Women’s work is real work

January 8, 2007 at 11:24 am | Posted in women's work | 4 Comments

My recent starting of a job in childcare has got me thinking just how underappreciated and unappreciated childcare work really is.

Its something I must’ve forgotten – I had spent years babysitting, nannying – as an alternate means of money for my education. I watched friends struggle with trying to pay for quality childcare – try to find space in a daycare, try to pay for it. Many other childcare workers I knew often ran daycares out of their own homes, under the table, because space was so high in demand. Yet, the amounts they were paid were still so slim. How does a parent on a low yearly salary, sometimes minimum wage, afford childcare if workers hope to be paid mimimum wage or ideally more?

Its all come rushing back to me now as I spent nearly 30 hours a week doing childcare, trying to balance it with my thesis work, in addition to other paid and unpaid work at the University.

When I began this job in November, one of my friends in particular would regularly make comments about how I should quit the job, there’s better things to do. Or if the new job interferred with my on-campus responsibilities – the on-campus work was always deemed more important according to this friend.

Similarily, talking to my grandma on the phone a few days ago – she asked me “oh Artemis, you must be able to find a better job than babysitting? Something that pays more?”

“But Grandma, I’m getting paid more than minimum wage…”

“Oh. Well, you must be able to find something better to do? More interesting? You have so many skills…”


So why the backlash on childcare? Its something I’ve never really understood.

What it all comes down to though, is that childcare has always been the primary responsibility of women. And, as belonging to women, has so been made to be inadequate. Unimportant. Less skilled. Lower. Certainly paid lower on the pay scale of things. But most importantly, deemed of a lower status because it is women’s work – it is not “real” work.

This of course is the battle now that we have to face not only in our own lives, but in politics. Fighting for universal, paid childcare in Canada is something that is not going to come easy while Harper is in government. But the benefits of it – for families, parents, children – and yes, childcare workers who might actually see themselves being paid good wages, actually have jobs – is so important.

And while I don’t have time to write or explain fully now the atrocities of the Harper plan for supposed “universal childcare” – $100/month for each family, yup that’s the whole cost of childcare – Paul Mitchinson has a fabulous post that explains fully the intricacies and atrocities of the current plan and what is truly needed.

This, is my morning thought, as I roll out of bed, drink my coffee, and walk 20-minutes to work to spend the day with the kiddies.




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  1. What also pisses me off to no end is how women end up as always taking the brunt of this. A friend is about to face the end of her maternity pay. However putting her daughter in day care is actually going to cost her more than she makes on her regular job. Her partner, a male, as an unskilled laborer makes more than she does. So she can not ask him to give up his job. So she is stuck with taking the brunt of their difficult decision, to go back to work at a cost (but also having a life outside of her house) or to the cheaper option overall of staying home.

    Taking care of children and raising them to be good people is a difficult job and deserves more respect than is currently given.

  2. Ironically, while the work of women is consistently devalued it is integral to our current economies. The restructuring in the developed world and the imposition of structural adjustment programs DEPENDS on women absorbing costs associated with cuts to social services and/or increased unemployment/poverty.

    It is also interesting to think that child care and other ‘domestic’ activities such as housecleaning are constructed as ‘unskilled’ work when they are in fact highly skilled activities.

  3. Well said, I am going to blog on this.

  4. Excellent thoughts on a very important subject matter. I also spent years doing childcare and hearing similar dismissive comments. It’s such an important job, and I do think you’re right that it’s devalued because it was traditionally “women’s work.” I hope we live to see the day that this dramatically changes.

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