Venetta Strickland, Center Teacher, Raleigh, NC

Child care is my passion but I’m not paid enough to provide for my own children.

Venetta and familyBeing a child care teacher is my passion. But sometimes I feel ashamed. I feel like less of a mom. That’s because even though I work hard and I’m good at my job, I am not paid enough to provide for my own children.

I’ve been working in child care for 13 years. I have my CDA and I’m working on my bachelor’s in early childhood education. I’m regarded as one of the best teachers at the center where I work. I enjoy teaching and nurturing the whole child. I help to prepare children and their families for kindergarten and beyond. I also work with after-school children, assisting them with homework and engaging in fun activities.

Even though I work full time, I cannot afford my own place to live. I lost my apartment and now my three kids and I are living with my mom. We share one bedroom. They ask me when we are going to get our place back. I try to stay positive, but it’s hard. It’s belittling.

That feeling is too common in my field. Studies show that early childhood teachers have high levels of anxiety, stress and depression—just like other moms who are working yet can’t afford to pay for child care or rent. Low pay leads to high turnover, stress and anxiety, and a system that doesn’t work for parents, teachers or children. For child care teachers to be able to provide the best care possible, we need to know where our next meal is coming from. We need to be able to afford a place to live.

If child care teachers were paid $15 an hour, I wholeheartedly believe the quality of teaching and care would improve drastically. And mothers like me would have peace of mind knowing that we can take care of our kids too.