I have often been reluctant to join in the fight to demand higher wages for ECE’s – not because I don’t value what we do but rather, because I love my job. I think that my reluctance to complain about wages stems from contentment – for me it doesn’t feel much like work. The money is not what motivates me to be a licensed family childcare provider.
Before I opened my childcare home I volunteered in nursery and kindergarten classrooms and ran a recreation program for the children in the housing development where we lived – basically I was ‘working’ for free. Being able to earn an income by doing something I truly enjoyed was an added bonus. In all honesty, if I won a lottery I would still be a family childcare provider – but I would be able to offer the program of my dreams.
Yes, I know ECE’s earn far less than workers in other fields with a similar amount of education but compared to the years my family spent on social assistance this feels pretty comfortable. Yet, without the additional income that my husband earns as a school bus driver I know we would have difficulty paying the bills on my income alone. There are many things we would like to do but don’t do because we lack the funds to do them.
According to the descriptions over at PsychCentral, for me family childcare is not a job, or even just a career – it is a calling.I’ve been called ‘altruistic’ – I had to go look up the meaning of that because it wasn’t a word I’ve ever used – and would definitely never use to describe myself. Actually, I would probably have to say that sometimes I feel selfish for enjoying my job. Yes, there are some aspects of being a family childcare provider that even I don’t relish. There are some days when I’ve had enough and I just want the day to end, but would more money change that? I don’t think so.
So, let’s say I couldn’t be a family childcare provider and had to choose a different job – I would expect more money because I would not enjoy my job as much. In fact, there are some jobs that no amount of money would make me want to do the work. Some jobs that would require such an enormous amount of effort to just show up that even a huge salary would not make it worthwhile. Yet, other people do those jobs so something must motivate them – and maybe it is the money – maybe not.
So, since we’ve already established that I might not the best spokesperson for the ‘Early Childhood Educators need more money’ argument, let’s talk about why I started writing this. When I hear ECE’s constantly lamenting about how hard their job is, how unfair it is that other people get paid more to do less work, making lists of everything they don’t get paid enough to do, my first thought isn’t “You deserve more money”. My first thought is “Maybe you need to find another job.”
Bracing for backlash.
Yes, I do think that ECE’s are underpaid – remember, my ECE wage comparison was social assistance benefits – it took me three years working as a family childcare provider before my income surpassed the need for an income supplement. I do think that the job we do is extremely valuable and that higher wages would help childcare programs attract and keep qualified staff. But – we are trained to speak positively to the children so why speak so negatively about your career?
Tell me what would make it better. How would more money positively affect the job you do? What would a higher wage for you mean to your program, the children in your care and their families. What would you do with more money? Please, don’t attack those who are on your side and doing their best to make a little go a long way.