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“Not everyone can do this”: Childcare context and the practice of skill in emotional labor


Scholarship remains divided about whether emotional labor is ‘skilled’. Interrogating gendered skill constructs that render emotions in work invisible, I examine two organizational contexts in the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector: family and center-based care. I draw from 43 interviews, primarily with Latina and White women workers, reflecting feminized and racialized workplaces. I also draw from ethnographic and observational data. Challenging the particular devaluation of family-based care, findings reveal that the practice of skill in emotional labor is organizationally shaped across less and more institutionalized forms of ECEC. Examining worker critiques of professionalization norms and credential-based skill metrics, autonomy is also identified as a pre-requisite for embodied, tacit and discretionary skills in the emotional labor of ECEC. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States
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