There are many documented reasons why men are reluctant to become early childhood educators – some of them are very real and an ongoing concern such as the culture of sexual abuse we have created and maintain. Others, like how teacher training alienates men, or that the spectre of doing 'women's work' is too challenging for ones identity, are just bullshit in my opinion.
Let me help bust some myths:
- Kids are fun to be around, the work is mentally challenging with endless variety and you will never get bored or old and grumpy. Do it.
- University is cool. It's even cooler when you are more mature and not always on the piss and failing. Lecturers are awesome people full of radical ideas – the whole place is just a buzz. The downside is organising your finances to survive. Cut debt, cut costs, get a scholarship, and a part-time job. Study extramuraly if you can for more flexibility. Hard work but totally doable.
- You can find centres and teams who trust you as a man to be around children. Refuse to work in a centre that will not allow you to touch, hug, hold, play, or change children. Break the cycle of misinformation and generalisations.
- The money is great.
What am I saying? No, the money is shit actually, and if you are the primary breadwinner then things may get a little tough. ECE can quickly lose its appeal for a teacher who has a young family with their partner at home with baby or babies....
This is what I'm experiencing. Poverty to the point where we no longer buy fruit. I'm not bitching about no holidays or meals out, this is the gradual selling of our assets to met basic needs. When things break they just go in the cupboard. The car is on TradeMe and there are holes in my jeans that are getting a bit too big to pull off as 'cool'. When my colleagues invite me out - “it's just dinner” they don't get it. They don't get it as being in relationships with partners on incomes so large it relegates theirs (and mine) to be just spending money...
What does an industry eager to attract men do in a situation like this? Do we play along with the gender division game and its inequality? Should we give men more? Or are we to wait for a shift in the status of this 'women's work' so the remuneration fairly reflects the work?
Bit shit really eh?
And now we get to the vicious dog-eat-dog consumerist cycle I know a lot of my centre whānau are trapped in. They too need two incomes to survive. Stick the kid in childcare and use ¾ of the extra wage to pay the fees which leaves you treading water, but the mortgage gets paid and the cars on the road etc. Lifestyles are expensive. What we now consider basic needs – 2 cars, holiday home, overseas travel etc – really requires you to step away from raising your children yourself to paying a service provider to do it for you.
We are that service industry. We live in a service focused economy where a large proportion of the workers are meeting the needs of the rich. We feed them, build their houses, mow their lawns, walk their dogs and look after their kids. Real wages are no longer moving forward – my annual pay adjustment for inflation did not meet inflation.
Is there a solution? My woes are directly linked to the encroachment of the private sector which is driving down wages as they suck out profit... Kidicorp, Kindercare, ABC... the cancer has reached the lymph nodes of ECEC....
Put the baby into care?
Another man down?