My friend recently came to visit and lend a hand with the birth of our new son. As we sat in the midst of diapers, toys and dirty clothes, we said our good-byes as my husband and daughter headed toward the door to go to preschool. My husband, with a guitar on his back, adjusted our four-year-old daughter’s piggy-tail one last time and bent down to fix her shoe.
As we listened to the two get in the car and drive away, my friend sighed and stated that I live a charmed life. I laughed and then quickly agreed. Being married to a preschool teacher wasn’t something I imagined for myself. I don’t think it is because I particularly disliked male preschool teachers, it is more likely that I never knew one until I met Mr. Ben.
I can still remember the first time I saw Ben. It was circle time at the preschool with the children all gathered around him. They were singing silly songs as he strummed his guitar and made up music as they went along. The next time I saw him was during snack time for the two-year-olds and he was sitting at their table on a little chair that made his knees almost touch his chin. He was cutting up grapes and wiping chins between smiles.
At the time, I was a single mom who needed child care for my daughter twice a week so that I could finish school. I found it extremely difficult to leave my little one but I liked the idea of having a male influence in my daughter’s life while I was working towards a better future. He was gentle and kind and it was obvious the reason he was a preschool teacher was because he was really just a big kid who never got tired of playing.
It would be an entire year before we would go on our first date. During that year I would have many opportunities to see him play basketball with the after school kids, help the kinders write their names, and wipe tears while applying Band-Aids.
Before long, I came to appreciate the rare experience the children in his care were receiving. It is very uncommon to see a male working in early childhood education or child care. It seems like we are living in a time where women are making great advances in the “man’s world” but men are not making the same progress in ours. It is part of what researchers often refer to as the stalled revolution. It encompasses not only paid work that has traditionally been reserved for women, but unpaid work as well.
In a world that that views the genders differently and places great value on a man’s income, power, and ability to advance in the workforce, it has created significant barriers for men to participate in early childhood education and child care.
However, research suggests there are many benefits to having men as nurturing role models for our children. Not only does it teach equality and role flexibility, they benefit from a different style of care giving and playing. It is important that both women and men are teaching our children if we are to nurture the whole child.
Having a partner that is a preschool teacher has been quite an adventure. I never know what type of goo or toy I will find in the washer if I forget to check his pockets. When he says he has a bad day, I get to guess what bodily fluid covered him. And I can always go visit him at work if I want to get hugs from adorable children who insist on calling me “Mrs. Ben.”
But more so, I have found someone to share my life with who places more value on construction paper thank-you cards as bonuses and sharing the joy of a child learning to write their name as a mark of workplace success.
June 29, 2009