Would you hire a Male Mary Poppins as a Manny to look after your children?

Apparently, London is seeing the rise of the ‘manny’ and the number of male babysitters working in the capital has almost doubled.  Is this a new phenomenon? If so I was probably one of the first to employ a ‘manny’ although 25 years ago, we just called them male au pairs.

Our male au pair was a strapping 25-year-old ex-Czech Republic footballer and you can imagine how this went down with my 3 football mad boys. It also went down well with my girlfriends and my mother whose visits to the house for some reason seemed to increase.

That aside he was a good choice.  Of course, as with any different culture there are contrary sets of values and maybe with a male child carer, even more so.  Perhaps in the  Czech Republic 25 years ago they were a bit more macho that what I was used to. And there were times when I would have to remind him that certain behaviours were not the norm in our house. Such as telling my 7-year-old that ‘boys don’t cry’ was not appropriate.

With any new child carer there was stuff that needed to be sorted.  But the relationship worked very well and he stayed for 18 months and was probably the tidiest and cleanest child carer that we employed  in our 15 years of nannies, mannies and au pairs.

The horrible  news reports of child abuse in football clubs might well alarm and put off some parents from employing a ‘manny’. This probably wasn’t helped by the much-criticised remarks from the former Tory leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsome who was reported back in the summer as saying that it was “cautious and sensible” not to employ male nannies because of the “odds” they could be paedophiles.  Not a wise comment.

With any nanny, you employ male or female you need to carry out thorough checks and not just rely on the agencies  as some  are a lot more  stringent with their checks than others, or take  written reference that the child carer may bring to the interview as proof of reliability.  Anyone could have written the reference.  Call up their previous employers and talk with them, ask them lots of questions and find out why they hired them, what their duties were, what kind of relationship they had with the children and why they left.

I learnt many years ago – 30 in fact – that the only way to employ a good child carer was to carry out your own checks and to have a contract outlining all their duties before taking them on.  And have regular chats about how things were going.

Of course,  even with all the checks there will be some mistakes.  Like the young girl from Grimsby who had never left home,  never eaten pasta,  was fearful of the tube and couldn’t get used to having dinner rather than tea at 5 pm; the girl who had an eating disorder and smoked too much pot and the Italian ‘manny’  who lasted 5 days  with us because he was so homesick that he cried himself to sleep every night. But overall we had some fabulous  experiences and many of them are still friends today. In fact, I am godmother to several of their own children.

Just a few thoughts of why it might be a good idea to hire a ‘Manny’

  • It breaks down gender bias – good for children to see both men and women in a caring role
  • A valuable role model – it’s not just single mums who need a ‘manny’ to provide their kids with a good male role model. It gives the child the opportunity to have a ‘big brother’ type of relationship with their nanny
  • A different experience – I know I might be in danger here of sounding sexist and yes female nannies can be very physical but a manny may offer a different kind of physical experience and be more likely to become the child’s high energy pal.
  • If a child has a physical disability and needs extra physical support a male child carer might be stronger and therefore would be an added benefit.


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