I have found working in childcare both challenging and rewarding, and my role has helped me gain valuable experience and knowledge of working with younger children, though I have come across some of the challenges that male carers face. For example, on one occasion a parent asked whether I changed children’s nappies on a regular basis. The parent was told I was a fully qualified member of staff with relevant CRB checks to prove that I was deemed fit to work in such an environment, however my gender made the parent feel uncomfortable.
The popular media can often be guilty of portraying male care workers in a negative light. This sometimes sensationalised coverage only serves to fuel and provoke anxiety amongst parents of young children. At Eureka! we strive to overcome the stigma attached to males working in childcare settings in order to provide a holistic, caring and nurturing environment for children and their families. With more males taking a lead role in parenting, we believe that it’s even more important to have male role models in the early years setting to reflect the changing nature of families.
This is reinforced by research undertaken by London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) in 2012, who found that “It has been readily acknowledged by early years practitioners and development theorists alike that it is important for a child’s development to have both strong male and female role models, especially for children from single parent families”.
It is argued that children need role models of both genders and, when it comes to childcare settings, children definitely benefit from seeing both men and woman in caring roles. This challenges the stereotype that caring is ‘woman’s work’, and as society changes it becomes increasingly important to experience positive male role models at all stages of education. Sharing common ground with male parents and carers also enables us to build positive relationships with families as a whole.
“It has been refreshing to see male practitioners playing an active part in both my sons’ care. I believe that this stands them in good stead for the future giving them a broader understanding of society that both male and females are caring and compassionate, and that childcare is not just woman’s work”.
– Andrew Brown, parent of twin boys at Eureka! Nursery
As recognised by the LEYF research and the current government’s target of increasing the current percentage of males working in childcare, we see clearly that increasing the number of men working in child care has ramifications beyond the work itself: It has significance for gender equality in society, for gender divisions and for the needs of children.
Playing a part in a child’s life – however big or small – has to be one of the most rewarding jobs that there is. Knowing that I make a difference to the lives of children and families is what inspires me to continue. I strive to give the children in my care a passion for learning that will last throughout their lives, a willingness to take care of themselves and others, and the ability to treasure each moment – all providing in a caring environment, with a sense of humour and fun, and showing them from an early age that there is room for positive, nurturing, caring men in their childcare setting.