The Wing, a women’s co-working space and club with offices in four major US cities, recently announced the forthcoming launch of The Little Wing, a short-term childcare center for members who are moms.
Starting this December, The Little Wing centers will open at The Wing SoHo, followed by The Wing’s upcoming West Hollywood location. Certified childcare providers known as “Wing-sitters” will watch over the children of Wing members for a maximum of two hours at a time while members work at the club. The centers will offer art and music classes, as well as monthly programming on topics ranging from sleep and toilet training to queer parenting.
Co-working spaces, a booming industry launched to accommodate the increasing number of entrepreneurs and corporate employees who work remotely, are increasingly catering (paywall) to women, who represent a growing segment of remote workers in the US. With its centers, The Wing hopes to fill a gap left by the shortage of affordable, quality childcare in the United States.
It’s expensive to be a parent in America. In 2016, according to the nonprofit ChildCare Aware of America (pdf), the cost of infant care in 49 states and the District of Columbia exceeded the standards for affordability, according to a threshold established by the Department of Health and Human Services of no more than 7% of the state median income for a two-parent family. As I’ve previously written, the high cost of childcare is actually driving US adults away from having children, or leading them to have less children than they considered ideal.
But it’s not just cost: In much of the US, demand for licensed childcare outstrips supply. The Center for American Progress analyzed about 7,000 ZIP codes and found that roughly half qualify as “childcare deserts.”
A lack of access to childcare can negatively impact a child, leaving them at risk of missing years of development, which are especially crucial from birth through five years. In the case of working moms, qualified childcare professionals can support a child’s cognitive and behavioral skills, laying the foundation to help them succeed later. The lack of childcare options is the number one barrier preventing women from either entering the workforce or taking on more hours.
“Childcare scarcity has very real consequences for working families,” Jessica Deahl writes for NPR. Women, who consistently rate the issue of caring for children more highly than men, either stay out of the workforce during their children’s early years, or stall in their careers because of the huge time and resource burden of caring for an infant.
Poor women are especially impacted. A national survey (pdf) of providers serving low-income women, conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Families, found that 84.7% of providers said that lack of childcare often limits work opportunities for their welfare clients.
It’s difficult to see how the actions of companies like The Wing will do very much to change this dynamic, given the fact that it already caters to high-income professional women, a segment of the population that is less likely to be priced out of good childcare options to being with. Membership costs $2,700 for an all-access pass, and The Little Wing will charge an as-yet-unknown additional fee. And the maximum time limit of two hours will hardly help working women who need day-long childcare.
The efforts of any workplace to help working mothers balance personal and professional responsibilities should be celebrated. As cofounder and COO Lauren Kassan explained, “we want to help contribute to a world where there is no perceived motherhood penalty.” But, while initiatives from groups like The Wing to remedy the childcare problem are commendable, they should not distract from the fundamental issue at its root, which is the prohibitive cost and systemic shortage of childcare in the United States.
Read more from our series on Rewiring Childhood. This reporting is part of a series supported by a grant from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The author’s views are not necessarily those of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.