One dad couldn't afford child care, so he brings his toddler to work... as mayor

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza says he is "juggling and struggling" just like all other parents.

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By Kerry Breen and Adam Kaufman

When child-care costs became too expensive for Jorge Elorza and his family, he started bringing his infant son to work with him sometimes.

And as Elorza brings 15-month-old Omar to work with him as the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, he's also bringing new attention to the conversation about working parents and child care.

"We're just juggling and struggling every day like other parents."

"We went to see a day care center, and both Stephanie and I fell in love with the place," Elorza told TODAY's Craig Melvin in the latest episode of Craig's digital series, "Dads Got This!"

"Then at the end, they passed us the brochure and it was $395 a week. We looked at each other and were like, 'I guess that ain't gonna happen.'"

The mayor's wife, Stephanie Gonzalez, is a full-time law student, so the family only has one income. Elorza realized that over a year, child care alone would cost them nearly $20,000.

They quickly came up with a Plan B.

"We literally drove from the day care center to my parents' house," he said. "And that's been our day care. So my parents take care of the baby during the week. And her parents chip in during the weekend. And her being a law student, she's just as busy as I am, if not more. So we're, like, just juggling and struggling every day like other parents."

"It's an opportunity for him to learn that his parents are doing really important work."

While family members usually take care of Omar during business hours, Elorza often brings him to nighttime meetings or early-morning appointments.

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"Certainly, when I have things in the evening, if I didn't have him with me, I'd have to either not go to those events or not see my baby," Elorza said. "(If) we're in a pinch, I'll bring him into the office. We have a nice little basket of toys, so he knows his little station and he knows how to play."

Related: More workplaces where every day is "bring your baby to work day"

Gonzalez said that she loves to see Omar head to work with his father.

"For Omar, it's an opportunity for him to learn that his parents are busy people, but also his parents are people who are doing really important work," said Gonzalez. "For him to be part of that, even at the beginning of his life, will be gratifying for him in the future."

Elorza said the reaction has been mostly positive, with female co-workers saying that they're glad that he's publicly open about juggling career responsibilities with the reality of being a parent, and male co-workers saying that they regret missing out on some important moments with their children due to work.

"They wish they could go back and have that time again, because it just goes by so fast and you miss it," Elorza said.

"I think there is still absolutely a double standard."

He said that there has been some criticism as well.

“There have been comments, that if I was a woman and I was bringing my child in to work, then that would be seen very, very differently.

“I think that’s true. I think there is still absolutely a double standard. The extension of that isn’t, ‘Let’s criticize Jorge the way women are criticized,’ it’s ‘Let’s not criticize women for doing it either.’”

Now, Elorza has begun to use his experience to inform new policy initiatives in Providence. The city provides summer camps for children ages 5-13 for just $5 a week, and his goal is to offer universal pre-K for Providence families.

He said that he's also happy to share Omar's toys with others.

"I want (other parents) to feel comfortable bringing their child in as well," he said. "We want to be accommodating to families that do this."

Elorza said that he's seen his own constituents react favorably to Omar coming into City Hall, recalling a time when a woman brought her own baby to a meeting after her day care fell through.

"She told me that she had heard that I sometimes bring my child into work, and that I'm very welcoming of children, so she felt comfortable bringing her child into the meeting with me, whereas otherwise she would have had to miss that meeting."

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