I am a Childcare Provider
Yes, you're on to me.
I am a childcare provider.
Nursery workers, nannies, childminders and au-pairs. They do what I do. But with Early Years certificates, assessments and everything. Yet not in a way a mother can: With love, kisses, cuddles and breasts.
And it's not just the present. There is future relevance. When they are older, they will know I cared for them at home. That it was me. That it was I who wiped their bottoms, their noses and their hands - not in that order (that would be gross). That it was I who taught them to use their knife and fork, their manners, and their words. That it was I who guided them in learning to use the potty, a crayon, and a spoon. That it was I who was there to kiss away those tears, cuddle away those upsets and nurse away those fears. That it was me, their mother, who loved them in the way of the verb, everyday.
So. I am a childcare provider. To my own children, at the cost of a professional London salary. Yet despite that cost, I am deemed to be making a 'lifestyle choice'; I am dismissed as making a personal decision, as though other parents who take the employment/nursery option are not.
I regularly read articles about politicians' meetings with 'childcare providers' and how the cost of 'childcare' is crippling - when, really, it's the cost of living which is crippling; when, really, how can we separate the cost of childcare when housing, fuel, food, heating and travel are so high - and how 'hardworking families' deserve increasing subsidy for their 'childcare costs'. I read about how 'childcare' costs are those outgoing to a stranger, but with the added bonus of a salary at the end of it.
Some days, I ignore what I am reading, moving on to obscure texts on women's liberation.
Others, I get riled.
Others, I get writing.
Today is one of those days.
So, while I define myself as a human being, a mother, a woman, perhaps it is time that I remind politicians, media and policy-makers, if I must, that I am also a childcare provider. And that my children are benefiting from my care - in ways which no stranger can replicate.
There is value in my care. There is personal investment in their future.
There is love in my care. The love of a relationship of importance.
The political, financial and social pressure on families to replace that care with formal childcare is increasing. It is huge. Every family must do what is right for them, and I believe every family should have the respect and support to frame their family and employment/career balance as they wish. And this works both ways. Any mother who is compelled to be separated from her child is not being respected. Economic policies should value the childcare and nurture she is providing just as much as it values the mother who returns to employment. And when I say mother, you know that I include father - but I am talking about this from a feminist perspective. How a woman who is a mother is only valued when she is also a woman who is in receipt of a PAYE Code.
No family should have to trade loving care for formal childcare unless that is what they wish to do. Yet, politically, no value is placed on parental care of the nation's next generation.
So in all, what a sad place to be - where a mother feels she can only hope to have some status in political eyes if she degrades her position and her worth to 'childcare provider'.