Men as Child Care Providers

When you think of a child care professional, do you ever picture a man? In her New York Time parenting blog the “Motherlode”, Lisa Belkin discusses her surprise when she found that several men had applied for a “childcare” position she had advertised for at her home. You can read the entry here. Since reading Lisa’s blog, we have found a lot of media discussing men (or the lack thereof) in the child care field.

Bryan Nelson, the founding director of MenTeach in Minnesota, recently recorded an online radio segment on the topic. You can listen to Nelson’s “Where are all of the Men?” here. The recent interest in this issue has brought a spotlight onto an international group of early education experts who hope to create a gender balance in the field. The “Working Group on Men in Early Childhood Education” (MECE) has met over the last 4 years to explore barriers men face in joining the field, stereotypes that exist about men in the field, and strategies to increase male participation in the field. To learn more about this group, visit their website here.

What do you think? Why are so few men in the early childhood education field? What can be done to improve gender equality? If you have a story about efforts to recruit men in the field, we would love to hear about it! Leave a comment below and share your strategies.

11 thoughts on “Men as Child Care Providers

  1. I wish there were more men in the ECE field. I’m going to forward this to the only male ECE teacher that I know and ask him to weigh in on this conversation!

  2. Hi, I am a male early childhood teacher from Australia & must say I am not surprised by some of the views & comments on the Belkin blog, but I am still somewhat disappointed. We have come so far as a society in many areas, yet for all our advances our predisposition to prejudge a person solely on their appearance, gender, race, religion, beliefs or whatever is still very shamefull.

    While touched on by one contributor, the fear that males are the ones who predominantly abuse children is misguided. While the gender of the perpetrator of such crimes may in fact be male, the fact remains that the vast majority of children who are abused/molested are done so by people (males & females) known to them and/or their family.

    Unfortunately this wrongful assumption, along with the view that child care should remain the domain of women, the lowly status of working with young children & poor rates of pay all contribute to the lack of males working as early childhood professionals.

    Some of the comments in the blog referred to positive male role models & it is certainly true that since more & more children are being brought up in a fatherless environment it is important that there are other males present in children’s lives to provide comfort, guidance, nurturing & discipline (not punishment). Having said that, even children with loving & caring males in their lives can still benefit from experiencing men in nurturing & caring roles. Afterall, society is more or less divided 50/50 into male/female, yet in most countries around the world 4% or less of the early childhood workforce are males.

    I’m not sure of the situation in the US, but in Australia their has been some concern shown by governments in recent years over the falling level of male primary (elementary) shool teachers, which has dropped to somehwere between 20% & 25%. Alarming as this might be, only 4% of those working with young children being men should be of far more concern, particularly when it isduring those early years of development that children begin to build their morals & beliefs from their environment. And if that environment is almost devoid of positive male influences then it will not be surprising that ill informed prejudices & ill constructed social ‘norms’ will continue to exist & even prosper.

    Being part of a local Male in Early Childhood group has helped talk some of these issues over with colleagues, but until we can get a unified approach to improving the status of working with children (for men & women) & begin removing some of the stigmas attached to males in childcare, then we will continue to fight a losing battle.

    This is one instance where I believe the ‘think global, act local’ approach needs to be reversed. We need to combine local efforts to form national (& even international) strategies to attract more men into the profession. It is a great feeling to know you have made a difference in a child’s life & I don’t think you can put a price on that. I realise more money for us means higher fees for families, many of whom are already struggling, but lifting the profile & status of our profession would be a start, as would a concerted effort to rebuke many of the falsehoods that are out there.

    I’m sorry if I wafted on too long, but I am passionate about children & I want what is best for them. And I believe having both men & women caring for them is the very least that we can do for them. Gender doesn’t make you a good nurturer, just as it doesn’t make you a good anything. That you to anyone who endured reading this & I hope I have made some sense.

    Greg

  3. I have been in childcare since 1992. It is a great porofession for men too. Children need to see men are loving and caring. there are some things in a child,s young life they can only get from being in the presents of a man. I also believe there are some things a child can only learn from a women. Nature has plan it this way. To make a long short, It takes a man and a women to make a child; then it going to take a man and women to teach a child. It is right for men to step up and risk criticism in order to help with the development of children. They need us so much more than they know. We are like heros to them, at lease that the way they make me feel when I’m with them. It would be to any center’s advantage to have men on staff. We need to find the medium (men and women), work together to complement our differences, and ues what we learn about our differences to develop the whole child.

  4. My children went through early education programs without having a single male teacher and it makes me sad. Now that they are in elementary school there is one male teacher and over 300 students. What happens when they get to high school and they have never had a male teacher before?
    I too wish that more men would enter the early education field, yet I understand that there are many obstacles.

  5. I know there’s lots of people who support us & the idea of having more men, but actually getting the guys into the profession is far more difficult. Even the ones who study early childhood are more than likely to end up in the primary (elementary) systems.

  6. It’s an interesting question you pose… as a long time worthy wage advocate, I’ve often heard it noted that when men enter our field in greater numbers, things will change for the better. Today I’m reflecting on my own career which started in the 70’s, simultaneous with the feminist movement. On the one hand I claimed myself as a feminist, on the other I felt like the women’s movement was leaving behind those of us in traditional women’s work. It became all about getting women into male-dominated fields where they could assume more leadership, power, and yes money. I am grateful that today’s girls have many more options than I felt I had 40 years ago… but that hasn’t changed the gender dynamics in my profession, nor the wages. We need a movement for men that says it’s more than OK — it’s valuable and important and life-changing — to be engaged in work in which the essence is caring and nurturing and teaching. Thank you to the men out there who are providing leadership for such a movement. How can we women in child care help?

  7. Most men in the early childcare profession might not get the respect they deserve. Women don’t seem to understand us nor, do they want to share the credit of our efforts. We are the Dirty Harrys’ of childcare seen as the enforcers, a bully when needed, a gun for hire. At lease that how I feel at times. When a child (boy) is causing problem, he is sent to me.
    There are many issues men do face while working in childcare. I fear most men will be ran off by the unfairness we recieve and evenually give up.

  8. Thanks for the positive words & I agree, it’s almost the 70’s in reverse, but I don’t see it as a masculinist movement/issue as I’m sure you don’t. It’s a societal one & although we’re talking about child care the same would apply for men wanting to work as hairdressers (it’s assumed only gay men do that), nurses, secretaries/administrative assistants or any number of other occupations (often lowly paid) which are dominated by females.

    You wonderful women can help the same way anyone can. By advocating for more men, encouraging any males you think may be suited to the role to consider it & basically spreading the good word. Nothing speaks louder than actions & when people can see men being effective teachers, carers & role models then the message is more easily transmitted.

    I’m not sure on actual figures, but I am aware that many males in early childhood, like myself, came to the profession later in life & I therefore believe it would be beneficial to try to encourage as many younger males as possible to join the ranks. they would then have a much longer career to work their wondrous magic with the children.

  9. Absolutely it’s a societal issue; I think we’re talking about transforming some very basic societal values in our country. I’ve come to believe that some of the “dominant values” upon which public policy decisions are made are not in fact the values that many of us carry our hearts. I believe that most of us believe in public good before private gain, the importance of compassion, the strength of community, the basic right of human dignity for all, etc. When I started in this work, I truly believed that this is how I could best help to change the world. I think the committed men who are entering our field now have this same perspective; they are changing the world. Now I think one of the most important things women can do is join them in this belief; we must ALL embrace the notion that we are changing the world! Here’s an example: if we are committed to helping children see that they do not need to be limited by gender stereotypes, we could not treat men in our field as the “Dirty Harry’s” described whose role it is to “keep the boys in line”. We can and must change that as we welcome men into this field.

  10. I have read all the replys and quoted some in an assignment that I am currently doing about men in childcare. i found this information vey helpful. just to say a big thank you to everyone, especially Greg!!!
    I feel the same as many of ye (men in childcare is brillent). if anyone has any helpful websites can ye pleese post them here, thanks.

  11. I’ve wanted to get involved in a child-related career field, but have been afraid to try. I don’t want to be ridiculed by my family, friends, or parents of the children. I could work as a nanny too, but I don’t think I will get hired

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