International Women’s Day: being a modern feminist in a traditional role
8 March 2022
Tuesday 8 March marks International Women’s Day – a day for celebrating the achievements of women.
Second-year student Tilly discusses the importance of this day in raising awareness of the status of nannying and the early years profession, recognising the wide skill set of the individuals in the field and respecting the contribution of women who have carved out this field throughout the years – including Norland founder Emily Ward.
“I love celebrating International Women’s Day, I believe it is so important to take a moment to appreciate the tireless effort of women that have come before you. This year International Women’s Day takes place on 8 March. It is especially important to take time to recognise women’s achievements and contributions to modern society as so many go overlooked. This International Women’s Day I want to take a step back in time and reflect on one of the most traditional roles women have held throughout history – raising children – and how this relates to the role of the professional nanny.
I consider myself an intersectional feminist. So, what does this mean? Fundamentally as a feminist you believe in the political, social and economic equality of the sexes. It is important to advocate for women’s rights for all women, so this includes women of colour, transgender women and queer women, an intersectional feminist will and should campaign for everyone with no exclusivity. It is these core beliefs that I try to maintain in all aspects of my life, including within my career choices. However, having said that I do not claim to a perfect feminist, and I actively acknowledge that I am still learning every day. Attending Norland has allowed me an opportunity to widen my experiences as a feminist and reflect on them as I continue my journey.
Since people have been having children there has been a demand for support and help in raising them – it takes a village. For an equally long time there have been clashing opinions on how or who should raise these children, and I do not expect this to change any time soon. Whilst current arguments primarily revolve around providing parents with universal childcare there is much more limited discourse regarding the people who provide this care professionally, the nannies and the childcare practitioners. The role of these people and their respect as skilled professionals often gets overlooked.
Out in the wider world, women in a heterosexual relationship do almost 60% more unpaid work than men within the UK even if both have full-time jobs. This is primarily in childcare and homemaking which are both seen as traditionally women’s work. A woman can go and work a full-time job and then come home and take on the entire responsibility of caring for her child(ren) – although attitudes are now showing a shift away from this ‘traditional’ and outdated mindset. Anybody who does this – male, female, non-binary – deserves endless respect as raising children is and always has been a full-time job, something that has only been reiterated through my journey so far here at Norland.
However, there are some clear societal differences in accepting women who raise their own children and women who choose a career relating to childcare, especially in a home-based setting. Feminist Germaine Greer once argued that motherhood should not be seen as a substitute for a career and that women can have both – something that I believe is incredibly important to acknowledge, but she also went on to state that motherhood is and should be regarded as a genuine career option. This choice is entirely for the mother to decide, there should be no societal pressure either way and yet there is. Wrapped up in all of this is the role of the nanny, someone who has chosen a completely respectable career offering professional love and support for a child and their family.
Raising a child appears to be something that you are expected to intrinsically know as a woman. I believe that it should be recognised as a particular skill set and bank of knowledge that takes time to learn and practice and that it is a completely valid career choice.
When I told friends and family that I had chosen to pursue a career in childcare, it was sometimes met with confusion. Why would I want to train for a role I would have anyway when I was a mother? What is there to learn about child development and learning in a professional, academic setting when countless women have done it for years previously and they have not required specific training? Why would you as a nanny be any different?
Nannying as a professional career is often overlooked. Is this because a profession is only considered highly skilled when men do it? Would this be the same if it were a male dominated profession? I would argue not.
Furthermore, to negate all the hard work and effort myself and my peers – male and female – put in to attain the BA (Hons) Early Years Development and Learning degree and the Norland diploma because we are only ‘nannies’ is outrageous and frankly offensive. Just because a job is primarily associated with women does not mean it is any easier or less impressive. Tying someone’s ability to their gender identity benefits no one. Denying children the opportunity to receive support from a specific gender due to offensive and outdated gender stereotypes just prevents them from receiving an outstanding level of care and support from some incredible people. Any nanny’s abilities should be judged on the merit of their work not their gender, simply because someone identifies as the traditional gender associated with their career does not mean they will be better than someone who has dedicated their life to learning about the intricate details of promoting healthy learning and development in early childhood.
So, does this not all just solely benefit women? In short no. Feminism is not against the rights of men, or about elevating women above anyone else. Overall, we just want to remove the negative and often harmful stereotypes associated with our gender for the benefit of society as a whole. Removing the limited perception of a nanny or women in childcare will allow for a more formal recognition of this critical career, but also removing the association of women exclusively providing childcare will allow for male and non-binary people to also be recognised as equally capable caregivers for children.
So, this International Women’s Day think back to those who helped raise you and check your own conscious or unconscious bias towards the childcare profession. We cannot move forward as a society without looking back to where we came from. However, most importantly, spread a little love to the incredible women in your life, because I guarantee they will appreciate it.
Here is to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”