Tali Freedman

Respect and Thanks… At the very least

My name is Tali. I’m a developer and I live in the Gush. I have 3 little children who are in full-time childcare.

I recently went back to work after maternity leave and had to find a daycare for my baby. It’s never easy to give such a tiny fragile angel over to someone else’s care. Thank God we love our daycare teacher. She has a warm and loving personality and seems to always be calm and in control. I always wonder how she does it and if she can teach me! We got the last spot. It was saved for us because my older daughter was already in that Mishpachton (daycare). It seems like we got the last spot in the whole yishuv (settlement). Any baby born after my baby (thankfully we have a very fertile neighborhood there are at least 6 that I can think of off the top of my head) will not have a spot in any of the institutions for early childcare for this year. I guess that means their mothers just won’t be going back to work until the beginning of the next school year?

I feel very blessed to have wonderful childcare but there were a series of events that happened recently that made me really think about turning around and going right back to pick up my kids and taking them home. Giving up the whole “Ima kadima” thing.

At morning drop-offs I started noticing a different Sayat(daycare assistant) every day in my 4 yr olds Gan (daycare). Only to learn from our Rosh moetzas Facebook post about the countrywide shortage. (For better or worse I never read the news and would never have know about it had it not directly affected me) 

There are apparently 3,000 Sayat positions that need to be filled countywide. There are Ganim that are just not able to open in different cities everyday because there is such a shortage for replacement Sayot. A quick google search shows hundreds of ads looking to hire daycare assistants and teachers. The most recent Gush Etzion magazine which is about 10 pages long had 5 ads advertising open jobs as a Sayat

Feeling helpless I messaged our Rosh Moetza(head of local jurisdiction) asking what I could do as a parent. Apparently, there is nothing I can do. Except try to find people who would be willing to work.

Obviously not easy to do. Pay is fixed at 35 shekel an hour in our jurisdiction. The rosh Moetza explained that “this rate cannot be changed because of agreements between the teacher’s union and the ministry of interior and ministry of finance”.. Whatever that means. 

Maybe I could volunteer to work when a Sayat is missing. And get a bunch of parents to also volunteer to each take a day. That would work for now ..  but we would still have the problem of no one actually wanting to work in a Gan. Long hours 7:30-16:00. Emotionally draining and low wages.   No one wants to work in those conditions which means the only people who are going to work in those positions are the people that have no other choice. (Or in our case the complete angels who work in the field because they believe and understand the importance.)

Last week a story broke in Efrat of a Gannenet Tzaharon( afternoon daycare teacher) that was abusing the children. From the first hand stories I’ve heard this Gannenet was not evil. Her abuse likely stemmed from a lack of understanding of child development. The things she did to these children may have been things she did to her own children. But she was deeply damaging and these children and their parents will have a lot of processing to do in order to deal with the effects of her actions.Apparently this woman was “fired from her position with an open police investigation that forbids her from working with children… For the next 90 days”.

The people who have no other choice are not the people I want to be taking care of my children. I don’t care if my bus driver, gardener or cashier have a criminal record (not to downplay or bash those careers or people who work in those careers) I don’t care if they are grumpy or have low patience. Everyone has tough days.

I do care very much if the person responsible for my child’s wellbeing has been found guilty of abuse or neglect and that they are emotionally stable.

Children are wonderfully joyous and delightful. They are also tiring and extremely challenging. Being a Gannenet or Sayat is not easy. It should not be glorified babysitting. It takes a special personality and emotional intelligence to be able to control and guide thirty 4 year olds. It takes self confidence, kindness and understanding to be able to care for another human being. As a mother I work on these things everyday. But I only have one 4 yr old, not 30 of them all at the same time!

I want the Gan staff to be the people I look to fit parenting advice and psychological explanations for my child’s phases and learning process. 

I told my boss I’m quitting to become a Gannenet. He laughed at me and said you wouldn’t last a day.. and then proceeded to role play kids yelling at Hebrew.

He’s right I’m not quitting. I wouldn’t last a day.

The Gannenot, Sayot, and daycare teachers(really all teachers)  need to be recognized and respected for who they are and what they do. The respect needs to come in the form of monetary compensation but it also needs to come in the day to day interactions with parents. 

Knowing that my children are safe allows me to go to work and live my “Ima Kadima” lifestyle. I rely on my children’s caretakers. They are the backbone of our society. Without them parents would not work and the Israeli economy (as a start-up nation) would not grow.

I didn’t quite understand the importance of last year’s teacher strikes. I mostly felt annoyed by the forever changing schedules. today I just don’t understand how daycare teachers are not striking.

If I could, I would happily pay more taxes toward daycare assistants’ salaries. They deserve it and I want the wonderful people who are fit for these important positions not to pass them up because of lack of monetary compensation.

I am truly at a loss as to how to fix this situation. If anyone has any ideas for me please reach out!

Until then I will continue to respect and thank our Gannenet in our daily encounters. I will continue to ask every new Sayat her name and where she is from and thank them for coming in. 

Yesterday my daughter asked me when she’s going to become an Ima. I told her after she gets married. And then she proceeded to tell me that after she becomes an Ima she wants to become a Gannenet. I hope she does.  

About the Author
Tali made Aliyah from Toronto, Canada and currently lives in Gush Etzion with her husband and 3 little children. She works in hi-tech as a full-stack developer.