The week between Christmas and New Years is a dead zone. As a parent, it's a dead zone with no childcare. I'm fortunate that my university gives us that week off. I don't need to use leave or find childcare coverage. I do, however, need to find ways to entertain a three-year-old for several days which is easier said than done.
One of the moms in our daycare class put together a loose schedule of playdates. Essentially, she said "I'm going to be at this place with my kid at this time. Join us if you want." Since our kiddo loves her friends, we went to a few of the meet ups.
Two of the playdates were at branches of the DC public library system. While our kiddos played, we moms chatted. I noticed that a lot of people were taking advantage of the library to entertain their children. And, by people, I mean moms and grandmas. They were reading books to the kids, helping them with toys, or walking them through the space. Every child was accompanied by a mom or a grandma. There was not a father or a grandfather or any other male caretaker in sight.
This was not at all a surprise. The vast majority of childcare is provided by women. When schools and daycares are closed, the gap in coverage is usually covered by a mom using leave, female relative, or other female caretaker. They are left with the burden (and expense) of how to fill the time with the children.
The massive imbalance of caretaking by gender is not something I am going to diatribe on. Well - not today. While, in the moment, I was grumpy about the visual reminder of the societal burdens of caretaking placed on women, I was also heartened. The library was here to help.
Filling a full day with kid-friendly activities is hard. Filling a week is even harder. The library made the burden a little less by providing not only a safe space, but also age appropriate things to do. There are story times and activity packs, play spaces and rooms to explore which are designed specifically for children. Librarians are on hand to help with book recommendations or direct activities. And it's free. The library closed the care gap by making it just a little easier for moms and other caretakers to get through a long day. And, it does so without adding any financial burden.
I've always love libraries. It's why I became a librarian. But I've never before seen them as an oasis of support until I became a parent. They make my life easier and the keep my kiddo happy. I couldn't ask for anything more.