It’s high time we talked a bit about childcare, both in terms of its importance for parents who want or need to work, and with regards to the value of childcare workers. It’s a matter of great importance for families, for women’s economic participation, and for the good of society.
I teach at a school that prepares students for the GED. I promise this has to do with childcare; bear with me. The students who comes to our school face challenges that aren’t supported by normal high schools. Many are immigrants learning in a second language, have experienced or are experiencing homelessness, have IEPs (edu-talk for having special educational needs like a learning disability or emotional trauma)…and many are young parents. Our program offers free care during school hours for the children of students.
At each graduation we give one GED passer the chance to deliver a speech. They’re always inspiring, but the speech given by Z, a warm, hardworking, intelligent former student of mine, will always stand out to me because of how clearly she identified the determining factor in her education. She said:
Cuando vine [de El Salvador] a los 16 años de edad, viajé yo sola. No tenía ni a papi ni a mami. Eso me costó mi educación porque tuve que optar por trabajar. Luego de un tiempo me casé y tengo una nena aquí quien es mi nueva familia junto con mi esposo. Me sentía desesperada porque no tenía aún mi secundaria…[Esta] es una escuela completa para ayudar a los estudiantes que piensan que por tener una familia es imposible prepararse. Quiero decirles que no es así, que si te lo propones puedes conseguir tus aspiraciones.
When I came [from El Salvador] at 16 years old, I traveled alone. I had neither my dad nor my mom. This cost me my education, because I had to opt to work. After a time I married, and I have a child here who, along with my husband, is my new family. I felt hopeless because I didn’t have even my high school degree…[This] is a complete school for helping the students who think that having a family means it’s impossible to further your education. I want to tell you that that’s not true, that yes, you can follow your aspirations.
Z isn’t alone in depending on childcare to pursue her life goals. Many parents, young or otherwise, face the tragic reality that without access to childcare, their aspirations remain beyond their grasp. Since women are more likely to be saddled with childcare responsibilities, we are the ones whose dreams pass beyond reach when childcare is too expensive, unavailable, or of dangerously low quality.