Valuing the work of childcare

It is 6 a.m. and I am hustling about trying to get everything set for my busy workday. There is too much to do before the 7 a.m. official opening of my doors for business, but I am filled with excitement and anticipation. For the last 17 years, I have been a licensed family childcare provider. 

For me, success is ever changing. Some days, it’s teaching a 5-year-old to read or coaching a toddler to say, “I’m mad!” instead of hitting. Other days, it’s cleaning up the kitchen four times, changing a dozen diapers, plunging the toilet, calming the crying children, coaching the uncertain parent, finding energy to care for my own children and starting the cycle all over again early the next day. Overall, providing quality childcare one day at a time is a success. 

Within the first year of operation, I was making slightly more money than after three years of teaching at a preschool. I also had the satisfaction of working for myself. I became one of the first childcare homes in the state of Minnesota to be accredited by the National Association of Family Child Care. 

The financial rewards quickly leveled off. Unlike most professions where hard work, professional accomplishments, experience and continuing education are rewarded with pay increases, childcare has limited financial rewards. Like most childcare professionals, I am underpaid. My clients appreciate my work. But to offer the high standard of care children need, I limit my care to 10 children and a maximum of 50 hours per week. I could make more money by charging a higher rate, but most of my families could not afford that, and I believe all children, not only those from wealthy families, deserve the best care possible. 

Despite my accomplishments and personal satisfaction in knowing that my work is important, I feel a twinge of jealousy that schoolteachers make two to three times what I do. I get paid almost four times as much teaching classes to other providers as I do teaching children. After 20 years in this field, I am still fighting a culture that says it values children, but does not financially reward those who care for them. 

I am blessed with a family that values my work. My husband’s work provides our family with health insurance and an income that allows me to continue my work. And for me, being with my children while they were young, and seeing my clients’ children grow and thrive, has been worth much more than the income I could earn in another job. 

Gloria Deziel is a family childcare provider and childcare consultant in Woodbury.