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Essay winner: Care and cooperativism in early childhood

Since beginning work as an early childhood educator two years ago, I have been struck by the psychological difficulties of performing work that is poorly paid and poorly respected, but that encompasses big, life-giving acts of care, intimacy, warmth, and even love. An emotive dissonance, as Arlie Hochschild would call it. I have been frustrated by the ways in which the supposed feminine, non-technical nature of these life-giving acts is seen as justification for the lack of remuneration, the assumption being: that which is natural is free, or at least cheap. And further, I have been frustrated that in order to agitate for higher wages, early childhood activists have avoided talking of care and intimacy, instead emphasising the technical and bureaucratic aspects of our work.

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Fiction winner: Your cart is empty

Jeff is doing the school run for me today. I’m wondering where he is, if he’s going to want his usual teeny-tiny black coffee in a giant mug, when, just as we’re sitting down to breakfast, he knocks on the glass patio door and hauls it open. I pop a ristretto pod into the coffee machine. He rubs a hand across his bald head.

‘Hey,’ he says, pointing to my coat. ‘I know that coat.’

‘Yes,’ I say, ‘I got it from you. Well, from your shop.’

‘How long did it take to arrive?’

‘Less than a week.’