being a man in a world of babies
Halil scored his job as (with ten being the most fantastic job imaginable).
We find Halil, who works in the babies’ room, welcoming children and chatting to parents. He is greeted by a baby with a smile and spread out arms, clearly delighted to see him. Trust is visible as we witness how easily the parents hand over their children.
Halil recognises the multiple facets of his job. He describes himself as an "educator and a carer". Both aspects need to be balanced as it is as much about stimulating learning and growth, as it is about lovingly looking after the children and building relationships with them, “providing a home away from home”. One of the most rewarding aspects of his job is the development that he sees in the children and seeing how they learn to trust in him.
Halil, just like his colleague Beth (see separate story), recognises the importance of teamwork for looking after children and in particular when there are "crazy moments". The great team he works with is one of the key reasons why he loves his job. Having a supportive team means that he gets to be himself - team members can "be silly together", and they complement and support each other, without him having to ask for help. Importantly, he sees his team members as “having the same moral compass”.
Halil initially was hired to walk Macca, the pig that lives in the Centre (and this is a story in itself!).
However, it turned out that he was much better suited to look after children than the full-grown hog , and so he was hired as an educator.
Halil, who describes himself as always having had a natural approach with children, recognizes he is a male in a traditionally female occupation. But he is not that bothered by this fact. He is used to spending a lot of time around women, having grown up with many sisters. But although not bothered himself, Halil is quick to help parents maneuver the confusion that they might experience when encountering a male educator. He clearly introduces himself, and addresses the issue head-on:
“It is not really on me. If someone has an issue with me being in here, they can talk to me and I can reassure them that I know what I am doing and can tell them about my upbringing and why I am here. It is not a thing for me and I will always have my boss as a backup. […] I love what I do and if they don’t like what I do, they shouldn’t be around me”.
Halil combines childcare with one of his other passions – soccer. He started a soccer program at the day-care. The children play in a league of their own. He goes out with the older children to kick some balls (admittedly the children are small, so a lot of soccer rules are being broken, "but it is all about the fun"). Halil welcomes the opportunity to be creative in his work, and that he can incorporate his ideas (see the "Autonomy" box below). He also values the lighter moments in his job. As he noted: “its brilliant, I get to play in a sandpit all day and I get paid.”
In the future, Halil would like to train toddlers to play football as his main job and set up a soccer program. This illustrates the flexible ways in which he maneuvers gender roles, introducing a traditionally male domain into a traditionally female work sector.
Halil, like Beth, identifies the fact that the center is nature-based and “outdoorsy” as one aspect that makes it so successful.
We can’t help but think that people like Halil, with his laid-back approach towards others’ views about him being male in the female-dominated sector (and his colleague Beth, with her arguments for the value of child care) are doing their bit to loosen up some of society’s boundaries. As well as of course doing incredibly important work.
a little more...
Behind the Scenes
by Laura Fruhen
We headed out to a day care centre to learn more about the experiences of staff who look after children and how they perceive their work, as well as others’ views onto what they do. At the centre, staff look after children ranging from ages of as little as six weeks to 6 years. The centre is located in beautiful and creative surroundings. It gives of a relaxed atmosphere, and we find it hard to believe that there are 100-120 children in one place: It seems lovingly calm and relaxed. You can tell the space was created with children in mind and with a close view towards nature, as the outdoor landscapes are crafted from natural materials. The rooms and the outdoor spaces convey are a world made for children, which will stimulate them to grow and to actively explore their environment. Most notably though, we are greeted by a pig, ducks and chickens as we enter!