NUMBER 610• 12 OCTOBER • THREE LEVELS OF CHILD CARE WORK
We cannot justdo child care work. We need also to understand what we do, its reasons and purposes — and we need to feel good about what we do.
If we just do child care work, it can too easily become repetitive and boring. There is the well-known saying: ‘A mother’s work is never done’. Multiply that idea by eight or by fifteen (depending on how many children you care for) and you can say: ‘A child care worker’s work is never never never never done!" Because there is so much to do, we easily get bogged down in our daily tasks. We work with needy people, and we could spend our whole time just meeting needs: settling differences, listening to hurts, correcting destructive behaviour, reassuring doubts, feeding hungers, cleaning and tidying and sorting ...
One imagines the mother bird facing her young with all those wide-open, expectant beaks crying out ‘Me! Me! Me!’
Many child care workers burn out because their work stays at this level. They go home exhausted tonight— but tomorrow all of those needs and demands will still be there. Each day gets to look like the last. We have to move beyond this point — just as the mother bird will move beyond the hungry beaks. She will know that she is only doing for her chicks what they cannot yet do for themselves; that she is caring for them now precisely to help them to the stage where she no longer has to care for them, and where she can teach them new things. So, too, child care workers must understand the purpose of what they do, where it is leading, how it will help the child and promote development. They need to know that what they do today helps youngsters to new levels of growth tomorrow. So they move from their tasks — to thinking about and understanding their tasks. They listen to others’ experiences, learn theory, build skills and suddenly the daily round moves forward to progress in individual children. We notice that yesterday’s needs have been met and we are now facing today’s needs. We notice that they have stopped demanding attention, and now they seek Information or guidance. They are growing — and we understand what it is we have been doing. We are now not just doing child care work; we are doing it with understanding. Instead of dealing with on-going needs on a daily basis, we have moved with the children through their larger developmental cycles. We see kids through the stages of their growth.
But even this can become repetitive if it doesn’t have a deeper meaning for us. New child care workers are often asked: ‘Why do you want to come into child care?’ Older child care workers could be asked: ‘Why do youstay in child care?’ Surely it should be because we have an overriding commitment to children, we understand children, we have something to offer them, are challenged by them, we want to make a greater contribution, to speak on behalf of children, to secure their safety and their Interests in our world? In other words, we not only do child care work, and understand child care work, but child care work is what gives meaning to our lives. Some people are immersed in politics, some in aircraft design and others in business or cooking — child care workers are into kids!
Gannon, B (1992). Three levels of child care work. Editorial in The Child Care Worker Vol. 10 No. 7