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Manny Wanted: Must Apply Pink Nail Polish Perfectly

Becoming a Male Childcare Provider In A Female-Dominated Profession

If he ever chooses to be one, my friend Tom  would make an outstanding parent.

Nurturing and creative, his nature is to make things better than they are. Whenever I see him, Tom is making something beautiful; artfully embroidered pillowcases suitable for the boudoir of royalty, stacks of swirled multicolor cupcakes whose delectable frosting would make Martha Stewart weep with envy.

In addition, Tom happens to be no slouch in those departments considered by more traditionally conventional standards as "manly." Previously employed by Lowe's Hardware, he knows his way blindfolded around the tool, lumber, plumbing equipment and electrical aisles. Besides making things, he can fix broken things.

During the dozen years we have known each other, I have gotten engaged and married, moved to the RiverDell area and had a child. My daughter, now 7 years old, absolutely adores Tom.

She loves the respectful way he listens to her yak about grade-school dramas, how he styled her hair into a "princess chignon" for her birthday, and most of all the way he patiently applies the most perfect pink nail polish (with glittering stars) to her tiny fingertips.

Recently Tom informed me that his natural gifts with children has led him to consider changing careers to become a "Manny."

When I was in the market for at-home childcare, I asked RiverDell friends and neighbors for recommendations, put up a sign at the and , checked out the babysitter list at the local . I contacted local churches and as well. I called several local pre-schools, such as and , hoping that some well-loved staffer might be looking for extra work.

I interviewed, called every reference, did little "meet-ups" with any potential new babysitter and my child before leaving them alone together. I was fortunate to find several people who were not only reliable, safe, sane and fun, but who were also what I believed to be good role models in my absence.

Still, there were failures:
A kind but aging woman whose physical condition diminished soon after being hired... to the point where she no longer lift a small child, much less chase down a fleeing toddler.

A lovely-seeming young woman in the process of getting her teaching degree, who I hired as a mother's helper. She left the baby sitting alone on the street, completely unattended, to come back inside and use the bathroom. 

Then there was the highly-recommended but text-addled teen, who my child reported, rarely spoke a word once I left the premises.

Years ago when I cleaned apartments in Manhattan for a living, I often came across maids who became babysitters after their employers had children. While some of them were caring towards their charges, others seemed bored and dismissive. I found it surprising that people delegated their dirty laundry and children to the same person, as if it took similar skills to properly manage both.

In our area, as in most parts of the world, the mother is the primary gatekeeper of hired childcare. It is usually mom who scopes out the possibilities and writes the ad for Craigslist, unlike "Mr. Baxter," the controlling father in Mary Poppins who penned his own dreary list of "proper" nanny qualifications.

But as the story goes, the children write a musical advertisement of their own nanny must-haves: "a cheery disposition, rosy cheeks, no warts....play games, all sorts!"  My friend Tom could  easily have fulfilled all of their wishes and become a dream "Manny Poppins." But would Mr. Baxter have hired him?

Tom says he is "a little concerned that "people won't feel comfortable hiring a man  to care for their children." Celebrities like Brittany Spears, Elle Macpherson, and Madonna are just a few high-profile moms who have opted for a "manny" to care for their children. While still in the minority of the child-care workforce, male nannies and babysitters are growing in number.

But according to several studies, it appears that fathers, more than mothers, have anxieties regarding male childcare workers. Still, for some families a man not only fills the bill, but provides something that may be missing. In the case of single or divorced mothers hoping to offer a good male role model to their children, a manny can bring a very calming, positive energy into the home.

Still, some families, if given a choice, actually prefer the idea of a capable male nanny to ensure their children's safety. A friend of mine who lives in a less than safe neighborhood in an urban area, says she feels a bit of extra comfort having a male nanny walk her kids to and from school.

For Tom there is still some work ahead; cpr classes, fingerprints, background checks and certification. But when asked what he anticipates the most difficult thing will be about his new profession, he says, "Kids change a little bit every day. You have to be attuned and keep up with every new development. Kids are a work in progress."

As I watch him purposefully, patiently stitching a complex detail along the edge of his embroidery, I know that whatever family hires Tom, their children will be in very good hands.

:) May 26, 2011 at 10:37 AM
I hope I am open-minded enough to hire the right person for my child. No matter what their gender.
Candi May 26, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Mannies are male nannies. Television shows have depicted mannies for decades. In the 1970’s, Mr. French acted as a manny for the children on “Family Affair”. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Tony was a manny on “Who’s the Boss”. In the 2000’s, Freddie Prinze, Jr. played a one-show bit part: a manny for Ross and Rachel’s daughter on “Friends”. Once a rarity, mannies are becoming more common since stars like Britney Spears, Madonna, and Mandy Patinkin have made headlines for hiring mannies for their children. Why do people hire mannies? A brief list of some of the reasons are below. “I hired a manny because I have all boys.” “I’m a single mom and want a male figure for my children.” “My husband travels a lot for work, so we hired a manny who can take our son camping and do a lot of boy-things with him.” “My husband and I have four children (three daughters and one son). My husband said that he’s swimming in estrogen at our house. He insisted that we hire a manny instead of a nanny to increase the testosterone factor in our house.” “Our parenting style, our lifestyle, is very gentle and reserved. When our son developed an interest in sports and wrestling, neither of us knew anything about that. We hired a manny that would share our son’s interests.” “Our household is a two-parent (two mommy) household, so ...http://tinyurl.com/ydq3x7l
Cous Vicki May 27, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Wish Tom was around when I needed him. Divorced, living in an apt. in NYC with a 2 yr. old, needing to find a job, I interviewed a slew of women. Found one who seemed perfect - until a neighbor called to tell me my son was on the balcony alone throwing my 45 rpm records (remember them?) down into the street. I hurried home and found her on the phone completely ignoring my child. Fired her on the spot. Through an agency I hired a magnificent woman from Africa who had 8 children of her own back in her homeland. She was trying to earn enough to bring them to America. We (I had a roommate with 2 boys, but that is another story) converted the dining room into a bedroom for her and gave her room and board and a salary which she sent back to her family. She eventually was able to move into a place of her own about the time our boys were ready for Kindergarten. Soooo - my suggestion to anyone out there looking for a nanny or manny is to go the agency route because they do thorough background and reference checks. Check on the agencies background first. I digressed, as I usually do. Back to Tom........ As long as he has the right credentials, and from your description he sounds like a dream come true, I'd hire him in the blink of an eye. Some might think he is gay because of his "so-called female" abilities, but to me that would make him even more desirable as a Manny. I wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor. Cous, V.
Andrea Kahn May 27, 2011 at 10:47 PM
Tom just celebrated his 13th year in a relationship, which also speaks to his ability to "commit!" I personally think there are a great many people who would benefit from his many abilities, and I will pass on your wishes for good luck to him! Thanks!

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