Beyond Bilingual Brags: The Immigrant Educators Making It Happen

If you are anything like me, you’ve spent countless hours on social media scrolling through interviews and casual Instagram posts of celebrities gushing about how their little ones can seamlessly communicate in Spanish, French, Italian, Mandarin, and many other languages. In the glamorous world of celebrity parenting, it has become increasingly fashionable to boast about raising bilingual or multilingual children. 

For instance, Hollywood darling Gwyneth Paltrow and her ex-husband Chris Martin sought an educator fluent in multiple languages and insisted their kids speak in Spanish. Similarly, Rosamund Pike, Star of Gone Girl, mentioned her children are so fluent in Mandarin that they are teaching her the language. Likewise, Hollywood icon George Clooney has said his children were speaking fluent Italian by the age of 3.

However, behind the hard work of building these language skills of celebrity children—and all our children for that matter—there are unsung heroes who don’t get the spotlight, the immigrant child care providers and early educators.

While these celebrity children enjoy the perks of a multilingual upbringing, their care providers, often from different parts of the world, face systemic barriers that hinder their own opportunities for advancement. What if we redirected some of that celebrity energy from boasting about their bilingual kids to addressing the root causes of inequity faced by many of these child care providers and early educators? 

Many immigrant early educators face economic struggles, lack of access to health care, and limited opportunities for their own children. With a median wage of just $13.71 in 2022, early educators overall are one of the lowest-paid occupations. Foreign-born women in early education make a median wage of only $11.54. For undocumented nannies who work as early educators in their employer’s homes, they often earn even less. They also face exploitation due to language barriers, lack of legal protections, and unequal power dynamics. Immigrant care providers can be deterred from reporting mistreatment (such as unpaid overtime hours, withholding of pay, or rejecting time-off requests) due to fears of deportation, risking their legal status, or losing out on further immigration opportunities. 

Immigrant child care providers and early educators play a crucial role in supporting children’s development by providing numerous skills and a nurturing environment. They bring language and cultural diversity, which enriches the learning experience and supports language acquisition for all children, not just those from bilingual or celebrity families. The unique skill sets of immigrant educators are invaluable assets to the workforce, enhancing early childhood education in a country with an increasingly diverse younger population.

Recognizing their contributions goes beyond mere acknowledgment; it requires actionable advocacy. By shifting the conversation from bragging to meaningful actions, celebrities can play a part in creating an equitable society where child care providers’ and early educators’ contributions are recognized and valued. These care providers, who are disproportionately women of color and immigrant women, are the backbone of our community and our economy. Advocating for their recognition and fair treatment—including good wages, benefits, and a path to unionization—regardless of their background or immigration status—would provide the support they deserve. This approach centers their essential role in shaping the next generation and ensures their contributions are recognized and valued.

Next time you see a celebrity gushing about their child’s bilingual or multilingual abilities, let’s recognize who’s most likely behind their child’s achievements. Immigrant child care providers and early educators play a crucial role in these successes, and the success of all of our kids. Let’s ensure they are equally celebrated and valued.