The preschool job brought
Pacific to Gällivare
”I don't think about whether I would be working with men or women. Everyone is equal and can do their best, regardless of gender. I always think that I work to help the children and I work to help myself”
I remember Pacific vividly as a sort of fresh air in our preschool the very first time I saw him. It was after christmas break and I just returned back to work when I saw this young man who was working that day as a vikarie The children, who are usually quite careful around new faces, were easily drawn to him: chasing Pacific around the school grounds, playing football, and just absorbing and enjoying his light and easy-going nature. A quite rare happening in such a high-stress working environment.
Eventually, we started working in the same preschool. Paci, as everyone fondly calls him, is a wonder to almost everyone: still considered a young man at twenty-two years old, he is somewhat of an anomaly by working in preschool wherein nearly everyone is a woman. Aside from this, he is also a qualified barnskötare.
I have always been curious about an individual's motivation in relation to the work that they do. During one of the days when there was little workload, Paci and I got to talking about him finding his way into the field of early childcare and development.
Being around children and literally taking care of children is definitely something Paci is used to. As the oldest among four siblings, he was already helping out his mother with the care of his two brothers and sister, more so after his father passed away when Paci was just 8 years old. He continued to take on the same responsibility even after they moved from Congo to Sweden in 2014.
– It was tasked to watch over my siblings when my mother went to work. It was a big responsibility especially I was still very young then. I had to cook for them and make sure they are well-taken cared of, he reminisced. This experience was one of the major influences why I took the school program to become a barnskötare.
Paci working inside the preschool.
Deciding to take the barn och fritids school program was met by two different opinions. Some of his friends think that he would not thrive well working in the school system. They actually even encouraged him to pick a different program wherein he could be earning a higher salary afterwards. However, his family and relatives gave him the full support he needed to push through and take the program.
– A few people I know thought that I was making the wrong choice. But I had already decided that I was taking the barn och fritid school program and I knew that I was going to thrive in that field of work. Thankfully, my family and relatives were confident that I know what was best for me. A lot of parents think that they can decided for their children especially what they can study in school. But my mother trusted me that I was making the right decision, Paci explained. Why spend time studying for something and then taking a job that you won't even like eventually? You will just look for another job afterwards. Might as well do something you can thrive in, he added.
Paci already knew that working in preschool can be quite stressful including the fact that this is a female-dominated industry. He also already expected that that there won't be as many men working in preschool as women. This, however, didn't deter him from working in this field.
– I was already expecting that the only male working in a preschool would just be me. But everytime I go to work I always think that 'now i have to work and I have to do my best.' I don't think about whether I would be working with men or women. Everyone is equal and can do their best, regardless of gender. I always think that I work to help the children and I work to help myself, he stated. There is always something new and something happening at work. It is very rewarding to see how a child grows and develops.
Thankfully, my family and relatives were confident that I know what was best for me. A lot of parents think that they can decided for their children especially what they can study in school. But my mother trusted me that I was making the right decision.
The common stereotype that women dominate the field of early childcare and development have some truth into it. According to the 2020 statistics of Förskoleenheten in Gällivare, there are more than 160 educators working in barnomsorg but around only 5% are males. And this statistic is also very common all over the country.
– Working in preschool is not only for women, Paci explained carefully to me. Working in preschool is for everyone. Here in Sweden, we strive hard to fight for equality among everyone. A specific job should not give possibilities only to a specific gender. It should give possibilities to everyone.
When Paci finished the school program he thought that he would easily find work in barnomsorg. But finding work in Bollnäs in Gävle proved to be more challenging that what he anticipated. Due to lack of available work in preschools, he started working in ICA and then as a football trainer for children. Still, his salary was not enough to support himself.
A relative who lives in Gällivare encouraged Paci to move here and see what opportunities he could find in the kommun. Fortunately, there was a big need for barnskötare and he easily found work as a vikarie one month after moving to Gällivare in the start of 2020. One month after working as a springvikarie, he secured a permanent employment in a preschool after a colleague encouraged him to apply for an available post. Seeing how Paci was dedicated and passionate about his work with the children it came as no suprise that everyone wanted to work with him. The rest, they say, is history.
Before the restrictions due to the pandemic, Paci worked as an assistant football trainer of 16 year olds for the Gällivare SK football team.
You cannot just think about the money all the time. There are factors that you have to think as well like your health and most importantly that you like what you are doing and you thrive in your workplace
– It went really fast for me when I got permanently hired. And I really thrive in my job. I like the children, I like my colleagues and I like the parents as well. I like my job because there are a lot of things to do and explore. The children, they have so much energy. I usually show and teach them how to play football. I hope that eventually I will also inspire them to play sports, Paci mentions with happiness and hope in his eyes. I also have a cousin who also took the barn och fritids school program and I encouraged him to move here in Gällivare because there are many available jobs here.
Gällivare in fact provides numerous opportunities for people from all walks of life. One of the major industries in town is mining and it is quite surprising that Paci has not yet been enticed to start a career in the mining industry. When asked, Paci said that the thought had actually crossed his mind. But during that time, the job required a driving license which he didn't have yet then. But now, even after he had acquired a driving license, he still opted to stay in barnomsorg.
– You cannot just think about the money all the time. There are factors that you have to think as well like your health and most importantly that you like what you are doing and you thrive in your workplace, Paci clarified. He is hoping he can pursue his plans of studying to become a förskollärare by next year
According to Paci, he feels proud of himself that he thrives in a female-dominated work.
It seems like Paci is fitting well in this new life here in Gällivare. One of the best things about Gällivare, he said, is the people: everyone is nice, easy to talk to, and not too self-important. As a matter of fact, he already made new friends here and found an outlet to pursue his interest in football. Before the restrictions due to the pandemic, Paci worked as an assistant football trainer of 16 year olds for the Gällivare SK football team.
Aside from this Paci thinks that Gällivare is a good place to live if you like being outdoors because the nature here is beautiful especially during summer months. He sees himself staying here for three to five more years and then see where the road takes him.
One of the things that is pulling him back in permanently committing to a long-term life in Gällivare is his family who still lives in Bollnäs. Since he grew up in a tight-knit family, it is understandable that living far away from your main support system can be challenging. Paci mentioned that he had tried to encourage his mother to move here. But the cold weather had deterred her from doing so.
– I already told my mother that you have to dress up for the weather, Paci said. Of course, det finns inget dåligt väder bara dåliga kläder, right?
This is one of the things that Paci and his mother have in common though: the dislike for cold. Paci said he still has not fully-embraced the long winter of the north. Well, he has only lived here for over a year and this is just his second winter. Though naturally athletic, he has yet to find a winter sport that would suit him.
Perhaps one of you can teach Paci how to snowboard and ski so he stays a little longer than five years in Gällivare, yes? Because this town needs more people who believe that Gällivare is a place of possibilities.