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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 17 page 22

memoir

teddy bear doing handstand
art by helen portlock

My Career as a Male Childminder

by Philip R. Harrison

After my wife and I learned the devastating truth that we will never be able to conceive children of our own, we spent several painstaking years exhausting all possible options until it became clear to us that if we were ever to have our own family we would have to take the route of adoption.

We persevered with the laborious trials and tribulations that are involved with an adoption process. We supported each other through the terrifying panel meetings, and we were ecstatic to be finally matched with a two year old boy with severe special educational needs.

My wife and I, I should say, both had careers in education working with children. My previous job was as a learning support assistant with children who had learning needs.

We were both in full-time jobs at the time we adopted our first son and so I had the standard two weeks parental leave and my wife had the following nine months leave to look after him.

Then we made the joint decision that it would make financial sense for me to end my job and she would go back to work as she was on the higher wage.

I still needed to earn a wage whilst looking after our son and, with the background and experience I had, it made sense to enrol as a self-employed childminder. I completed an introductory course in childminding during the evenings.

Once I was registered as a childminder, I was required to get all my policies and procedures up to date, and to ensure that my house and garden were inspected and safe to accept children and that all my risk assessments, planning, evaluations, observations and activities were ready for the influx of toddlers and babies.

I prepared for my new employment with great gusto and plenty of advertising. I named my venture “Laugh and Learn Childminding” and designed a host of posters, leaflets, car magnets and stationery.

This was 2009. I researched how much I should charge and found that the local rate for a childminder was between £3.00 and £4.50 per hour. Although I was educated to degree level and had over twenty years experience working with children and young people I humbly set my prices at £4.00 per hour per child and £3.50 per hour for a sibling.

I would look after the children alongside caring for our own son whilst my wife was at work Monday to Friday and we would have the weekends to enjoy our time together as a family.

After extensive advertising online and around the local area I expected to get enquiries immediately and to be showing parents around our house and garden and to be showing off all my carefully prepared plans and policies. The first day of my exciting new self-employment finally arrived and I was on tenterhooks, eager to show the world how I can survive in a role severely monopolized by females.

A visit to the park, lunch at home, an hour’s afternoon nap and soft play filled my son’s hours on that first day. But my hours were filled with confusion and uncertainty as to why my mobile phone wasn’t ringing and why my home voicemail was not beeping furiously full of enquiries.

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