Ms. Foundation for Women Economic Justice Grantee All Our Kin shares departing reflections from policy fellow Ana Rader, who championed family child care providers, families and children online and in person. Read Ana’s full blog post here.
The family child care providers I’ve met while at All Our Kin are remarkable. Teresa Younger’s words in her keynote at our conference have stayed with me, and I’ve mulled over them often. Quoting a colleague, she said: “The best thing I can do for myself is to drop my daughter off at day care…. I have found an amazing provider who loves her, teaches her, keeps her safe and happy…. I love being at work.” Then, “Today, we celebrate who you are, what you do, and what you make possible for the rest of us to do.”
And it’s true. The work of family child care providers is the reason many other parents —many other women — can leave their homes, enter the public sphere to work and thrive. And I’m not talking about Sheryl Sandberg, here. Family child care providers enable the women even the feminists forget — not the women “leaning in” as they rise to corporate and political power, but those entering the workforce with low-wage jobs, who might need care overnight as they work unpredictable schedules, who are grateful for an ounce of stability upon arriving in this chaotic country. And that’s important. That’s wonderful.
But these family child care providers, these women I’ve known, are far more than their value as a stepstool for other women. In a time when we often measure women’s equality by the number of women in seats in which men once sat, these family child care providers are instead redefining what it means to be a powerful, autonomous woman. They are reclaiming caregiving as a profession requiring strategy, skill, practice and patience; reclaiming the home as a space that can be lucrative, important, dynamic and rewarding. They are teaching their husbands and sons, bringing them into the home to join them as business partners and educators of young children. Siloed though they may be in their day-to-day work, at meetings and through telephone calls these family child care providers support and celebrate each other, strengthening and growing this community of women who are neither leaning in nor opting out. This, too — perhaps this, especially — is how change really happens.