As any parent can imagine, childcare work is so much more than just watching someone’s kid. Daycare workers are also responsible for providing meals, organizing physical and educational activities, teaching literacy skills, helping potty train, keeping progress reports and much, much more.
So when Australian politician David Leyonhjelm recently said childcare workers do nothing more than “wiping noses and stopping kids from killing each other,” the condescending remarks drew the ire of his fellow lawmakers, parents and childcare workers like Chloe Chant, who shut down Leyonhjelm with a Facebook post that has now gone viral.
Leyonhjelm made the comments against childcare workers during a Jan. 9 interview with Channel 10, where he discussed his opposition to a proposed $3 billion childcare reform package. That caught the attention of Chant, a childcare worker from Sydney, Australia, who responded with a now-viral letter on Facebook that details what she actually does.
In her post, she wrote, “Three weeks ago I stopped everything and spent an entire day of my personal, unpaid time creating documents to be used in court for a family in the middle of a child custody hearing… The next day I went to work and wiped a lot of noses.”
She continued, “Two weeks ago I identified behaviors that indicated possible child sexual abuse. I talked to the child, I talked to parents, I consulted research and theory, I completed Mandatory Reporting requirements, I cried—a lot... And I managed to stop the children killing each other.”
Chant’s letter quickly went viral since she published it on Facebook on Jan. 11. And so far, most of the reactions to Chant’s post have been quite positive.
One Facebook user wrote, “Thank you for write [sic] this. Your work will help more people understand the value and importance of our work.”
Another added, “ Wish I could make a statement like that! Brilliantly written A+ piece of writing!”
And one commenter praised the letter as “brilliant,” saying, “ Absolutely endorse this letter. As a mother of a child care worker I am well aware of the dedication & commitment that is freely given for a poor return. Thank you to all hard working childcare personnel.”
It’s no wonder Chant’s letter struck a chord with thousands of social media users around the world: Child care workers are among the most underpaid, undervalued and overworked professions out there.
The median hourly wage for a childcare worker in the United States is $10.31, and only 15% of employees in the profession receive job-based health insurance, according to a 2015 Economic Policy Institute study. Because of the low wages, many childcare workers live below the poverty line. Yet, they all still expected to provide exceptional support and care for dozens of children, day in and day out, without any real support.
Leyonhjelm’s justification for his opposition to Australia’s childcare reform package is disheartening.
But, as Chant closes out her letter, “Should you need any advice regarding the REAL responsibilities of a childcare worker—or should you need your nappy changed—I am only too happy to render assistance. Despite your comments, my role is to educate, and nothing would please me more than to educate one of my esteemed parliamentary representatives.”