Highs and Lows of Working in Childcare

Being a Child Care Worker can be immensely rewarding. You’ll have days where you feel on top of the world, form special bonds with the children and feel a true sense of satisfaction as you make a difference in the lives of the next generation. Then on other days, you’ll feel like everything is going wrong… maybe you won’t have control of the children or they’ll test your patience or maybe you’ll feel flat and tired. Like any other job, working in childcare can have its highs and lows.

Whilst you will have days where it can be challenging (like any job!) most child care workers will tell you that it is an excellent career. However, before you make your decision to become a child care worker, it’s important to do your research and be aware of all the possible factors that may influence how you’ll feel about your job, so take the time now to research the pros and cons of working in childcare in Australia.

Let’s start with the positives (because we’re optimists, and if you’re going to work with children then you need to have a sunny, positive disposition)!  If you’re a naturally positive person and you find that you gravitate to/get along well with young children, you’ll find it effortless to interact with children all day.  If you ask most childcare workers what they love about the job, they’ll tell you that being a child care worker is great because…

  • You get to be active all day. If you’re the sort of person who hates sitting still for too long and find yourself getting bored at a desk job, being a child care worker will enable you to spend your days on your feet – moving, playing and being very physically active. Keeping active all day is great to help you get in some extra incidental exercise to help you maintain your figure. Many childcare workers find that they lose weight due to constantly moving around all day, and keeping active is great for your cardiovascular health.
  • No two days are ever the same. Children will consistently surprise you and no two children are exactly alike, either… so although you’ll have programs and routines, children will inject an element of spontaneity into your day that other jobs simply won’t give you.
  • If you’re not yet a parent and would like to someday become one, being a child care worker will let you ‘test drive’ what parenting might be like.
  • You’ll get to be a positive role model for countless little ones who will look to you for social cues, care, safety, affection and help with their daily lives. That’s an important responsibility, and a big honour! Child care workers will tell you that it’s very rewarding seeing the children progress through their learning and social outcomes, and you’ll also get to form bonds with the families who will be forever grateful for the positive difference that you make in the lives of their children.
  • By spending your days with small children, you’ll also get to work on your own communication and interpersonal skills… you’ll even find yourself learning new things from the children!
  • Working in child care will give you the flexibility to work full or part time and if you have a Diploma on top of your Cert III and Cert IV in Childcare, you’ll be in high demand as an employee – there is also lots of potential for you to work your way up the career ladder and become a child care centre manager or leader.

However just like any job, there is a flip side and there are cons to the job. These lows of working in child care may or may not be ‘dealbreakers’ for you… if you love the job enough, these might not even be an obstacle! But it is important to make yourself aware. The lows of working in childcare:

  • When you’re first starting out, the pay can be low (and since you’re working with children, you are required to be qualified so you’ll need to have laid out some cash on obtaining your Cert III, Cert IV or Diploma).
  • Although children are delightful, they can also give you a headache and test your patience (just ask any parent!). They can be loud, messy, not always play well with other children, struggle to meet their learning objectives, sick, disruptive or sometimes just plain annoying! The good certainly outweighs the bad, but not even the most child loving person is immune to occasionally being irritated by them! You’ll need to really have a passion for the job, otherwise you may get sick of it very quickly.
  • There is a lot expected of you as a childcare worker, it’ s not all fun and playing with the children. There is plenty of paperwork and in Australia, the childcare industry has some strict regulations that you need to adhere to on a daily basis such as cleaning procedures, ratios and general safety.
  • You need to be alert at all time so you can spot any hazards before they occur, make sure the children are all playing nicely with one another and keep a watchful eye over the needs of each child. There is also a lot of cleaning required… you’ll need a strong stomach! You’ll see kids getting sick, having toilet training ‘accidents’, getting dirty from playing outside… all in a days work!
  • Work doesn’t stop at the end of the day (as you’ll be with the children all day, you’ll rarely have time during centre hours to update your paperwork or devise programs for the children) so you’ll need to take some work home with you. This can mean long days, especially when you consider that some shifts start at 7am to accommodate parents work days. Some days also finish at 6pm to give parents time to pick up their children after the typical work day finishes at 5pm.
  • The job isn’t as easy as people assume… sadly some people may think that you have an easy job and that you just get to have fun all day, so you’ll need to be prepared for this stigma. Plus, if you’re tired or just not feeling ‘in the zone’ on any given day, you can’t simply go on autopilot… you need to be 100% alert at all times as the children’s safety and well being literally depends on it!
  • Some children can be challenging to work with – and so too can their families be challenging. Some families are very clingy and tend to be mistrustful of outsiders taking care of their children whereas for other families, you’ll struggle to get them to even take an interest in the learning outcomes of their child. Successful child care takes a community approach where parents and child care professionals actively work together to best meet the needs of the child.

Not sure if childcare is the right career for you? We suggest visiting a local child care centre and explaining to the director that you’re considering a career and would like to get a feel for it. Without being fully qualified you won’t be able to work with the children – but you can observe, and many centre directors are happy for you to volunteer to help with the cleaning etc. so that you get a feel for what part of running a centre is actually like.

Working with children can truly be one of the most rewarding experiences and those who get to do so as a career can consider themselves very lucky! However, the choice to become a child care worker is not one that should be made lightly or flippantly. The rewards are abundant, but there are points to consider… and if you don’t truly have a passion for the job, then you should carefully consider if it’s worth it for you. After all, in this career it’s about more than just what you get out of it… you’re impacting the lives of little ones who will be dependent on you and come to see you as part of their extended families, so you should carefully consider the significance of the role.

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