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When you picture a nanny, do you immediately conjure up a Mary Poppins type or the star of the popular ABC show Nanny 911? Your picture may need a bit of adjustment in light of the trend toward hiring men as live-in caretakers of children. Such men may be known by the term manny, a portmanteau word that combines male or man and nanny.
Though female nannies still dominate the childcare scene, there has certainly been an upsurge in the number of trained and skilled men who would like to work in this profession. Often, you hear about celebs hiring a manny, like Britney Spears, Rosie O’Donnell and others. There still exists some traditional prejudice and fears about hiring a manny rather than a female nanny. Can men take as good care of children as women? Are male nannies more likely to be pedophiles?
The first question can be answered with a resounding yes, and the second question requires some pause. Certainly male nannies may be just as likely to abuse children as do female ones, which means background checking, a little home front spying, and assurance of the training of any nanny are in order. According to numerous articles on the new manny movement, some male nannies do have more difficulty finding jobs than do females looking for such work, are often subject to much higher scrutiny than are females, and they still make up a small percentage of nannies on the whole. On the other hand, society is growing more accepting, especially as many men step into what were previously considered “female” roles. Male RNs exist as do many stay at home dads, suggesting it’s a pretty safe bet that men can be compassionate caretakers of children.
There are also some people who specifically look for male role models in the home. Single moms or female couples may especially want regular male influence when they have male children. Studies suggest that strong male figures are equally important to young women and girls, and where this is lacking, some single moms or female couples may specifically seek a manny to help provide this role.
The manny may have been newly christened, but there are certainly incidences of men taking on numerous childcare responsibilities in a parent’s absence. Belles on Their Toes a follow-up novel to Cheaper By The Dozen is a retelling of the real life Gilbreth family, whose famous father, Frank Gilbreth was a pioneer in motion study and engineering. When the father dies, the family’s mother must carry on her husband’s work, often leaving the children for extended periods to travel to lectures. The family’s cook, Tom, takes on a supervisory role of the eleven children, caring for them during illness and health. The novels took place in the early 1900s, suggesting that mannies were in already in existence, and that a male servant could very well take care of the kids in the absence of the parents.
Yet stigma about the manny still exists, although given trends, it’s expected such stigma may eventually resolve. There are many dedicated male nannies who find the profession delightful, and since income can be significant, up to about $50,000 US Dollars (USD) a year, in addition to room and board (if it's a live-in position), we may see more mannies enter the field. Some come with terrific training, and others “have a way with kids,” perhaps acquired from participation in coaching, summer camps and the like.
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