top of page

Millions of parents work overnight. Why is it so hard to find childcare?

Finding childcare when you work a 9-to-5 job can be challenging enough, but what do parents do who work overnight? That’s something Liat Krawczyk spends a lot of time thinking about. She’s a vice president at the New York City Economic Development Corporation, where she heads the Childcare Innovation Lab. Krawczyk has spent years building solutions to pressing social, economic, and tech infrastructure challenges.

We asked her about the unique challenges facing parents who work non-traditional hours, and what’s being done to support them.

CAREFULLY: When we talk about child care, is it safe to assume that most people are referring to traditional 9-to-5 jobs?

LIAT KRAWCZYK: The national conversation on childcare is focused on creating a system for kids ages 0 to 5 years that looks like the K-12 system. But K-12 was never designed to have people—especially moms—work full time. What happens between 3:00 PM and 8:00 AM the next day? There are 1.6 million New Yorkers working between 6:00 PM and 8:00 AM, and of those about 780,000 are parents and about 320,000 are parents to kids under age 5!

“In New York City, there are about 7,000 providers, and less than 5% offer any care between 6:00 PM and 8:00 AM.”

When parents don’t work 9-to-5, what are their child care options?

We don’t have enough data on what happens with families after 3:00 PM, especially those working non-traditional hours or days. Depending on where you live, there are after-school programs or child care facilities that are considered extended-day facilities but few are open beyond evening hours or weekends. In New York City, there are about 7,000 providers, and less than 5% offer any care between 6:00 PM and 8:00 AM.

We assume that a lot of what happens involves family and friends, or people having to leave the labor force, or people having to choose between caring for their kids or feeding their families. We can’t afford a system that doesn’t parallel the labor force. We have to start treating child care for what it essentially is: economic infrastructure.

What are reliable solutions for these families?

Here’s how I like to talk about it: What happens the day after universal child care passes? Say we’ve succeeded in our mission and now have care for 0-5-year-olds that mirrors K-12. Amazing. However! There are still a lot of challenges that families would have to deal with that aren’t addressed by this policy.

There are five primary challenges:

1. Childcare does not parallel working hours. For solutions, we’re seeing flexible care benefits used to pay informal providers

Photos via Liat Krawczyk

when needed. There are solutions in which employers grant stipends so families can choose and pay for care of their choice, including a parent, a grandparent, a neighbor. So you keep the wealth in your family and keep your trust circle as your care circle.

2. Even if you can pay for care, you don’t necessarily have the trusted support network to do so. We’ve interviewed doctors in certain parts of New York City who say that some patients send their kids back to their countries of origin until their kids turn five, and then they bring them back. Some tech solutions help you build “your village” to help find and pay for supportive childcare pods that you trust.

3. How do you pay for care, and how much will it cost? Most people don’t understand how much it would cost them to exit the labor force. Women make a median wage of $57,000 in New York City. If they leave the workforce until their child is 3 years old, they’ll lose almost $500,000, not only in wages but in lost future earnings and lost future retirement. We have no financial education around child care.

“We can’t afford a system that doesn’t parallel the labor force. We have to start treating child care for what it essentially is: economic infrastructure.”

4.Household management tasks. Child care is direct supervision of children, but it also includes cooking meals, cleaning, laundry. There are apps that help families manage the mental load and split that equitably through a gender lens.

5. Reluctance to spend time away from kids. How do we create more co-care and work spaces? We see entrepreneurs building these spaces. How to work in a proper work environment and also breastfeed your child and have lunch with them?

Sounds like there are actually a lot of options. Is the main challenge that these solutions are still in their infancy?

I often think, what if we considered the care economy as sexy as the green economy? I am hoping that is where we are heading. The FamTech movement is still in its infancy but it’s growing strong, with players like really starting to congregate entrepreneurs from across the nation and companies like Maven Clinic becoming the first unicorns to focus on women’s and families’ health. Hundreds of entrepreneurs are rising to address the care crises we face, from cradle to grave. They recognize the $648B care economy market for what it is—ripe for disruption—and I am excited to see how this sector evolves.


bottom of page