Can we afford to have a child?
Jen Olson, an early childhood professional with over 10 years of experience, thinks of herself as a lifelong learner, and brings that experience into her teaching daily. She recently realized that she needed to practice more self-care, and that modeling this for her students could create a learning opportunity for them as well. She explains, “If I come back from a meeting and I am rushing in, and I arrive to 14 preschoolers who want to share something with me, I need to just put my things down and say, ‘Hey friends, I actually really need to take a deep breath right now.’ They say, ‘Yeah, you do need that. Let's do that together, let's help you!’”
Jen is passionate about her work and about guiding young children through their own development, and is currently completing graduate studies in educational leadership, where she is the only early childhood professional in the program. She works tirelessly to advocate for the importance of early childhood, noting that ultimately she cares most that the public takes this learning seriously: “There are consequences to me not being respected as a professional, but there are also consequences to children not being respected as competent and capable, and if people would further recognize that, there would be global implications to that.”
Beyond this attention to the inherent value of children and their learning, Jen also experiences a much more personal obstacle as an early childhood educator: despite all her education and time in the field, Jen is not sure if she makes enough money to afford having a child of her own. She explains, “Now I’m at a place where I'm starting to have conversations with my family about having children, and the kind of sacrifices and/or compromises that will need to be made to be able to afford to do that. And the fact that that is a reality for me means that it is a reality for many people. We wonder, ‘Can we afford to have a child? How does this systematically work for us?’”
For Jen, the education system of the future must be one that understands early childhood as the beginning of a lifetime of learning. She argues that increased investment in early childhood would be the first step to creating such a collaborative educational system: “Whether you're teaching infants or third graders or adults, a shift in funding would elevate the level of so many components of education. And what comes to mind is care, but also advocacy and relationship, and respect—opportunities for things to be viewed as more collaborative and supportive.”