Childcare is Essential, Too

By: Erin Rose Hennessy

“I’m going to have to lay you off.”

I can still hear those words like it was yesterday. One year ago today, as a global pandemic was rearing its ugly head, I was laid off from my position at a child care center.

I worked at that center for thirteen years. Tirelessly caring for children aged six weeks through five years old. Changing diapers, playing with children, wiping noses, singing the same song over and over, cleaning up vomit, reading books, dealing with irate parents, organizing art projects, dealing with Karen moms, loading kids in strollers for walks, stressing over monthly health nurse visits, rocking sleepy babies, making sure the place was perfect for yearly licensing visits, making friends with coworkers, working over ratio because we were understaffed, bonding with children and parents, working when I didn’t feel well because we were understaffed, pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion to bring home a paycheck.

“Thank you for all your help with the children.”

That was the one line in the layoff note that mentioned my hard work. The love, laughter, and sacrifice I put into my teaching. All that diminished to “thanks for your help”.

“Thanks for your help” is what you say to a babysitter who came to watch your kids for the night. “Thanks for your help” is what you say to a friend who helped clean your home after a party. It’s not what you say to an employee you are about to lay off after 13 years of dedication.

After I was done crying while packing to shelter in place at my sister’s home and applying for unemployment that I ended up not qualifying for because I began a nanny position the following Monday, I realize I wasn’t sad anymore.

I was furious.

It was then that I decided I was worth more than that. I am worth more than being cast off with barely a glance. I am worth being paid a fair wage to do a job that I can do very well. I’ve been called “the baby whisperer” by more than one parent. Family and friends come to me for kid advice.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen at a daycare center. The very people that society relies on to take care of our smallest children, and help mold them into the people they are, are not paid enough. We are not noticed, recognized, or compensated fairly. During the pandemic, while we are all thanking the “essential workers,” no one was thanking daycare or early childhood teachers or nannies. We were, in a word, forgotten.

As a nanny, I find myself much less stressed out than I was working in a center. As much as I loved teaching and loved my moments with the children, I have come to realize that the time has come for a new adventure. I may continue nannying…or I might find a people focused, office position, perhaps in communications or human resources.

The pandemic has pushed me even more so to not only prioritize my mental health, but also prioritize me. Figure out what I need from life, to not just let life lead me the way it wants to.

Image Credit: Google Search

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