Balancing the Scales: The Paradox of Business Success and Family Struggles in North Carolina

By Sharon Hirsch, Prevent Child Abuse NC President & CEO

What a paradox — NC is among the best states in which to do business in the country — and the worst to be a working parent. Perhaps we need to recalibrate our metrics for how we analyze what is “best” for business. It’s hard to recruit employees to work and move to the Tar Heel State if we make it hard to raise our children. We need to change the narrative about how policies, systems and employers support families! 

NC is the 5th worst state in the nation for working parents. That’s simply unacceptable. It’s not only bad for our children, but also terrible for businesses that are trying to recruit top talent and retain dedicated employees. Every employee and employer was once a child with his or her own hopes for the future. Our children are our future – our future workforce. Many of today’s employees are also parents and caregivers who are actively raising our future workforce. It’s up to all of us to ensure that every policy we set strengthens families so all children can reach their full potential. 

Parenting has never been easy, yet there are policies and practices we could put in place to make it easier, while supporting worker productivity, employee retention and recruitment. It’s a win-win proposition to invest in families. 

Neuroscience has taught us that the first weeks, months and years of life build the foundation of brain development, setting the stage for future learning. This stage of life lays the groundwork for school achievement and lifetime earnings potential. Shouldn’t we be supporting families so that our future society is filled with the best possible brainpower to lead our state forward? 

The study found that parents in NC are spending 32%(!) of their annual income on childcare expenses. Access to quality, affordable childcare is essential to support our workforce, and at the same time, it promotes positive experiences, learning and development for our youngest children, when their brains and neural connections are growing the fastest.  

In North Carolina, there is currently no paid family and medical leave law in effect. On average, women in NC are returning to work two weeks after giving birth – long before their bodies have healed, long before their babies have secure attachment to their parents, often because of the overload of economic stress and fear of losing their livelihood.   

In addition, many families also find themselves in a situation where one member must resign from their job to care for an elderly family member or someone facing a serious medical issue. The “brain drain” this causes for employers is a serious strain on businesses. 

What’s best for business is a highly functioning, loyal workforce. When we invest in supporting families from the start and across the life span, it will be easier to recruit and retain top talent. It will also mean healthier, thriving children who have strong parent-child attachment; more positive experiences for both children and adults; and happier, more financially secure families. Building positive childhoods while achieving financial security is the American Dream – and one we should all be willing to invest in. 

Learn more about Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina’s priorities for supporting and strengthening families so that all of NC’s children experience positive childhoods: It’s good for kids, good for parents, and good for business.