Men in Childcare Case Study – Connor Keatley

Connor is currently working at Tops Babbacombe, we asked him some questions about his career journey into childcare. Check out his answers below!

How did you get into childcare, did you always want to work in the industry?

I have a very big family (I’m one of seven) and a lot of my childhood was spent around my younger siblings, who I helped to take care of. I also have siblings with special needs which I was involved in the care of so care just comes so naturally to me. I didn’t always want to work in childcare simply because for so long it was just a normal part of my day that I never saw it as a career until I was 14/15, but once I knew I could it was the only obvious option for me. 

Have you ever experienced negativity in regards to being male in the early year’s sector?

Unfortunately on multiple occasions I was told childcare was a “woman’s job”. There’s one experience which to this day sticks with me; in a previous job a colleague told me that a child’s grandfather had said “a nursery is no place for a man, it’s a woman’s job to look after kids and everything that comes along with it” I found it both sexist towards me and misogynistic to the women I worked with. Finally in that same nursery it was a rule across the rooms that it was NOT my role to help with nappies and toileting (which I guess in some perspective isn’t the worst thing in the world) but I found this, again, to be an imbalance based solely on my gender. In today’s society it’s growing more and more popular to have the idea and ethics that in all contexts gender shouldn’t matter, however one may choose to self identify.

On the other hand I’ve had some lovely experiences as being a male in the sector; I find it extremely beneficial for a child to have a positive male role model in their nursery. 

What do you love the most about your job?

I love the curious, playful and ever learning minds and personalities that children have! It brings me joy to see them learn, play, grow and explore before adulthood takes over. I think that children say the most hilarious things and if I could I’d write a book of all the funny things I’ve heard children say and do. Children have the best ways of effortlessly cheering you up without even knowing it! It’s remarkable. I also love being someone that they trust, someone that they can come to with whatever they need and I find it heart-warming being an advocate for their personal and developmental needs. 

What has been your biggest achievement in your role?

As a person who is only 21, I would say that my career still has a long way to go. However so far, I would say that my biggest achievement is moving nearly 300 miles from Manchester to Torquay at 19 years old on my own. This was so that I could spend some time working in a special needs school with some amazing children and young people. Before coming to work at Tops Day Nurseries I had worked at the special needs school for 1 year and 3 months but it has changed me forever and given me a lifetime of memories and experience. 

Do you think attitudes are changing towards employing men in nurseries? Explain your answer.

I think they are; times are changing and gender equality is growing. In 2016 it was found that less than 2% of the Early Years Sector was male however that statistic is slowly changing for a more gender equal workforce.

In today’s society there are more single parents therefore I think it’s beneficial for both male and female role models in the nursery.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to work in the early years sector?

It’s a common misconception that childcare is “easy” and “all you do is play all day” which perturbs me whenever I hear that. Childcare is not “just play” and furthermore – it’s not easy! You have to know your theories of development, your legislation, safeguarding, prevent duty, about horrible abuse and the signs, tracking and planning development and all the paperwork that comes with it. You have to really put the work into it to have a career in Early Years but if it is truly your passion and what you want to do in your life then every ounce of work is exponentially worth it!

At Tops, we have been continuously working hard to increase the number of men working in the early years by promoting their importance throughout our nurseries and when recruiting for new staff. If you would like to start a career in childcare, click here to check out some of our vacancies!

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