Weaving together numerous richly detailed interviews and surveys with recent feminist literature on the role of caregiving in women’s lives and investigations of women’s involvement in home-based work, this book explores the daily lives of family day care providers. Margaret K. Nelson uncovers the dilemmas providers face in their relationships with parents who bring children to them, with the children themselves, with the providers’ family members, and with representatives of the state’s regulatory system. She links these dilemmas to the contradiction between an increasing demand for personalized, cheap, informal child care services and a public policy that subjects child care providers to public scrutiny while giving them limited material and ideological support.
Nelson’s discussions with day care providers reveal considerable tensions that emerge over issues of control and intimacy. The dual motivation of business and family gives rise to problems, such as how to maintain enough distance from the parents to set limits on hours while providing personal service in a family setting. Family day care providers often enter this occupation as a way to engage in paid work and meet their own child care responsibilities. This book looks at how they manage to negotiate a setting that simultaneously involves money, trust, and caring.
Family day care represents one of the most prevalent sources of child care for working parents. It is an especially common form of care for very young children, yet it remains little studied. In the popular press, stereotypes—many of them negative—prevail. This book substitutes a thorough, detailed examination of this child care setting from a perspective that has generally been ignored-that of the caregiver. While providing useful insights into the role of caregiving in women’s lives and the phenomenon of home-based work, it contributes to the ongoing policy debates about child care.
In the series Women in the Political Economy, edited by Ronnie J. Steinberg.