When it comes to professionals looking after our children during their early years, only 2% are thought to be a male. Surprising? This is the reality.
I am one of those 2%. And I love it.
Let me explain…
I was raised in a very traditional household – my mom would stay at home and look after the kids whilst my father worked long hours to provide. These were very clear roles for both parents. This subconscious acceptance probably had an impact on deciding my first job after leaving school.
Being a male, I followed my father’s footsteps and gained employment for a global pharmaceutical company. The money was good. But that was it. I had no interest in the industry. I felt no true purpose.
From within my soul, I soon realized I was more like my mother than my father. My personality and character traits were one of a caring, patient and gentle nature, as opposed to the alpha–male expectations of my gender. Upon accepting this, I realized I had to find an alternative career — one which suited me as a person – not based around cultural expectations of a man.
I decided to follow my mother’s footsteps by entering the world of childcare. Prior to having children, my mom spent time working as a Nanny and a Nursery Nurse in a children’s home. After raising myself and my siblings, she also worked as a Teacher’s Assistant in a school for 20 years.
Her whole life has revolved around children.
Now, mine does.
I wanted to use my caring nature to be able to help others. And childcare was the ideal fit for me. I was about to change worlds — going from distributing vast quantities of medication worldwide, to comforting somebody else’s child because they were upset.
The 2% statistic of males working in childcare does not surprise me, as this was a career never offered to me as a viable option during my school years. Looking after children indirectly appealed to females based on cultural norms.
First Childcare Role
My first professional childcare role saw me looking after disabled children and young people in a children’s home.
This opened me up to the world of disabilities and struggles children, young people, and their families go through on a daily basis.
I was also introduced to the world of Autism – a vast spectrum disorder affecting 1 in 68 births in America.
During my first weeks, I was surprised to see a 50-50 split between males and females working within the children’s home. A decent proportion were young males like myself – this settled any first-day nerves, and I slotted in nicely without fear of standing out.
From my experience it was important for the children and young people to have both male and female role models in their life – it is obvious they respond differently to a male and female based around their own personal circumstances.
Male Mary Poppins
3 years later. I had an epiphany.
I wanted to become a Nanny! A male Nanny – or ‘Manny’ as they are sometimes referred to over here in the UK.
My mom was a nanny for many years. My similar gentle nature meant I was a great fit for the role of Mary Poppins.
From the outset, I wasn’t overly confident that I would find a position, purely because it is still highly unusual for a man to be working this kind of role. But I gave it a go. Interviews were extremely rare to come by. But I did get them. Predictably, I was rejected due to other nannies having more experience, but I remained patient – casually keeping an eye out and waiting for the right family.
So, in my quest to become a Nanny, and to increase my chances of becoming one, I registered with my local childcare agency – my pursuit had begun. It took me a long time to find a role – this recruitment agency pre-warned me they had placed only one male nanny before. Some families specifically request a female, so, the odds were stacked against me initially.
After three or four interviews and seven months of trying, applying and waiting, I eventually found a family who believed I was a good match to look after their children. And gender didn’t come into it.
A Pretend Sword Fight for an Interview…
My interview was a lovely laid-back chat with the parents and a casual introduction to the kids. I even had a sword fight with one! I think I lost.
My inept handling of a plastic sword and being defeated by the little boy might have been the clincher, because shortly after, I was offered the role. It was a happy moment. Music to my ears. The family was delighted they had found someone to look after their children, and I was delighted to be welcomed into their family. I was offered my first role as a ‘Manny’. (I am not entirely comfortable with this term by the way).
They looked at my previous experience with supporting children who displayed challenging behaviors and felt this would benefit their own child by implementing strategies to deal with his behavior.
Being a Nanny taught me the art of time management and managing two kids at any one time. Being a father, coupled with my experience in the children’s home provided me with a level of grounding with what to expect. Looking after two – especially two at totally different stages – was a whole new ball game to what I was used to. Wow. That was a tough gig!
I remember turning up for my first day as a Nanny; I felt as if I should have been dressed up in fancy dress or something – such is the rarity of a Male Nanny.
I was now let loose to look after someone else’s humans. I was responsible. Yes, I am a dad to a small daughter, and yes, I have had three years’ experience of looking after children in a home, but I was now on my own for the first time entrusted with these humans.
That was the moment my confidence levels raised somewhat. I composed myself, took a deep breath, and just allowed my natural affinity with kids to take over. My first job after turning up at 7:30 am? Change a diaper. Yay. Thankfully there was no sign of a first-day category 5 trainee induction poo.
With the two brothers strapped in the back of the car, the three of us were out the door for the pre-school drop-off.
Being three years apart obviously meant the boys were worlds apart in terms of needs and development. I can safely say that scooping porridge into a 1-year-old’s mouth whilst supervising the buttering of the 4-year-old’s toast was more challenging than arranging multiple £100,000 shipments of medication to Australia. (My previous career).
The charity needed males according to the Service Manager. They had zero in the department, and specific teenagers required a male role model in their life. But what could I bring that a female couldn’t? For me, I think for the teenagers, it was just about physically being a male. Nothing more, nothing less. The fact that I was a male – an area of their life which was missing could bring something to their lives. Males and females share the same qualities, but sometimes a youngster wishes to choose between either a female or male to help them through difficult times.
2% are Males
So why do I think it is still relatively rare for males to be working in a childcare role?
For me, it boils down to a mix of dated cultural and gender expectations and lack of encouragement within educational establishments to make male students aware that a career in childcare is a great choice to make.
When I was growing up, it was always expected of me to get a ‘mans’ job – engineering, mechanic, etc. I never realized that a career in childcare would be such a rewarding, respectable career path to take. And that is a shame in a whole bunch of ways.
Like all industries, having a great mix of genders is vital for success for all concerned – in this case, it is vital for children and young people and their families — not for shareholders.
Six years on and I remain within the childcare industry, and I love it!