Do you Do Child Care for Love or Money?

For most family child care providers the answer is “Both!”

Family child care providers love children. It’s their number one motivating factor. But, earning money is also important.

Unfortunately, in our society we undervalue the work of providers. Federal and state governments drastically underfund the child care system. Many parents can’t afford the true cost of child care. As a result, providers are often forced to subsidize the system with low wages.

Yet, some parents assume providers should be happy to do their work without regard for money.

This comes up when a parent complains about paying a late pickup fee, leaves without giving a two-week notice, or objects to a provider enforcing her contract or policies. If a provider tries to enforce her rules, the parent sometimes acts offended, and might say, “You’re just in it for the money.”

This attitude is an attempt to shame providers into not enforcing their rules. But, it’s also a reflection of how society views caregivers of young children as less worthy citizens. It’s like saying, “You don’t deserve to be paid for your work.”

It’s also a statement about the undervaluing of work primarily done by women.

The irony is that parents who think, “This provider only cares about money” don’t realize that providers as a group don’t make a lot of money! In fact, most parents probably make more money than most providers!

Providers should never apologize for working for money. Why do parents use child care providers? So they can make money! Why don’t parents stay home with their children? Because they can’t afford to! Of course this is a simplification, but let’s not single out child care providers as somehow immune from the realities of working for a living.

There is honor in all work, particularly work caring for young children. People who want to make a lot of money don’t go into the family child care field.  In my experience of talking with tens of thousands of providers across the country, I see women dedicated to loving children and oftentimes struggling financially.

It’s true that some parents can’t afford high quality child care and much more needs to be done to make child care more accessible and affordable. But, providers should not put up with any disrespect or guilt from parents about making money.

As a child care provider, you should be proud to have chosen the vital job of caring for children. You should be proud of your commitment to a job that allows you to love children. You should be proud that you can earn a living for your family for the work you do.

No apologies.

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Tom Copeland

I've been the nation's leading trainer, author, and advocate on the business of family child care since 1981. I'm a licensed attorney and have presented hundreds of business workshops for family child care providers across the country. I answer thousands of calls and emails each year to help providers, tax professionals and trainers understand complex business and tax issues. Call me at 651-280-5991. Email me at Visit me on Facebook. From 1981 to 2009 I worked at Resources for Child Caring in Minnesota (now called Think Small), where I was director of Redleaf National Institute for 15 years. I've written nine books on the business of family child care published by Redleaf Press, a division of Resources for Child Caring. I was on the board of directors of First Children's Finance, a non-profit organization providing low interest loans and consulting and technical assistance to help family child care providers suceed as a business. They operate in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Here are some YouTube videos of me talking about my work with this organization and the business of family child care. I graduated from Macalester College (BA) in 1972 and from William Mitchell College of Law (JD) in 1980. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota with my wife Diane and two cats, Duke and Ella.