The photography in the July 13 NYT Sunday Magazine essay was breathtaking; romantic images of childcare providers and their charges. Almost as romantic as the writer’s notion that the reason babysitters/nannies/childcare providers are so poorly paid is because mothers feel guilty about the transaction; paying someone to love their child — whom they have (presumably) chosen not to — at least during business hours. What’s the excuse, then, for why mothers are not paid at all when they choose to stay home and love their children themselves, 24-7? Honestly, I don’t think there’s a mother, in the home or out of the home full-time or part-time, who could claim to love her children 24-7 – but that’s another matter entirely. The low pay isn’t a function of guilt — it’s a function of childcare being (traditionally) women’s work. And women’s work isn’t valued, even though we are charged with raising the world’s next generation, and by extension, making sure the world survives another hundred years or so (now there’s some guilt).
We all know the story of how typing was a well-paid position, held by men, when typewriters — complex, mechanical instruments — were first introduced. Once it was discovered that women could type and that they could do it better and faster than men (thank you, manual dexterity, for my exceptional typing skills and my unique ability to remove a dried pea from a 2-yr old’s nose) it became a typing “pool” — nameless, faceless, devoid of any individuality or humanity — and populated almost entirely by low-paid single women who were treading water while waiting for their knight in shining armor to appear. The message is clear: if a woman can do it, it isn’t worth jack.
I love my job, but no one pays me to love it – I get paid to do it. Period. The idea that we don’t pay women to take care of our children because we feel guilty buying love is not only delusional, it’s insulting. I chose my career. So did my babysitter. She deserves the same respect and renumeration accorded to all professionals. I don’t pay her to love, I pay her to keep my children clothed, fed and safe; and that she does, far better than I can. There are women who are paid to “love” but the job description is quite different and their clients aren’t children (though they do sometimes wear diapers) and the price that all involved pay is far greater.