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Playschool and Daycare in India and Absence of Male Teachers

I am an avid F.R.I.E.N.D.S fan. I first watched that series as a teenager in school, and have since watched the entire series like a 100 times. Ok. Maybe I exaggerate a little. But I am sure that my mom (who is also my partner at Morning Glorie, Daycare and Play school in Gurgaon) will whole heartedly say that I obsess a tad too much with the series.


So there was this one episode, in season 9 I think, where Ross and Rachel are looking for a nanny for their daughter Emma, and in comes Sandy, who was this amazing nanny, with a bunch of references, and who was really really good with the kids. But, for Ross, what ended up being more important was the fact that he was a man.

Now first up, I have to say, I found it amazingly wonderful, that in the west, early childhood education as well as care could be taken care of by the same person - not taking into consideration the gender of the person. Sandy was not just a nanny, who would feed Emma, or change her diapers, he was also part of his previous family for many years, and was also responsible for early learning of his wards. This about 15 years back I think?

But the problematic bit was, childcare was associated primarily with women. "What kind of a job is it for a man?" was the question that was raised there. And why it was weird for a man to be "too sensitive".

Coming to the Indian context. Here, childcare - be it nannies who are engaged at home, preschool teachers, or nannies engaged in daycares - is exclusively the domain of women. This is probably the only industry in India which is dominated by women. Are these stereotypes, or is there some other reason?

WOMEN AS PRIMARY CAREGIVERS

Childcare is primarily associated with women, because being mothers, women are assumed to be the primary caregivers for a child. They are considered to be better in sync with the needs of children, their own of course, but also those of other people.

This is true not just of India, but internationally as well. In India, and probably many more countries - you can also add to it the age old conventions that men are not supposed to, or required to be a part of raising children, and least of all stuff like cleaning up after their pee and poop and puke. Stereotypes at work, more than anything else.

Fundamentally, this is very flawed when you seek logic. It is also an unhealthy state of affairs, because when it comes to raising children, and being a part of their early learning process, men will have their own outlook and perspective, which can balance that of the women. This would be true where say mothers balance out the fathers and vice versa. 


Don't get me wrong. I think women are doing an awesome job at this. But I am still glad to say that things seem to be changing, in at least some sections of the society. My own male friends are equal partners in raising their kids - be it sons or daughters. Which should be normal, and not have to be appreciated, but there you go. 

THE ASPECT OF  CHILD ABUSE AND SAFETY

In today's scenario, this is probably the bigger reason why childcare as an industry favours women instead of men (at least in India). I have been running a daycare and play school in Gurgaon for the past almost 10 years, and I can tell you, one of the first questions, which any parent exploring a daycare for their child asks, is, whether there are any male employees, and whether they are allowed to enter the premises. This, when our only male staff is a guard, an office boy and a driver. But safety of their children - male, and especially female - is and must be the primary concern, and in such a scenario, this question becomes extremely relevant.

It is a sad state of affairs, which has excluded 50% of the population from an entire industry, even for the good men who would really love to be a part of it. In its own way, it also propagates at times a very sexist approach, which designates women to a set of activities by default. It also takes away focus from the fact that abuse can happen at the hands of women too.

THE WAY AHEAD

Statistics show that more often than not, abuse comes at the hands of someone close to the child - a parent, a relative, a friend. Constant vigil, unfortunate though it may be that we have to exercise it day in and day out, because of the actions of some, is the need of the hour. Whether you are at home with relatives, or with a nanny, or whether your child is going to a preschool or daycare (you should always have open and frank communication with your childcare provider in this regard), without creating an environment of distrust for your child.

While this may seem very heavy for a blog post on a parenting and early learning blog, it is undeniably the topmost thing on not only every parent's mind, but also on the daycare's mind. We have a huge responsibility when it comes to your child's safety and security - not just because it is our job to do so, but also because we ourselves become so emotionally attached to every single child, and because it is a terrifying thought for anything bad to happen to them.

I still truly hope that in times to come, we are able to get out of this trap, and men who genuinely care for children, and would like to be a part of a child's early learning and care, are able to be a part of the process, whereas women, who may be doing this only forced by circumstances, are able to get out of this process. Just like any other field, be in the personal or professional domain, diversity is important and needed, to bring in a variety of perspectives and outlooks, and for a healthy, all round development of the children whose future has been entrusted to us.

It is also important, so that our future generation does not grow up with these stereotypes. Just like we are able to say today, that girls can do anything they want, our boys should also be able to grow up knowing that they can do anything they want. Let's drive the change. Let's teach our boys and girls to respect boundaries and the freedom to make their own choices. When the right attitudes are in place, things will eventually fall into place as well. At some stage, we should be able to have policy level changes to ensure a level field in this industry, irrespective of gender - the whole spectrum.



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