When it comes to hiring a caregiver, every family has a list of “must-have” qualifications: Maybe they need someone who can drive, work late without notice, play outdoors with the kids for hours, or tackle 7th-grade homework with ease. But is it an unspoken qualification that said caregiver be female?
We asked local moms whether they would ever hire a “manny” and the responses, while mixed, were telling. Whereas some moms said that they would consider qualified candidates of either gender (while admitting they themselves had never hired a male sitter), several gave an emphatic, “No, never!”
New Jersey mom and EasyLearn Languages founder Claudia Krusch has gone the untraditional route by hiring two male nannies, one who was 17, and another who was 14. “The 17-year-old was great, played with my son, and stayed out the whole time,” she says. “But the 14-year-old was on his phone constantly. I had to tell his mom and she refunded my money.” The fact that Krusch knew the parents of the boys she hired was a huge factor in her hiring. While she says she would hire a male sitter again, she admits, “but not a man from a website, somebody I don’t know.” (Obviously, it’s essential to conduct a background check for anybody who would work with your children, regardless of gender.)
So what are the advantages to a male caregiver? For some families, a manny brings a different “male energy.” Many moms report that male caregivers are more willing to let the kids make a mess, get dirty, roughhouse, play sports, and be outdoors for hours at a time. Other advantages highlighted include that a manny can be stronger and more able to help with physical tasks, which can be a major asset for single parents or families with unique situations. Perhaps most important, a manny provides a strong male role model which can be great for both boys and girls.
Many happy parents commented on their wonderful experience with mannies on aupairmom.com, an informational site founded by C.V. Harquail. Some reported they chose a male over female caregiver because they found this meant “less drama” in the home. One commenter noted, “I think we Americans are very sexist—why is it we assume that only women can be caring, loving, and cook? I love getting pictures texted to me at work of the apricot-stuffed, bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin he’s making for dinner. He always pitches in without having to be asked, is a safe driver, and always, always is interested in what the boys are doing. There is not a pedestal high enough to put him on in their eyes.”
For those who are hiring live-in help, a male in the home will bring a different dynamic to the family. For example, with a nanny, a father may be concerned about what Harquail refers to as “relaxed dress,” whereas with a manny around, the mom will more likely need to be the one to consider modesty and privacy issues.
The true difference between male and female caregivers may be the bias that exists in today’s culture. As Harquail highlights, “One of the biggest quiet challenges of having a manny is you’ll probably find yourself needing to defend men as child caregivers.” She concludes, “I personally think that this would be a great contribution to changing the world—opening up other people to the idea that childcare by men is normal and good—not exceptional or weird.”
More by NJ Family's Real Moms of NJ Blogger, Anna Sandler: