Bring On the Mannies: You Should Totally Hire a Male Babysitter

Babysitting was something girls did when I was growing up. We weren't necessarily qualified to do it, nor did we always like doing it. But we did it because there were not many ways girls could earn money. Often we sat because the parents who needed a babysitter called our parents and our arms were twisted and we spent an afternoon or an evening or even sometimes an overnight taking care of someone else's bratty kids. We all knew who paid the least and tried to get out of those jobs because they almost always were for the worst behaved kids. I never heard of a guy babysitting back then. Guys got to mow lawns, and it paid a whole lot more per hour. Our only perk was the cookie jar ... if the kids ever went to sleep.

Over the years, a few friends' boys babysat for my boys. But it was rare. I think only in the current generation is it more acceptable for guys to babysit. It makes sense. Fathers are more involved in child rearing and gender bias seems just a little bit less pervasive. However, although more men are training to be primary teachers in England, here in the US, more and more women are teaching our children in the upper grades (in the lower grades the percentages have changed very little). Fewer guys are teaching our children.

Maybe the big change is that people, especially millennials, need jobs. Summer jobs started drying up with the economy and many were snatched by the overqualified (recent or not so recent college graduates). But babysitting seems less affected by the economy even though full-time childcare may be less affordable when money is tight.

With about half of the births in the U.S. now to single mothers, a male babysitter offers an opportunity for positive nurturing experience with a male that the child may not otherwise get. Guys do guy stuff and can wear the little ones out so that they sleep very well.

My delightful, sometimes impish, 25-year-old nephew, Dan, has had several gigs as a "manny." The eldest of five children in a military family, he helped look after his younger siblings. He claims that the wide variety of ages of siblings and playmates gave him networking opportunities for babysitting jobs. He worked for low pay and helped out family friends, a habit that intensified when the family moved to Okinawa, Japan.  Upon returning to the states, he and his next two siblings were teenagers and operated the "Babysitting Cartel," ensuring that anyone who called their house looking for a babysitter would score. His first real Manny opportunity was with a family of three boys of two busy working parents. They were looking for a "big brotherly" sitter who could also help with math and reading skills and keep the children busy with activities. 

Dan moved to New York City after college and met his neighbors while riding his unicycle. Because he was already working as a tutor and had previous experience, they began to frequently engage him to care for their two children (after they checked his excellent references). Dan feels strongly that a good network and excellent performance record will get a man or a woman babysitting work. He never faced reluctance to hire him because of his gender and his "no TV" rule was popular with parents who wanted a sitter who spent quality time with the kids.

Lindy West, who penned the article "Male Babysitters Are the Answer to All the World's Problems," writes that the gender landscape would profoundly change if "we did something as simple as normalizing male babysitters." Citing herself as an example of the incorrect notion that women are natural caregivers, she claims that looking at childcare as a "Women's issue" is "at the root of so many gender issues that circumscribe and limit women's careers."

I would hire a Manny. Especially as a single mother with boys. Young boys like to hang out with guys and it feels more like a play date. Hopefully, bringing more males into the fold will help raise the salaries of all babysitters. I think that the low pay for hard work (diapers, housekeeping, cooking, nursing) discouraged guys from babysitting in the past; as with many other professions, women were underpaid but willing to do the work because it paid something. Eliminating the gender bias against the guys would be a good thing; raising the salaries for all babysitters would help our sisters and the occasional manny brother.