The Life and Times of a Male Childminder
My childminding career lasted just over three years. My previous employment was as a learning support assistant with special needs children at a primary school. In previous years, my wife and I learned the devastating truth; we will never be able to conceive children of our own. After several painstaking years of exhausting all other options, it became clear to us that adoption was the route to take if we were ever to have our own family.
We persevered with the laborious trials and tribulations involved with adoption. We supported each other through the terrifying panel meetings, and we were ecstatic to be finally matched with a two-year-old boy with special needs.
My wife and I both had careers in education. We jointly decided I would stay at home and care for our child, allowing my wife to go back to work because she earned a higher wage. As I still wanted to earn a wage whilst looking after our son, it made practical sense to become a self-employed childminder. I completed the introductory course.
During the following summer, although I was registered, I was required to learn and post the accepted policies and procedures, as well as ensure my house and garden were inspected for safety. I passed all the risk assessments, planning, evaluations, etc. We were finally ready for the influx of toddlers and babies.
I decided to give my new venture the name ‘Laugh and Learn Childminding’ and I designed posters, leaflets, car magnets and a whole host of stationary. I researched how much I should charge, and although I had over twenty-years-experience working with children, I set my prices at the average rate.
I planned to look after children, alongside caring for our son, whilst my wife was at work during the week, leaving us weekends to enjoy as a family. After extensive advertising, I was looking forward to showing hopeful parents around our house and garden, and showing off all my carefully prepared plans and policies.
The first day of my exciting new self-employed occupation had finally arrived and I was on tender hooks, eager to show the world how well I could survive a severely female dominated role. My waking hours were, instead, filled with confusion and uncertainty—no ringing phone, no voicemail, no inquiries.
Day two resulted in another fun-packed adventure with my three-year-old, albeit with a varied array of activities. Again, no contact was made to Laugh and Learn Childminding from the childcare-seeking world. The barren void of communication continued through the first week.
The following Monday morning, I finally received a call from a mother seeking childcare. After I politely answered the phone, she asked to speak to the childminder of Laugh and Learn Childminding. The answer I received after responding that I was the childminder was as follows: “Uh… oh. OK… I… I was just inquiring… Thanks.”
I listened to the dead tone of the phone for several seconds before returning the device to its cradle. Puzzled at the response, I wondered what I could say next time to continue the call for longer than a few brief moments.
I received four more calls in the following two weeks, with similar anxious replies. To prolong a phone call for more than the caller hearing a male voice before hanging up, I tried, when possible, for my wife to answer the phone. But the response was always the same when my wife explained that I was the childminder—a rushed, garbled voice saying she only wanted to know prices or something similar before, again, hanging up.
Weeks turned into a month since Laugh and Learn Childminding was launched, and not one child, apart from my own son, was present to be cared for. This continued until one day in the middle of October when I received a call from another father. He was in-between jobs, actively seeking childcare for his daughter whilst he was job hunting, attending interviews, etc. We arranged a mutually convenient time for the tour. I was told by the seemingly-content father that he will ask his wife to call me and arrange a time for her to meet me and have a look around. A day later, I received the call—she seemed equally happy about my services, but said that she was interviewing other childminders and would be in contact in the next few days.
My cell phone remained silent, as did the landline, for the following two days. The third day brought her decision. I answered the phone as professionally as possible. The response I received was as follows:
“Hi Philip. We have decided we would love you to be our daughter’s childminder.”
I rang my wife with the news. I had acquired my first customer. We had reason to celebrate.
Contracts were signed. The first day was a great success, and thereafter, each day was an absolute delight. Even so, the abrupt phone calls from paranoid mothers continued. The single toddler remained my only customer through the Christmas holidays. Until, as fate would have it, I received a phone call from another father looking for childminding. Again, he arrived with his daughter, met my son and myself, had the tour of the house and garden. After a successful visit from his partner, my child-roster doubled.
My business was beginning to take off. I naively thought the sexist, stereotyped-filled phone calls from presumptuous narrow-minded mothers would decline. My hopes to be accepted as an equal in this harsh, cynical female world were soon dashed. The inquiries continued to be brief, limited to excuses from each new and intolerant female voice on the telephone.
Throughout my three years and one month as a childminder, I also cared for two brothers for what amounted to about eight days over a period of four months. The only other male childminders I’m aware of work together with their wives or other female partners. I have yet to meet another male childminder who works independently; this trend, unfortunately, seems like it is going to continue.