Saturday, 27 April 2013

We need more men in childcare

Gender imbalance in the home, in the workplace, in life, largely focuses on how to make things better for women. Lately I've been thinking about childcare and how important it is for children to be cared for by both.

Early years education is dominated by women for many reasons I don't need to go into here - negatively perceived ones such as pay, hours, status. But also for positive reasons like experience, expertise, empathy (and our ability to multi-task!)

But we're not going to change stereotypes or teach children to view men and women equally unless we do something about the care they receive in those very early years.

That means changing the way we behave at home (if we can) and encouraging more men to follow a career in child care.

Sexism isn't exclusively part of the male  psyche (oh how we all love to blame them). A quick poll of some of my mum friends reveals a suspicion of men who work in childcare. What are they doing that job for? They must be weird/sexually motivated? Couldn't they get a proper job?

This reaction offends me in oh so many ways.

It is a decent job and one of the most important anyone can do, a child's life is shaped in those first five years. It's well paid in the right setting, with excellent training and opportunities to study and progress. Looking after children is fun and rewarding so why shouldn't men enjoy it? Guess what - men like kids too!

We also know that children without fathers benefit from having strong male role models in their life. 

My children have been cared for by men and women in daycare and I'm hugely grateful for that.

So let's encourage more men into childcare, reduce the ridiculous stigma attached to doing a 'female' job and start giving all those who work with children the respect they deserve.

They taught me, my husband and my children everything we know.