career

A day in the life of an overworked and underpaid early childhood educator.

Last night I sat down on the lounge and cried.

Sobbed, really. Now, I’m not going to say this is an extraordinarily unusual thing for me to do. I am a woman, I get emotional and I like to let it all out. Last nights little episode was note worthy, however, due to the circumstances.

I had had a long day. I work in a (wonderfully run, top notch) childcare centre, and, whilst I love my job, it can be hectic. Yesterday was particularly chaotic.

I got to work at 6:30am and set up my room so that it was ready for the centre to open at 7am. I performed all of my usual duties. Greeting parents and taking their children into my care, applying their sunscreen, playing with and supervising them, changing their nappies, assisting them with their toileting, feeding them, putting them to bed, cleaning their beds – you get the gist.

It sounds simple enough.

However, several of those kids had full on meltdowns upon drop off (hello separation anxiety) and settling a distraught toddler is no easy feat. I had to chase four of the children in order to put their sunscreen on. Playing with them entailed chasing them repeatedly, setting up some art and craft (paint = everywhere) and simply supervising and joining in on their games.

"Last night I sat down on the lounge and cried." Image supplied.

Whilst doing this I notice that Julia* is having great difficulties with her gross motor skills, which will mean an hour of my own time researching why this might be and how we can assist her.

Feeding them is a constant fight; the babies will spit their food right back at you and the toddlers will either scream at you until you take it away or cry and cry because you have cut them off. Bedtime means more fights. Once the children are asleep it’s constant cleaning and planning until they wake up. Then the chaos commences.

Paper work can be intense. Each child’s learning must be documented adequately and meaningfully. Once you document the child’s learning you work out what’s next for them; how can they improve, what other skills could this lead to, etc., etc. and then you plan accordingly. You may observe something that doesn’t sit well and have to give the heartbreaking news to parents that you believe that their child should undergo further assessment.

At any given time there will be several children at once demanding your attention. Children who have injured themselves. Reports to be filled out. Parents to be called. Kids with temps. Medicine to be administered. Accidents to be cleaned up..

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And while you attend to all these things, you must do it with a smile on your face and calm and reassuring nature.

Image: iStock.

None of these reasons were why I had a meltdown on my lounge at home though. Granted, they may have been contributing factors, but they were not the reason.

You see, my boyfriend and I have decided to bite the bullet and buy a block of land. We have been getting our finances sorted and working out repayments, etc. Whilst we were talking about how we were going to be able to afford to live, I broke down.

“I’m never going to get paid enough! I’ll have to live out of your pocket. You’ll have to support me; it’s not fair to you. I’m such a failure!” My boyfriend, sweet as he is, snapped me out of my dramatic little episode by saying something so simple. “Don’t be silly. You work just as hard as me, it’s not your fault you aren’t compensated the same”. And it’s true.

I do work hard. I work tirelessly and I give until there isn’t anything left to give. Don’t get me wrong; I love my job, and I’m good at it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else, but, eventually, it won’t be enough to keep me afloat.

Feature image: supplied.

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