"I Can't Miss That Meeting!" A Unilever Employee's Back-Up Care Story

backup caretaker and sick child

From a distance, work/life supports may seem like theoretical constructs. But up close, they're part of real stories of real working families managing real jobs every day. Occasionally, we talk to an employee about one of their stories. Here, Rachel Maddox, an employee of Bright Horizons client Unilever, offers her perspective about her experiences with back-up care.

Up In Canada Without a Nanny

I work in marketing for a very demanding consumer brand company in Chicago. I travel about 25% of the time. My husband works in mergers and acquisitions; he travels 100% of the time. The hardest part about being a working parent with a three-year-old and a six-year-old is being responsible for the family schedule and trying to make it work while growing my career. And my kids have things like t-ball at 5:30pm and who's done working at 5:30pm. I have to make that work. And it's just a lot. So it was a Monday morning and I was on a business trip in Canada. And I'm looking at my schedule and seeing that my husband would be out of town that Friday, my nanny had asked for the day off, and I had global leaders coming into town for a meeting I couldn't miss. It wasn't even a question, I couldn't miss that meeting. So from my hotel room I went online and scheduled back-up care through Bright Horizons. And I'm sitting there thinking, 'This was so easy! I scheduled it on a Monday for the upcoming Friday. It was affordable. And I did it from a place that didn't even have good cell service!

Sharing with Social Media

Right after, I immediately went on Facebook and posted, essentially, that this benefit is seriously the best thing ever for working moms. If you have this service and you're not using it, it's such a huge miss. It's great care. You can feel confident about using it. When I signed up for back-up care for the first time, because it had the Bright Horizons name, I knew I could feel good about it. And they take care of everything at the call center. By signing up, I've taken that responsibility off of my plate and a competent professional has taken that on for me. I don't have to make 20 different calls. I don't have to ask family or friends for a favor. I don't have to worry about it. I know that with Bright Horizon's back up care they are going to show up when I need them to.

Keeping the Puzzle Together

I've used back-up care when I was between nannies for a few days. I've used it when I was flying in and my husband was flying out and there was a few-hour gap. Having back-up care meant I knew if that flight got delayed or if a bag got lost, I didn't have to worry. There have also been times when both my husband and I have had to travel at the same time. My nanny can stay overnight with the kids. But it's a lot to ask someone to cover your children for 24 hours without a break. She's got a cat to take care of. She has errands. So when that happens, I schedule back-up care to relieve my nanny for four hours so she can take care of appointments or anything she needs to take care of while I'm out of town. Then there's vacation. My nanny took off for a week and she was so worried about leaving. But I could say, "No you can go." I've got back-up care that's consistent. I'm happy. So she can take a vacation without feeling guilty. And that makes her happy, which is really important. Keeping the people who care for my children happy is important. Because the last thing I need is an unhappy nanny who will then leave.

High Standards for Back-Up Care Providers

The first time I used back-up care, I knew the Bright Horizons name. I knew they wouldn't partner with anybody who wasn't meeting their standards. And that's proven to be true. I've used in-home back-up care and I've sent my children to centers. And in both places, these are professional caregivers who really enjoy your children. My son used to go to a Bright Horizons center until he reached kindergarten. I brought him back to his former Bright Horizons center for back-up care and it was like going to a reunion!

Not Just for Working Moms

Everyone needs to get on board and use this benefit! I've told everyone in my office about it. When I learn of women in my office becoming pregnant, I immediately send them info and tell them to enroll. It's important in this work environment -- where there are meetings you cannot miss -- to be able to go to a trusted provider and ask for help. My husband's job offers back-up care too, and I've started telling the significant others in his office about it. It's not just for working moms. There's this idea that a stay-at-home mom wouldn't use back-up care. But if you are the primary caregiver taking care of your children, don't emergencies come up? Do you need to go to the doctor? Have you ever been sick while trying to care for the kids? Can your spouse leave work to take care of them? These are all the reasons you could use back-up care to help make your busy life work. And then there's elder care too. I forwarded it to a colleague who cares for a parent.

Extra Benefits

Another perk I didn't know about is that when you register for in-home care, you're automatically enrolled in the nanny agencies contracted by Bright Horizons. So I can't use my company's back-up care for date night with my husband. But I can call the nanny service directly and because I'm already registered through Bright Horizons, I didn't have to pay their $200 enrollment fee. That was huge. Back-up care is such a great benefit and there are a lot of people who don't know about it. And to me that's a huge loss. As a working mother, these are the ways you survive. I think, like I said, I really hope this will help other people feel confident about using this benefit.