nanny wars

Stop Being Sexist And Give Mannies A Chance

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hire-a-mannyMannies. Mitters. These are the cutesy names that have been assigned to males who take on sitter or nanny roles, to differentiate them from “normal” (read: female) sitters and nannies. In Why You Shouldn’t Overlook Hiring A Male Babysitter over at The Huffington Post, Lynn Perkins-the founder and CEO of a case for hiring dudes, saying:

“Whether you’ve never given it much thought or need some convincing, it’s worth letting go of any bias you may have for female sitters and consider the compelling reasons to hire a man to care for your kids”

Those three compelling reasons are; “It brings diversity to your child’s life and allows you to do your part to break down gender biases.”, “They bring a different style of play.”, and “It’s an opportunity to provide your kids with a valuable male role model.”

While the last two are debatable at best, the first one had the wannabe social justice crusader in me nodding along in vigorous agreement. Then I stopped because it came to my attention that I might be a hypocrite. I don’t know that I would hire a manny.

I decided to ask around and see just how much of a hypocrite I was. In my extensive study of eight whole people, I found that most moms said that they would have no problem hiring a manny for their son, but would not hire one for their daughters.

Most fathers said that they would be uncomfortable with a manny for either their son or daughter, but would hire one anyway, as long as that person had excellent references or if he was a father himself. The requirements they had for a female nanny were less stringent.

Only two people said that they would hire one without hesitation. One, my brother, said that he would expect references from anyone looking to watch his kid, no matter their sex. The other, one of my mom friends, said the same.

The entire thing has forced me to look at my own biases when it comes to male caregivers. On the one hand, I will defend any male who wants to babysit or nanny, but on the other I just can’t picture it for my own kid. I need to change that.

Why are we all so weird about guys watching kids? We laud fathers for the smallest things, but only because we’re still so enamored of one that actually gets involved. Instead of giving out gold stars for basic parenting duties, we should be expecting it. Yet when a man does want to watch kids, we all side eye him suspiciously.

I think that everyone is so inundated by the bumbling idiot dad trope and the henpecked, beleaguered father that would rather drink beer and watch T.V. that we can’t wrap our brains around a male who actually wants to watch kids and is kick-ass at it. If they do, there must be something wrong with them, right?

The unspoken “something wrong” is, in my opinion, the fear that a man will abuse a child. Well, we need to get over it. Yes, it does happen, but the idea that every man is a molester just waiting to strike is harmful to men and women, and unfair to victims of female abusers. It insults men who don’t fit perfectly into the “macho man” gender archetype, and it insults women by perpetuating the stereotype that raising children is women’s work.

I’m kind of past the point where I’m looking for childcare options. I have enough sitters and friends lined up that I don’t need to go looking for more. But if I ever did have to, I think I would have to really examine my reasons for passing over male candidates, and maybe give one a shot.

(Image: rSnapshot Photos/Shutterstock)