Moms returning to the workforce face many hurdles. One of the greatest is the burden of childcare. Without affordable childcare and support from employers, it can be impossible for new moms to return to work. 

Mercy Badmos knows firsthand the reality of workplace bias and the burden of childcare costs. After giving birth, she couldn’t afford childcare because it cost more than her salary. Shortly into her maternity leave, her employer let her go. She had to get on public assistance and lived on less than $300 a month. 

Now, as the CEO and founding director of the Girls Empowerment Movement, Badmos recalls a time when the financial strain and lack of affordable childcare options were overwhelming. The burden of childcare significantly impacted her ability to return to the workforce. 

“The high costs and long waitlists made it difficult to secure a spot in a reputable daycare,” Badmos told 21Ninety. “Without affordable and reliable childcare, returning to work was impossible.”

Flexibility for Moms Is Key

Flexibility is often a missing link in the support for moms returning to the workforce after pregnancy. In order to better support moms, employers need to offer more flexible work arrangements, including remote work and flexible hours. As soon as her former employer found out she was pregnant, Badmos shared that the energy shifted. 

“When I needed time off, they were immediately upset,” she said. “As I neared childbirth, my employer resisted my request to work from home.”

In the modern age, where many jobs can be done remotely, working moms are still expected to be physically present. This is despite the increased demands of caring for a child. 

Badmos also is a big advocate for on-site childcare.

“When I suggest it, people often think it’s unrealistic, but it’s a practical solution that would make a huge difference,” she said. “Being able to bring your child to work can ease the transition back to work and reduce the anxiety about childcare.”

Employers Should Support Moms

Badmos gave birth in April 2020. Once she had her baby, Badmos shared that her former employer seemed to dislike that she was on leave. 

Toward the end of her time off, Badmos felt nervous about returning to work. She had to figure out how to split up the 12 weeks of her leave over her child’s first year. She also had to figured out how to live on a reduced salary. If she needed more than 12 weeks off, her employer would reduce her wages – this time to less than $200 per week.

When her employer fired her during her leave, Badmos was surprised. Her former employer said they let her go due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that her last day would be in November 2020. 

“I don’t believe I was truly let go because of the pandemic,” she said. “They hired someone for my position a few months later.”

This experience reinforced Badmos’ belief that childcare needs to be more accessible for all new moms. Employers can better support moms by providing on-site childcare and affordable childcare options. They should also create policies that allow parents more time to care for their children and themselves.

“After childbirth, I couldn’t perform at the same level, and my job didn’t support me as a new mom,” she said. “If they had worked with me, then I believe I could have regained my footing within a year.”

Dispelling Misconceptions

Pregnant women and new mothers are often passed over for promotions and excluded from important projects. They are also generally treated as less valuable employees, Badmos added. These misconceptions not only undermine moms’ professional abilities but also create an unsupportive and stressful work environment.

“The stigma is that pregnant women and new mothers can’t be as productive,” Badmos said. “There’s an assumption that we’re less committed to our jobs and more likely to take time off or leave the workforce entirely.” 

To employers, Badmos encouraged to address stigma and biases toward expecting and new moms head on. Employers should educate their teams about the value of diversity and inclusion. Make it clear that pregnant women and new mothers are an integral part of the workforce. 

“By providing these supports, you not only help your employees but also benefit from their loyalty, productivity, and diverse perspectives,” she said.