It has been three glorious months since I closed my home daycare and became the Artistic Director of b current performing arts. In those three months I have had some time – not a lot of time, mind you, since being an AD, I have learned, means sleeping with one eye open – to reflect on my experiences caring for children.
I have worked as a youth educator since I was 15, but owning a home daycare was by far the most challenging to my patience. It was a wonderful journey for me in which I had the honour of making lifelong friends (including the last two families I served) and I got to test the limits of my multitasking abilities and athletic prowess. At the end of my six years of daycare work, I could expertly trudge through a snow storm with a baby on my back, one trailing behind me on an attached sled, and a toddler on each arm. It was like an episode of American Gladiator but with snotty noses and leaking diapers.
It was also an eye-opening journey for me in which every day I had to battle racism. Every day I had to lift myself out from under the weight of servitude. I think it’s imperative to note that I believe caregiving is an important profession – it’s just that caregivers are not treated as important professionals. It’s also imperative to note that I have a tonne of privilege as someone who has not only left the profession but is a Canadian citizen whose safety in this country does not rely on my employment with a host family, as it does with folks under the Live-In Caregiver Program.
That is why, my fellow parents, I am sharing with you today everything your caregiver wants to tell you but isn’t privileged enough to say.
“FUCK YOU. PAY ME.”
I’ve had parents show up at my door an hour earlier than my business hours expecting me to take their children. I’ve had parents balk at my expectation for extra payment after arriving 45 minutes after closing time. I’ve had parents casually tell me that their payments to me would be late because of cash flow after enrolling their child in dance lessons. This is a business. A caregiver is a professional. You would never tell the grocery store that you’ll pay them later for that basket of peaches. You would never arrive an hour earlier at the dentist and expect to be seen immediately. Be respectful of our time. Be respectful of our wallets.
“YOUR KID ISN’T COLOUR BLIND.”
Not only is this an ableist notion, but it’s a load of bullshit. Saying that you or your child is “colour blind” doesn’t showcase your family’s ability to transcend race politics. It showcases your talent at sidestepping it. It shows the world that you are simply ignoring the realities that Black and brown folks live every day. If your kid can see a red block, a yellow shirt or a green ball, I am pretty sure they can see white supremacy. And don’t get it twisted: racism is learned from an early age. I know. Before some of my daycare kids could even speak, they were already treating me as their brown servant. Instead of defending your magical child without fault, consider the ways in which your child has observed privilege throughout their lifetime, no matter how short. What examples can you teach them through your own behaviour? Here are some good places to start:
- Practice and show your child to take turns with children of colour. Practice not going first down the slide or through a door. This is a good gauge of where your child is at with regards to their own entitlement.
- Practice and show your child how to share toys with children of colour. Of course kids find this challenging, but know that race privilege is taught even here.
“WHY YOU GOTTA BE AN ASSHOLE?”
The reason is pretty clear: Most parents do not honour caregiving. Like a lot of feminine work such as sex work and cleaning, caregiving is undervalued and vilified. On a daily basis, I implore you to ask yourself these questions:
- Do I speak to my caregiver respectfully?
- Have I considered their hours, most especially if they are a live-in caregiver? Do I even consider their hours ever? Do I just assume their availability?
- What has happened in my lifetime to treat my caregiver with disrespect? Where did I learn misogyny? How can I work on this today without asking for the emotional labour of others around me?
- Am I feeling defensive from reading this post and will I most likely turn to others to validate my treatment of my caregiver? What is that about? Can I instead turn inwards and do the work it takes to not be an asshole?
- Are my children important to me? If so, does it not make sense to respect the very person who is caring for them?
When authoring the play, Future Folk about the Live-In Caregiver Program in Canada, the Sulong Theatre Collective authored the following phrase in our playwrights’ notes which sums up my feelings perfectly: “It is you who hold our future in your hands. But it is us who hold your children in our arms. Have respect.”