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Justin Trudeau is running a country from home without childcare

A world leader is juggling conference calls and a 6-year-old's bath time.

Justin Trudeau is running a country from home without childcare

It's hard to imagine someone could be running a country (in the middle of a global crisis, no less) while taking care of their children without any help, but that is what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is up to these days.

After his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, was diagnosed with COVID-19 she isolated herself away from the PM and their three children, 11-year-old Ella-Grace, 6-year-old Hadrien, and 12-year-old Xavier. The nannies were told to stay away as the PM's household went into self-isolation to prevent the spread of the virus. Suddenly, Justin Trudeau was solo parenting without any help while leading a country through a crisis.

And when a world leader is late to a conference call because his 6-year-old's bath didn't go as quickly as planned, it makes international news.

A world leader working from home with no staff while his three kids chill in the background is not normal (because this pandemic stole our normal). But hopefully, when we do get back to something closer to normal we remember this time. Hopefully Trudeau and other powerful men in Canada (and around the world) remember what it was like to parent and work without childcare.

Because it is something that many parents in Canada and the United States were doing even before the day cares closed.

Before COVID-19 changed our world Motherly frequently reported on the high cost of childcare in the United States, where having just one kid in day care can cost parents around $3,000 in some cities, a cost that makes working prohibitive for some parents.

Canadian parents, too, were struggling with sky-high childcare costs pre-pandemic (and many still are struggling to pay for child care they are not using because they don't want to lose their spot).

Parents in Vancouver and Toronto spend upwards of $2,000 for day care for one child, making the cost of childcare comparable to a mortgage payment and across the country the average is $1,000 a month. Meanwhile, Canadian childcare workers are struggling with extremely low wages, especially in areas where provincial grants meant to attract and keep staff were recently cut, or where pilot projects to reduce fees recently ended.

Just a few short years ago it looked like solutions were on the horizon in Canada: In 2017 Justin Trudeau offered billion-dollar investments in childcare at the federal level, Alberta rolled out a $25 a day care pilot that looked promising, and BC voters were promised $10 a day childcare—but three years later Alberta's pilot ended just before the pandemic hit, Ontario parents saw provincial cuts result in more expensive day care bills, and BC is still a long, long way from universal childcare (just ask a Vancouver couple who pay almost $4,000 a month to keep three kids in day care).

The issue of staggering childcare costs in Canada is largely ignored in international coverage of the country, or even worse, Quebec's affordable childcare scheme is mislabeled as a Canadian solution, suggesting that the entire nation has access to what Quebec's parents do (a month of day care for under $200). But Canadian parents outside of Quebec struggle every day to afford childcare and mothers bear the brunt of this financial burden. The median income for a woman between 25 and 54 in Canada is $40,000 (the median income for men in the same age group is about $13,000 more). For a woman who takes home $3,333 a month, a $2,000 day care bill is a significant burden and a perfectly understandable reason for dropping out of the workforce.

In 2016, when Justin Trudeau was not yet the Prime Minister but was on the campaign trail, he was asked repeatedly about affordable childcare, particularly the need for a national universal childcare solution—something Canada still does not have.

Targeted investments from Trudeau's government meant to create more childcare spaces have had little impact on the day care bills of the average Canadian mother.

As Brock University Brock University's Kate Bezanson, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, and Associate Dean of Social Sciences, argued in research published in the Journal of Law and Equality, the lack of a universal childcare system in Canada "leaves the biggest lever for women's economic participation largely untouched."

Within Canada, Bezanson and others have criticized Trudeau's Liberals for often claiming to be "feminist government" without creating meaningful policy changes that live into that label, including developing universal childcare as a public good, but Trudeau is often held up as an example of male feminism on the international stage.

Right now, Canada's PM is getting a lot of good press, news coverage that is creating a warm and fuzzy (and not undue) super dad narrative, as he can be overheard telling his kids "Daddy's on an important phone call right now," while leading his nation through a crisis. Trudeau's caring, feminist reputation, tarnished in the last couple years within his own country, is recovering its former sheen on the world's stage.

It is awesome that Trudeau is making this work. He's setting an example of social distancing and is leading his country in more ways than one right now. And he's showing the world that dads aren't helpers, they are full, capable parents. His personal commitment to social distancing and fatherhood can be a valuable example to other men leading nations and households through this crisis. Being a caregiver and a nurturer is just as important as being strong right now, but nurturing is often seen as a mother's responsibility and mothers feel undervalued and unsupported in our society.

It's understandable that Trudeau is not pondering universal childcare right now, but as crisis mode gives way to post-pandemic planning it is so important that he does, not just as Canada's Prime Minister but as a man who can inspire other leaders and nations. When the Trudeaus and the rest of Canada gets through this trying time, when workplaces and schools eventually reopen and the economy can function again, Canada is going to need its women in the workforce more than ever. And the best way to get parents working is to give them affordable childcare. Quebec has proved this. Canada can prove this to the world.

Trudeau has previously said "Access to affordable and quality child care is too often a barrier for many Canadians who struggle with the need to work or return to school. That is not right."

Months from now many parents are going to be struggling to return to work or school, and for the sake of mothers across his country, I hope Justin Trudeau doesn't forget what it is like to try to work without childcare.

In This Article

    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

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    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $100

    Mini golf set

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    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

    $100

    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

    $45

    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

    $179

    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

    $100

    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $33

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $88

    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

    $75

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

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    25+ Halloween movies for kid, by age

    These capture the goofy, spooky and sweet aspects of Halloween. Boo.

    My family loves watching Halloween movies to get into the spooky spirit.

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