- Laura Danger, 33, is a Chicago-based educator and mother of two who’s had to leave the workforce.
- Like many parents, Danger found herself managing child care full time during the pandemic.
- Danger said that domestic labor needs to be valued through protections like paid leave.
Laura Danger was devastated to leave the workforce.
“I’m a good educator. I love what I do,” the Chicago-based special educator and community advocate told Insider.
For the past three months, Danger, 33, has been a full-time stay-at-home parent. She’s been out on short-term disability leave because the stress of her situation impacted her health, but that time just expired. She’s now on unpaid leave.
Like many parents throughout the pandemic, managing child care — not to mention potential COVID-19 exposures and testing for her children — has been overwhelming. Danger has acutely felt the lack of federal paid leave, especially sick leave, as she continues to deal with unpredictable child-care issues. She’s even found an audience on TikTok, where she’s garnered more than 7 million likes by highlighting how women are pushed into unpaid domestic labor.
“I feel like a lot of my worth has been tied to my ability to provide financially and to meet goals and feel fulfilled through a career,” Danger said. But this is at odds with being a parent, because “being available for my children is not valued.”
‘They had one day of child care for eight weeks — and we paid for it all’
When the pandemic first hit, Danger had a 9-month-old and a 3-year-old in day care full time. She and her husband needed a new pandemic schedule.
He would leave for work later so she could teach classes remotely. Then she’d either teach with the children there or work while they were napping. During the summer and fall, Danger paid for child care, but her kids’ COVID exposures at day care kept them home much of the time anyway.
They hired a nanny, but when Danger returned to in-person teaching in February, it became too costly. They cut the nanny’s hours to basically the moment her husband left for work to the moment Danger got off.
“I lost all access to personal time. It was just minute to minute,” Danger said.
In September, everyone returned to in-person learning: “It was horrible. Within the first five days back, my kids were both sick.”
Danger and her husband took turns taking sick days from work.
“Three or four weeks in, we had already had so much illness or exposure that I was way behind on work and completely stressed, not sleeping. I had lost 11 pounds in four weeks,” Danger said.
Danger ended up qualifying for short-term disability, which just expired.
‘Domestic labor is labor’
For the birth of her first child, Danger said she had no paid time off; she faced a budget-cut-related layoff while on her second maternity leave.
Federal paid sick and family leave has been tenuously included as one provision in the now-stalled Build Back Better Act. The US is the only country that’s part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development with no mandatory paid leave.
“Domestic labor is labor,” Danger said, adding that it should be valued both socially and financially through protections like paid sick and family leave. “It’s like we’re pretending that this work doesn’t matter.”
It’s a topic she’s become an outspoken advocate for on TikTok. Her videos on unpaid leave and domestic labor have resonated, racking up more than 7 million likes. She talks about how “the capitalist patriarchy has pushed women out from places of power by not paying them and not valuing their labor.”
The feedback to her TikTok videos has given Danger a new sense of purpose.
“It feels so good because it feels like I put my finger on something that I couldn’t verbalize before,” Danger said. “I feel like at least I can push a little bit of social change by accessing the other women who are trapped by this, and are escaping through their phone, and I get to be that little voice and be like, ‘No, you matter, you matter so much!'”
The impact of not having mandated paid leave or other protections has affected her husband, too — he got a vasectomy. “I can never put myself through this ever again,” she said. It’s been “devastating” to leave the workforce.
“I won’t be able to go back to my school. My school’s in my neighborhood, these children that I see on my street and at the grocery store, I will not be able to go back to them — and that’s devastating.”