No one is ever just anything.

It was sunny and warm on Friday, but not so hot and humid I had to swim through my yard. It was one of those perfect spring days that Icould be outside all day, letting the sun ease my tension and the fresh air detox my lungs. I felt amazingly lucky for my job as a childcare provider. We went outside at 9 am and didn’t go back inside until nap time. I was spending time with my own children, watching them enjoy the same benefits of nature and play with their friends, a group of kids I truly enjoy working with. I love my job. Friday was one of those days that reminds me why, because just like everyone else, some days I need a reminder.

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If I had a dollar for every time someone said I was just a babysitter or preschool teacher, or referred to my job as easy or didn’t understand why I couldn’t drop what I was doing to do what they needed because, you know, I’m home all day doing nothing, well, I wouldn’t need a reminder about why I love my job because I’d have all those extra dollars to remind me. I’m not complaining about my job because I am doing exactly what I want to do, but I want to paint a picture of my day that helps you understand I’m not just a daycare provider. No one is ever just anything.

If someone else’s job seems that simple and undemanding to you, I suggest you give it a try. I don’t want to flip burgers and clean bathrooms at McDonald’s. I don’t want to drive a cab or a school bus or stock shelves. I do not want to stand on my feet all day and cut hair. I don’t want to sit at a desk and crunch numbers or enter data. Those jobs all sound incredibly difficult to me. I don’t understand comments to the contrary. Most of the people that I have heard make disparaging comments about those jobs probably couldn’t do them. They are all worthwhile jobs, though. They all pay the bills and put food on the table. They are all important. Consider the cab driver that takes an elderly woman to the doctor or drives your drunk ass home from the bar. How can he be “just a cab driver” when he is potentially saving lives? Not just anyone can give you the amazing feeling of a new haircut and I don’t want to know what public bathrooms would look like without the cleaning staff. Every job needs done and every job takes some amount of skill and effort.

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Sometimes it probably looks suspiciously like all I do at work is sit in the sun and play Duck, Duck, Goose… and sometimes that is all I do. (Don’t tell me you never get down time, unless maybe you’re a nurse. I’ve never seen a nurse not busy.) But if you are a parent and you spend any amount of time with your children and put any effort into their upbringing you can admit it’s one of the most stressful things you do. Add a few more kids and consider you are getting paid and evaluated by more than just the society that is already judging your every move. At least sometimes as a parent it feels that way.

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As a childcare provider I have to weigh my words and speak carefully so I don’t damage, or overfeed, developing egos. I guide verbal children to express themselves with words and not harmful actions, and help non-verbal children learn the words to express their feelings. I help them learn appropriate ways to express anger, sadness and disappointment. I answer questions about complicated topics, like, “is peanut butter good for you?” Today a little boy asked me if I had a big penis. Death is a hot topic here lately, too. Luckily the focus is mostly on cats right now but I know the time is coming when I have to answer harder questions. Sometimes I do all of that, and make breakfast and change diapers, before 9am. Even in those pleasant moments when I can sit still and enjoy the sunshine I am still on duty. I break up more fights than a hockey referee, and I can’t just shout, “knock it off, you two!” They might actually knock each other off the play equipment. I have to physically intervene and model the appropriate way to handle their frustration and anger. My job isn’t just breaking up the fight, but helping them learn to prevent the fight. I’m not just trying to get through the day, I’m helping these children learn to get through the rest of their lives.

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I prefer the term provider over teacher because I think my job is to provide them with opportunities and experiences, not to teach a specific lesson. I do a little of that but it takes up a minute percentage of my day. I provide tools and resources and the guidance to use them. That all sounds simple enough, but not everyone knows and understands what children really need from them. They need choices and chances and lots of paint and mud and water, tons of water, and so much more. And someone with enough patience to give them all of that… and clean it all up afterwards.

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If that doesn’t impress you just imagine how much screaming I listen to each day and how many diapers I have to change.

No one is ever just anything. Your job is valuable and important and so is mine. Make an effort to recognize that in others.

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