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.

They say necessity is the mother of invention—and nothing makes you more inventive than motherhood.

Sometimes that means fashioning a diaper out of paper towels and your older child's underpants (true story). Sometimes that means creating an innovative and life-changing weighted baby sleep sack and totally crushing it on Shark Tank. Tara Williams is the latter.

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

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MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


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"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

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