This question came from a new mom who is about to go on a business trip and is considering her child care options while she is away.  I would love to hear your experiences with work travel and child care expenses in comments below.  Let’s give this working mama a hand!

Question from a New Working Mama:

I am being asked to travel for work in a few months for a weeklong trip across the country.  My husband and I are struggling to figure out how we will make it work with his busy schedule and long hours. Since we have no family in the city where we live, it will likely require hiring a nanny to help in the mornings and evenings while I am away. (My daughter is in daycare during the day.)

My question is whether in your research and work on Mindful Return, you have seen any precedent for asking an employer to cover extra childcare costs like these, when there are demands for work-related travel. I am thinking of asking my employer.  But I would like to know if any other companies or organizations offer compensation. I would love any advice our resources you can recommend.

Mindful Return Response:

Great question, mama!  I’ve written about the jumble of emotions that comes with work travel + baby before (check out The Blues – and Bliss – of Work Travel after Baby).  But I hadn’t yet covered work travel + cost of child care.  Thanks for sparking this conversation.

When I read your note, some thoughts came to mind immediately.  Others I crowdsourced from my amazing group of Mindful Return alumnae.  Here are three thoughts that may prove helpful:

  1. Back-Up Childcare Benefits Might Help: Some of the moms I work with use their company’s back-up care benefit for cases like this.  Note that the back-up care hours don’t have to be during the day.  Nor do they have to be during the work week.  I’m not sure if that’s an option for you, but here’s a Mindful Return post on back-up care that explains more about how it works.
  2. Individual Negotiations Can Prove Fruitful: One Mindful Return alum is a highly-valued and successful university professor.  When asked by leadership what might help make her life easier, she pitched them the idea of covering the cost of bringing her nanny to a required conference.  They said yes.  I also have a friend who was asked to speak at a conference in Europe.  She included child care costs as part of her travel expenses.  And the conference organizers paid it.  I’ve heard a number of instances of women negotiating to have their company pay for a spouse, grandparent, aunt, or friend to travel with them, so they could bring baby along.
  3. Specific Examples of Employers Offering This Benefit: My alums let me know that Massachusetts General Hospital provides reimbursement for child care-related expenses when employees travel.  The benefit does appear to be limited to faculty of a certain rank, though.  (See the Resources part of this page.  There’s a section entitled “Tips to help you balance work travel and dependent care.”)  Northwestern University also offers grants to all full-time faculty, specifically for dependent care expenses incurred because of travel for professional development.  (See this page for more details.)

Short answer: YES!  I think this is a reasonable request for you to make.  Knowing your child care is taken care of will help you focus on your work away from home.  And it will promote goodwill between you and your employer.  I think you’re smart to find examples and benchmarks, too.

Have you ever attempted to negotiate with your employer the cost of work travel-related child care?  Does your employer offer this as a benefit?  Please share any information you might have in comments below!

If you need more support heading back to work after maternity leave, please join me and other inspiring new working mamas in the next session of Mindful Return.

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