The Manny Poppins Phenomenon
Childcare is no more a career for the girls. Male nannies or mannies, as they are known, are increasingly invading what can almost exclusively be considered as a female turf. Working mothers are increasingly open to the idea of hiring mannies rather than nannies.
According to a survey, eight of ten parents replied that hiring a manny is more acceptable today than it was ten years ago. 94 percent of respondents said they would surely consider hiring a manny to take care of their children. And about 20 percent said someone they knew actually had a manny.
According to an October 2009 survey by Children’s Workforce Development Council, mannies form a miniscule 1 percent of over 30,000 registered nannies working in England. Though this number is small, what is worth noting is that more males are looking at childcare as a long term career option and have a strong commitment towards working with children.
Another trend in nanny business is mushrooming of agencies specialising in male nannies. Though there is a societal prejudice over males entering childminding business, the manny population is on a steady rise.
Some celebrities like Britney Spears, Jemima Khan and Gwyneth Paltrow are among those who hired the services of a manny and certainly had the media talk about it but there is also a general surge in the public interest about manny services. So why is there a sudden interest in manny poppins phenomenon?
Matthew Black, who has been in manny business for eight years, said that the threat of an attractive female spending so much time in the house is an issue to working mothers. Male nannies, on the other hand, do not offer any titillation to fathers and do not stoke the natural female insecurity, jealousy and suspicion in anxious mothers.
Mothers are also happy that their boys are at more ease with a manny than a nanny. Mannies do not mind to go out, get a little dirty and play with the kids a lot more than nannies who just tolerate the boys. Young boys relate to their female nannies as an extension of their mom rather than simply a girl. But with a manny, it’s different. He is like their elder brother and the kids tend to be completely at ease with him.
“The attitudes are really changing. Earlier when someone hears the words male nanny, the first thing that would probably come to their mind is paedophilia. Such popular anxiety is lessening and now people view a manny with more respect and admiration. The bottom line is, man or woman, anyone can do anything to your kid. To think that only men can be sexual predators and female nannies are safe can give you a false sense of security but this is not true,” Black said.
He has a point. The idea that male nannies might be a sexual threat to children is overblown. A 1988 study by Crimes Against Children Research Centre at New Hampshire found that women are more likely to abuse children at daycares than males. Another 1995 academic research paper found that 23 percent of female sexual abusers were babysitters and 8 percent were teachers, only 8 percent of the male sexual abusers were babysitters and none were teachers. A 1997 BBC report found that 86 percent of sexual- abuse victims were not believed when they complained that their abusers were actually women.
Male nannies realise that they are entering what is traditionally a female bastion and hence put a lot more effort than nannies in doing their job. They usually have more education and experience and hence a more verifiable history than nannies. The natural hesitation over male nannies also drives agencies to conduct a more thorough background check and ensures only the most qualified come out on the top.