I have recently started searching for employment in earnest. My contract with a very progressive family-friendly employer was unable to be renewed, so now I’m pounding the metaphorical pavement. In the week that I’ve been actively responding to job ads, I’ve realized just how lucky I was to have worked for an organization that allowed flexibility for family needs.
So many of the jobs available right now that are ideal for my skillset just don’t work with my reality.
“Valid driver’s license and access to a vehicle essential.”
“Must be able to to work evenings and weekends.”
“Will involve frequent travel around the province.”
I do have a license, but I don’t have (or want) a car. That rules out a lot of opportunities in my field. Evenings and weekends aren’t an option, as it would likely cost me almost as much as I’d earn to pay for childcare to work. And travel? Once or twice a year, I can ask for help from family. Anything more than that, and I’m out.
Then there are the unwritten barriers that prevent me from applying to some positions:
“Location: an hour or more from your children’s school.”
“Start time is earlier than you can make it after dropping your kids off at school in the morning.”
These are related, but different. If it takes me an hour to get from the school to work, it’s impossible for me to work full-time hours in the time the kids are in some form of care (school, aftercare). If I am an hour away from the school and one of the kids gets sick or injured, that’s a commute that’s not acceptable to me. If the start time for a position is set in stone and there’s not enough time for me to make it to work after dropping off the kids at school, it’s not a job I can do. At 9 and almost 11, my kids are not quite at the point where I’m comfortable with sending them on the 30+-minute streetcar ride to school alone, and I can’t figure out what other options I have in that situation (and that’s only looking at age and maturity, not the potential for who knows what kind of autism-related disaster that could happen in that time between the two of them).
To be eligible for Employment Insurance, I have to be ready, willing, and capable of working each day, and I have to be actively looking for work.
“Willing to work” is defined as willing to accept all types of work that your abilities, skills, training, or experience enable you to do, and you are willing to accept labour market conditions (for example, going rate of pay, hours of work).
I have to be willing to accept conditions that I cannot actually accommodate. There are factors in my life that make some labour market conditions untenable. That does not mean being picky. It means that I don’t fit. And I am by no means alone in this dilemma. If I’m struggling with this reality with all of the privilege I have, imagine what it must be like for someone whose children aren’t school-aged, who don’t have a (recognized) post-secondary education, who have even less local support than I do.
There is a waiting list of 18 000 on the child care subsidy list in the city of Toronto right now. The waiting list for housing subsidy is years long. Minimum wage in Ontario is now $10.25, which is much better than it used to be, but if a single parent without childcare subsidy worked only during the hours the children were in school (assuming they are of school age), that parent would be making just under $16 000 per year.
It’s still very early days in my job hunt. I’m optimistic I’ll eventually find work that works with my family circumstances. While the narrow definition of “willing to work” does complicate things, I’m resourceful and have a tonne of community support right now in my search. I only wish everyone in my situation had as supportive and connected a network.