So much more than changing nappies
Beth scored her job as 7/10 (with ten being the most fantastic job imaginable).
Beth works in the toddler room of a childcare centre in Perth. We find her in a sandbox made out of an old boat, with three toddlers playing at her feet. Some sand is being tipped over heads (with much amusement to the little ones), but the issue is resolved lovingly and swiftly. Beth deals with the 'sand-on-heads' incident and continues the conversation exactly where she had left it - making it clear to us how much of her job involves multi-tasking. We are impressed.
Beth loves her job and would not change it for any other job in the world. Her fascination and passion in seeing toddlers grow, and developing their skills, is evident from the loving way she describes her role. "It is about seeing all the changes that happen and the development and knowing that you have helped the (kids) to learn these new things.”
Beth recognises her work as "work" and is clear about the physical and psychological exertion it requires. “It is physically and emotionally exhausting. We are all human too and you have your trials and tribulations in your home life, but your problems stay at the door.”
She explains that the work they do is only possible with a supportive team, one with team members that complement each other. To her, the key is to have a team with colleagues that are open, communicate well, and helpful. The work can become overwhelming at times and that the best support is a colleague who looks at you and recognises that it is getting too much for you in this moment, makes you aware of it, and helps you find a way out of it. Humour helps a lot as well.
Beth also thinks that the surroundings and the centre in itself (which is physically very beautiful), and the positive way in which the centre is managed, makes her job one of the best she can think of.
But Beth experiences a lack of recognition from others for her job. She reflects about the ways in which some others see her work – "it is not all bouncing babies up and down.. it is a lot more". She describes the conversations she often has with men in particular, and even other people who work in the education sector, who are convinced that she and her colleagues "just change nappies".
Beth says: “A lot of what we do is so much more. It is about child development, psychology, a lot of reporting... And of course, we change nappies, because that is what children at that age need. But there is so much more to what we do. But our work has that stigma of babysitting.”
When we ask Beth what the one thing is that she would like to change about her job, she has to think a little bit but then comes straight out to say:“Oh, I know one thing I would like to change! If the pay was better, this job would be a ten out of ten. I am not a money-driven person, but when you look at the responsibilities that we have on a day-to-day basis – I sometimes scare myself, thinking about what it means to look after someone else’s children.... We are given this wonderful responsibility and we love it.... but we are not paid much.”
We agree with Beth: this job is such an important one, it should be more highly rewarded than it is.