An association with mothering is viewed as the greatest stumbling block in the path to raising the quality and status of childminding. As a broadly conceived rite de passage, this article suggests, professionalisation offers childminders a symbolic route out. It is a ritual process which demands the production of 'fabrications'; particular artefacts, special words and appropriate modes of behaviour which are produced specifically to meet the regulatory gaze. When childminders engage in performative professionalism, it is proposed, they gain recognition as bona fide members of the children's workforce, but their work is changed in ways which make it less meaningful for them. Presenting a phenomenology of their encounter with a widely diffused 'technology of quality', the paper reveals how childminders' collective identity is both endangered and engendered in struggles over particular cultural forms. Interpreting data gathered through ethnographic fieldwork with childminders in inner London, the article draws on and extends work focused on audit culture and performativity in secondary schools by synthesising it with feminist work on women's knowledge and the ethics of care.