of the talented people we want to work in this industry.
That same informality hurts parents. Think about how many times you’ve been “flaked” on or had a sitter cancel on you last minute. Many times it’s for good reasons but other times it’s because there are people that call themselves caregivers that don’t take the profession seriously enough.
At Poppy, we are not only building systems to help cover parents with another caregiver even if their caregiver is sick or can’t make it, but we hold caregivers accountable if it becomes a pattern of unreliability.
We’re working hard to professionalize childcare and reward those that are the true professionals in the field.
So even though there are few repercussions for flakiness out there in the world, we believe in creating the standards that hold people accountable and in doing so raise the whole bar on what it takes to be a caregiver of our children.
The same goes for the topics of higher rates for high demand times or expectations around punctuality. There are existing expectations. But I would argue they don’t align well with the first principles of what should be.
Our mission is to build a better world for parents and caregivers alike. One that creates a new reality.
That means painstakingly and sometimes painfully blowing up our past experiences so we may make way for a world that better serves us all. And in doing so, rebuilds these villages in the modern way we all need and deserve.
So I would urge you, the next time there is a policy or a process that feels full of friction to pause for a moment and ask, is this because of what IS, and what should it BE.
The distance between the two is often where a better future lives.