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The Challenge of Child Care

With a little ingenuity, you can care for the kids and find time to conduct your business.
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When I'm asked about my biggest challenge in business, the answer is always balancing work and motherhood. The biggest part of that challenge is child care. Whether you have a baby or an older child, you need to have support in order to get your work done. To support working moms and mompreneurs, we need more and better child-care options. While we may have started our businesses to be closer to our children, we all need certain amounts of quiet work time without our children distracting us. Many of us became mompreneurs because of lack of quality child-care options for traditional careers.

Recent studies have shown that while the gender gap has significantly narrowed in the past few decades, there is grave inequality for women with children in the U.S. labor market. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of prominent and successful women in business do not have children, although some mothers have beaten the odds.

A recent study of graduates from the University of Chicago's business school showed that in the early years after graduating, men and women had "nearly identical labor incomes and weekly hours worked." But 15 years after graduation, the men were making about 75 percent more than the women; only the women who did not have children and never took time off had careers that resembled the men's. The United States is the only westernized country without a paid parental leave policy in place.

So what's a working mom to do?

Here are a few child-care options that could help balance your existence. One solution is simply to work during the "fringe" hours. Depending on your work and what you need to get done, you may be able to get away with working during the little one's naps or when your spouse is available to help.

And if you're looking for a business to start, one of these might be just the ticket for you:

Flexible child-care centers.Primrose Schools opened its first urban school (normally found only in the suburbs) to better support working moms. By having centers closer to work, moms can have quality care with less impact on their business. They even have nursing rooms so that moms can go in during a break.

Child-friendly office spaces. We need more innovative solutions such as Cubes And Crayons. This is office space for moms who need to work combined with kid space for fun, learning and growth. Cubes and Crayons has flexible, drop-in baby and child care, along with eco-friendly plug-and-play office services at an affordable rate. Membership gets you anything from free coffee to wireless internet and conference rooms. Oh, and chocolate, of course.

Child-care share. With so many home-based working moms, consider sharing child-care times so that each of you has certain quiet hours you can depend on. For instance, each of you could pick a day or half a day where you watch the other's children. It can be a good opportunity for socialization and for support. The best scenario is where you can both be flexible with one another when meetings come up or kids get sick.

Share a sitter. Child care is expensive, especially when you hire someone to come to your home. Share the cost with one or more friends to make it more affordable for all. When I started Stroller Strides, I allowed my employees to bring their kids to my home office, where they "shared" a nanny. This way, it was less expensive and their children were close to them at work. Need to meet more baby sitters? Companies such as Mommy Mixer host networking parties where you can meet college students looking for jobs. Companies like Seeking Sitters and Sitter City will help you find baby sitters and nannies.

Au pair. An au pair is someone from another country who lives with you and, in exchange, is responsible for child care and/or housework. Many agencies will help you find and screen an au pair for your family.