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  • Stephanie Thrower

Why Is Raising Children So Unprofessional?

I’ve been thinking about professionalism a lot recently, especially its relationship with women’s reproduction and childcare. 


I was going to write about it today but then we realized our daycare for our children is closed the day after New Years for professional development of the teachers. 

This isn’t a woe-is-me post about the difficulties of navigating childcare. I’m glad the teachers have training and support on this day and my husband and I made it work.  We’ll have a great day, even better if my 2 year old deigns to stop skipping his nap. 


Amidst popping in my office to provide therapy sessions after skirting out of diaper changes and attempted nap put downs, I reflect on the professionalism I was taught across several graduate programs and about a dozen different institutions. 


Professionalism was about showing a slice of humanness and vulnerability (but still self-aware and contained) with a polished yet creative and smart facade.  


None of that facade actually helped me be a good therapist, but it helped me survive a LOT of supervision, workplace dynamics, consulting with colleagues, interviewing, teaching and training. 


 


 


I just couldn’t maintain that facade as easily when I became a parent.  Even as I was becoming more and more pregnant, I was facing questions and comments I never imagined from my supervisors and clients. My “slice of vulnerability” was busting out. 


The professionalism I was socialized to express in dress, words and tone were all related to class rules (and likely race and gender).  When I disclosed I grew up on a horse ranch in Oklahoma in elite Boston institutions, it may have been perceived as interesting and maybe even a little cute, but it likely also knocked me down a rung. 


But, again not a woe-is-me story of navigating class issues as a White woman.  My point is I see the relationship between professionalism and class (and of course race there too because hey, that’s how White supremacy works). But I don’t understand the mechanisms that keep reproduction and child raising outside of professionalism AND career development when they are so tightly intertwined.


Later in the week, I had a discussion with a mother navigating transition from daycare to preschool. We were talking about the mind-blowing puzzle of finding and paying for aftercare when school ends at 2:30pm.  Parents are navigating an economic and career forced choice that reminds me of how you can’t buy the same amount of hot dogs as hot dog buns. Unfortunately, this dynamic feels like a really effective tool for oppression, especially for women’s careers. It also is a perfect dynamic for parents and educators to be positioned against each other, which also still probably a tool for oppression for women’s careers since educators are largely women. 


So coming from the lens of oppression, why is it important for reproduction, parenting and childcare seem like a threat to professionalism and dare I say career “excellence”?

I know the answer to my question is patriarchy, but I just don’t understand the nuances nor really know the historical frame. I feel like I need to write another dissertation to understand the web of oppression involved. Or, maybe I’m just too much inside the web to see it. 


 


 

I have wondered…what would it take for my vulnerability to stop busting through in order to return to working within elite institutions? I mean, those blazers do NOT fit anymore and they have absolutely NO stretch.  


But beyond me, what might be the costs to parenthood identity development for people to have to fit back into their smart facades after becoming parents? 


What is getting to me most is what does this mean for our children? How does societies’ distinction between professionalism and childcare show how little we value the complexity of raising children? How does the conversation around the impossible costs of childcare reflect what we think it’s worth? And what classism, racism, and sexism mechanisms are underfoot when we work so hard to distance ourselves from knowing and caring about human development? 

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