Feminism and Childcare

Throughout my readings, social media engagement, and in-class participation, I have come to understand that not only is lack of accessible, quality childcare a problem for Canadian families, but so too is our lack of professionalization of the ECEC field. Reflecting on the intersection of these issues has revealed some gender-based concerns. Approximately 70% of mothers work outside of the home, requiring childcare, and yet 25% of Canada’s children have access to regulated care. Further, increased access to childcare would help to: enable more women to join the workforce; resolve the gender-based wage gap; respond to Canada’s changing and aging working family demographics; and support Canadian families to both work and have children. However, 57% of ECEC staff make less than $15/hour. Despite the large portion of family income often devoted to childcare (e.g., 32% of the average single parents’ income), there is still poor public recognition upholding the professionalization of the ECEC sector.  

This leads me to my main concern: the working conditions of the ECEC sector are unacceptable for a profession, and educators, who are predominantly female, are arbitrarily and unreasonably undervalued, under-compensated, under-appreciated, and overworked (which affects their work) compared to professions such as school-aged teaching or early intervention specialists. As the predominant caregivers in households and gender employed within the sector, it is primarily women who are impacted by this poor recognition. ECEC is often considered “women’s work” that does not require training, and yet this sector is the only infrastructure capable of, but failing at, supporting Canada’s economic and population growth – thus, requiring change. Retaining qualified ECEC staff would support quality childcare and likely mobilize further advocacy for funding allocations, which could in turn influence access to childcare.

I was previously indecisive regarding my future career options and unwilling to enter the ECEC workforce. After the creation of my personal philosophy statement and our class on professionalism I had a moment of clarity: working with young children and families is my passion and my first career choice. Further, I realized I am craving learning about best practices from (and with) other ECEs and gaining education in order to refine my personal practice. I have decided to commit to working in the EC field for at least a few years prior to considering “moving on”. An incentive for this choice is the support for PD as a RECE. Part of this commitment involves my determination to generate something meaningful for the field, through advocacy, research, theory/pedagogy, or practice-based insights. As a feminist who is aware of the concerns of the ECEC field, I would have the most impact from within the field through conversations with peers, families, educators-in-training, and administrative personnel. Having a blog may help disseminate policy-related information regarding access to childcare, but my ability to influence professionalization may be limited unless I have a voice from within the field. Moreover, sharing my practice-based insights could allow me to target a wider-range of stakeholders in my attempts to advocate for the field. As such, I am committed to advocacy for, and working within, the ECEC sector to resolve these gender-based concerns by: recruiting men to the field; documenting the impact of appropriate compensation/training for ECEs; and disseminating the impact of adequate access to quality childcare for Canada through my blog. I have already begun the process of investigating supply positions at childcare programs, connecting with a Director, and inquiring into completing my fourth-year placement within pedagogical leadership as part of my commitment to my revelation. Working as a practicing RECE with a master’s degree would be my legacy to the children within my care, exemplifying the purpose for training, and that the field deserves the same professionalization attained by any other historically female-dominated fields. Issues of access and professionalism can both be ameliorated through family-based policies and feminist advocacy for the roles women hold.

Unpacking “Choice” for Families in Early Childhood Care and Education

In our first class I was given the stark reminder of how poorly Canada is doing in terms of investing in children’s early development. Canada is the fourth richest country in the world, and yet we have scored disgracefully low on public spending, indicators of quality, and number of available spots within childcare – and haven’t recovered well. This is shameful to me. Our patchwork approach allows for inconsistent and unreliable options and a large range in financial burden required in order to access care and learning opportunities. This makes me cringe thinking of all of the children I personally know affected by factors such as poverty, parents living with mental illness, and parental job demands that further influence access to quality care. The notion that families should have a “choice” in early learning and care is irrelevant when this access is limited or non-existent. Children deserve investment for their own right, but there are also several compelling evidence-based rationales for investing in the early years, and yet it is not our country’s lack of capacity to invest, but our willingness to do so that is the problem. I do not understand how people are not more concerned about children affected by the lack of childcare and educational opportunities. Treating ECEC as a market commodity and kindergarten as a public good represents Canada’s unjustified and arbitrary division of value of children’s development above and below (roughly) 4 years of age. The lack of funding/financial support for the ECEC sector and the poor public recognition for early years educators needs to change for the sake of children, their families, equality, society, and the Country’s economy.

This issue left me ruminating about my stance and what Canada’s next steps should be. Everyone I have talked to about this issue brings up the socialist approaches used in the Nordic countries. But alas, Canada is built on capitalism and trade, so where is our intersection of public spending and individualistic “choice”?! I feel that the decision to have various funded school systems is extremely precarious and irresponsible for excluding the early years. Considering that by 4 years of age the variation in care and education that children across the country have received is enormous, and that these variations are not due to “choice”, but rather necessity, I draw the line at promoting “choice” at the expense of young children. This is unethical, inequitable, and unnecessary. I have decided that continued advocacy and professionalization of, for, and, from the field is required to gain public attention to change the political climate towards childcare. Learning from Canada’s historical shifts and swings in childcare investment, we require more than hope and promises during this next election.

This journal entry prompted me to start an advocacy blog from which I can share my reflections and insights regarding early learning and care. This blog will be my dedication to advocacy for the field throughout the semester, and a method I plan to use to educate my network and social circles on the importance of considering investments in childcare in the upcoming election. By comparing the investments in children’s early years to children’s school-aged years, including the differences in pay for the educators, I hope to draw attention to the unwarranted and outdated approach to childcare in Canada. If our government truly believes in offering choice to families, we must first invest in a funded, universal, accessible, equitable, and reliable system to be able to conceive viable options for all families (like our provincial school systems). Only then can additional options allow for true “choice” to families. I have started (and will continue) to collect noteworthy articles and follow childcare advocates on Twitter because I believe continuing knowledge dissemination and generating public discourse regarding the discrepancies in our current childcare infrastructure is necessary to achieve this goal. Through this reflection I was able to assess and criticize some of Canada’s historical and political attitudes towards childcare, compare some general international differences, and have begun to develop an advocacy agenda for the upcoming election to address my initial conclusions.