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Gender and the Value of Care Labor
January 6, 2023
She who works with her hands is a laborer. She who works with her hands and her head is a craftsman. She who works with her hands and her head and her heart is an artist.
-Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226

"While research shows men are taking on more child care and housework than ever before, women continue to perform more physical and emotional labor in their families, irrespective of age, income or workloads. Sometimes called the mental load or the second shift, this is a phenomenon Eve Rodsky attributes to a fundamental mishandling of time," reports Andee Tagle, who interviewed Rodsky on NPR’s Life Kit. "There are a lot of toxic time messages out there... Consider the phrase time is money. Maybe you're a woman who feels obligated to do more at home because you bring home less pay or your job is more, quote-unquote, ‘flexible.’"

Rodsky remarks, "We have a pay gap in this society. And what is even more ironic is that when women outearn their partners, they still do more unpaid labor."

Eva Kittay, author of Love’s Labor: Essays on Women, Equality and Dependency, further explains: "Because dependency labor has never occupied a clear place in our economic order and paid labor competes with a vast unpaid workforce, dependency work tends to be poorly paid. Yet even at the depressed wages of paid dependency work, for many, the cost of this labor seems too high, especially as it is expected to be free when performed by female family members."

In Illuminating Care, Carol Garboden Murray offers, "As we advocate to elevate and professionalize care through our work as early childhood teachers, let us always be clear—special skills, knowledge and dispositions are needed to care with excellence, but the skills, knowledge and dispositions needed are not narrowly defined by gender or restricted by lifestyle. Caring is expansive and inclusive, available to all, and strengthened by the diversity of humanity."


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Comments (3)

Displaying All 3 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · January 09, 2023
Eugene, OR, United States

Thanks for sharing your thoughtful observations, Lisa!

Lisa Taylor · January 07, 2023
Detroit , MI, United States

I think it is a blessing to have male educators. The facility that I work in there are two male teachers, who I might say does an exceptional job. Working with preschool age children I've noticed that the boys try to do things with a woman teacher that they don't do with the males. This could be that they are so attached with their mom they want the female teacher to do what Mom does.
I've also noticed that more men are taking on the responsibilities of some of the mothers. It's nothing like when I was growing up, the women are stepping down and having the man do all the work. Again it's a blessing that the men stepped up when the situation occurred. I see so many children asking for their father rather than their mother.

Kirsten Haugen · January 06, 2023
Eugene, OR, United States

Thanks to Francis Wardle for sharing the following feedback via email. Francis, thanks also for the reminder to keep a light on men's involvement as caregivers, educators and within the family.

1. When I asked my boss to have time off to take my kids to the doctor, she (VP of Education for a major child care corporation) responded, “why doesn’t you wife take them?”
2. As an industry we actively reinforce this idea, by expecting mothers and other female family members to volunteer, to be the family’s contact person, etc. Some programs make half-hearted efforts to include men, but the culture of our field proactivity expects the women in a family to volunteer, be in charge of the chidlren, and generally be the family caretakers.
3. It seems to me our field – including Exchange – have recently dropped the ball when it comes to actively supporting men’s involvement both in programs and in the family. We seem preoccupied with racial issues and gender identity politics, to the exclusion of this critically important issue.

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