Hiring A Male Babysitter (or Manny)

The pros and cons of hiring a male babysitter...

I promised a compilation of the emails I got on the question I asked
on the list about hiring male babysitters. This was the last part of
my original post:

'So my question to the community is, if you would never hire a teen
boy or young man to babysit your children, why not? Do you assume
they're less responsible or more likely to do something inappropriate
(sexually or otherwise) with your children just because they're
male? Is there anything that would make you comfortable to hire a
male babysitter? Susan commented that this issue highlights the
sexism in the care-taking of children. She added "We wonder why some
guys don't step up to the plate -- we don't allow them anywhere near
it!"'

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who wrote, both on the
list and off! I think it was an excellent discussion, and I learned
many things from what people said. I was sorry that only one dad
responded, but I thought his post was excellent, and probably spoke
for many. For those who wrote that the economy was the major factor
in the lack of responses my 18 year old son had gotten for childcare
work, I can now say that from what many folks wrote, I think the
economy is a minor factor in the number of responses I originally
received, as many people wrote to say they would never, or would
think twice about hiring a male sitter, which is what I suspected.
HOWEVER, unexpectedly to me and my son, even more people wrote asking
for my son's contact information for occasional or part-time
childcare work (which is what he had wanted all along.) He had his
first new job off this discussion last Friday night from a family
neither of us knew, and was thrilled to tell me afterwards that he
had so much fun playing legos with their five-year old boy, and he
was pleased to be asked back to babysit for the same family!

I believe my son wrote back to everyone who contacted us for
childcare, and I'm also pretty sure that he is now going to have more
childcare work offers than he can handle before he takes off for
college in the fall. By the way, for those who suggested that my son
volunteer instead of work, he has done volunteer work for years, and
is a weekly intern one day a week with the 7-10 year olds at the
Brooklyn Free School, has worked assisting me in my after-school
classes, and is returning for the third summer as the Sports
Counselor at my 4-week July musical theater program. He also held a
number of jobs this year including canvassing for Barack Obama. I
think it's not fair to our teenage boys that it can be so much more
difficult for them to find paid childcare work than it is for our
teenage girls. My son is aware of the financial difficulties of our
family, and wanted to help out and not keep asking us for money every
time he wants to go out with friends, buy a book or rent a movie.

This was a time-consuming task to read, answer and compile all the
emails just on this one topic. Thanks so much to Susan Fox and the
rest of the moderators for encouraging me to post the original
question (which I never would have done otherwise) and for all the
work you do all year long on this list!

Here's the compilation:

1. This is so interesting! I actually don't have much experience
hiring babysitters, but my daughters have befriended a man (older
than me, single) in our building whom I like a lot, but I always
second-guess myself and wonder whether I should be trusting him as
much as I do. I don't have ANY misgivings about him personally, but
just the fact that he's a man and all the horrible stuff one reads
about men as predators makes me hesitate before saying, "oh, sure,
take them to dinner or to a puppet show" as I would with a woman
friend. My kids really adore him and he truly seems to find them
special as well.

It bugs me that I find it hard to turn off what may just be a fear-
mongering tactic of the mass media, but, FWIW, I do.

2. I'd consider hiring him. I have two boys who'd love a male
babysitter. As long as he doesn't let them mess up the house too much
and doesn't become a role model for masculine butt cleavage, I'm good.

I do think there's some sexism unconscious or otherwise. In my own
case it's just never come up since all the babysitters I've been
recommended were always women doing complex post graduate degrees -
degrees that ultimtely tore them from Brooklyn and my ability to hire
them.

I wonder if it's a little different for those of use who have had to
learn to embrace testosterone as a way of life.

Interesting topic though... thanks for raising it.

3. I am the mother of a very active 2 year old and a newborn. Since
our younger son is only 8 weeks old, we are not getting out that
much, but I would totally be open to the idea of a male babysitter.
My son talks about "guys" and responds really positively to "male"
energy-- loves any "guy" who will wrestle and run with him.
I think that your son's problem is not that people assume that a
teenage boy interested in babysitting would be some sort of sexual
predator, but that people assume that teenage boys are less mature
and less responsible that teenage girls. This is, of course, not
always the case but it is definitely a widely held belief.
I am sure that your son can develop a devoted following through word
of mouth if he shows himself to be responsible, capable, and kind. I
also remember from my own teenage babysitting days that I had a much
harder time with boys who wanted to run around and fight and play
with trucks than did a friend of mine who was male. I have no idea
if this is appealing to your son, but maybe he could market himself
to the active boy niche.

4. Interesting... I would definitely hire a male babysitter, though
with a young baby, I would hesitate more about the age. I wonder if
the economy is impacting your son. There may be less need for
sitters these days and it looks like there are more postings everyday
to hire sitters/nannies.

5. I would consider hiring him. I think it makes no difference if
the sitter is male or female. It's the person.

6. I know this isn't what you want to hear, but no, I would not hire
a male babysitter because of the potential for sexual abuse.
Statistically men have a much higher rate of being sexually abusive.
Both my spouse and I feel that men and adolescence (both girls and
boys) have much higher sexual drives. I also would hesitate to hire
any adolescent sitter. So we hire older adult women.

This is not a reflection on your son as a person, though you might
get defensive and take it as such. While your or others might say
"person so-and-so has morals and would never do something abusive"
studies have shown that when people are thinking about sex, their
inhibitions against a variety of activities including rape are much
lower.

In a world where parents are concerned about things like plastic and
vaccines, sexual abuse is just not something you want to take a risk on.

7. I would feel hurt on behalf of my son if I were you. So, I
sympathize. But, thought I would share my experience.

My son, who is now 10, prefers women sitters. From very young, he
said "I don't like mens teachers" (that was kindergarten). In Kg,
he had a male assistant teacher who was very gentle. When looking
back, my son has fond memories of him. Currently, my son has a man
science teacher, and has said that this teacher is the nicest man
he's ever met who is not a relative.

My son's never had a negative experience with a man and my husband is
pretty gentle and not macho, so I think my son's view has developed
from watching men and boys interact in the world and tv. My son
doesn't watch westerns or war shows, and I curtail most of Cartoon
Network and Nick cartoons. We haven't gone to many movies and when
he was young we stayed away from Disney. I can't account for it.

Last year, we had a 17 year old boy come by for a babysitting
interview. The young man seemed quite qualified, etc, but he didn't
click with any of us. I've had the same situation with women of
course. I will keep trying. But, my son prefers maternal, warm,
girl energy.

8. I read your post with interest and I think you bring up a good
issue. My sitter’s son had a three year after-school babysitting job
(he was 18-20 years old) and he was wonderful with the 4 and 6 year
old boys he took care of and I know their mom really thought he was
wonderful too. That said, a few considerations that come to my mind
about a male babysitter... Personally, I was abused by a 18 year old
by when I was 3-4 years old (my babysitter’s son), so it would be
tough for me to put my daughter in the care of a teenage boy,
irrational I know, but I just couldn’t do it, and I’m cautious about
leaving her with any adult males. Her grandfathers and 3 uncles get
the green light but not really anyone else. The other thing that
might be responsible for the low response is that there seem to be so
many babysitters looking for work right now. Have you noticed on the
classifields the number of postings that begin with “I was just laid
off, and unfortunately we need to let our beloved sitter go, blah
blah blah?” I don’t know if Susan and the team have noticed an
uptick in postings and maybe it’s in my head but I feel like I read
that kind of post on a daily basis now. I think there may be a glut
of babysitters who are available who possibly have more experience
than your son. Anyway, it’s an interesting issue to bring up for
discussion.

9. I would have no problem hiring a male, however, I have two girls
and they prefer a female. I did have a male once and they
complained that he didn't want to do hair, makeup, play dolls, etc.
Perhaps it was just him and another might have done these things.
I just went back to females at the request of the kiddos. It also
has to do with the fact that I have only had the recommendation of
one male babysitter.

10. I am glad you posted this -- I am looking for a male babysitter
for my 8 year old son for the summer to pick him up after camp at 3
and staying with him until
I get home from work. This could start as early as June 1. Would
your son be available and interested?

Funny...I remember Dale posting last year for her son and I was
wondering what kind of responses she got. I also was thinking of
reaching out to her.

I would particularly like a male babysitter, especially as the
weather gets nicer and there are more outdoor activities they might
share. I am a single mom, and I try to bring diverse and positive
males into my son's life as much as possible. I can't be all things
to him (much as I try!)

11. Years ago the teenage son of a good family friend molested my
younger sister when he sat for us, so I always have that in the back
of my mind. I think, also, it doesn't even occur to people that boys
would be interested in babysitting. I get my sitters from personal
contacts, which means I get to meet them in person first, most of the
time. And our sitters seem only to have other female friends who are
interested in babysitting, so boys haven't even come up. But now that
I have a son of my own, I'm aware of how important it is for him to
see men as nurturers, not just women. A male sitter--who we trust--
would be great!

(Also, my husband and I hired a female teen sitter for our son, and
she spent most of the evening viewing pornography online--amazing
that she didn't know enough to erase the browser history!--so I know
that gender isn't always an indicator.)

I think it really comes down to overcoming the "unknown" by
introducing your son to other parents in person. Some kids glow with
confidence, and others seem socially awkward and withdrawn, and I
trust the confident kids more. If your son could volunteer at
community events, etc. then he could meet parents of smaller children
and we could see what a great guy he is.

12. We're just one example, but we have a male occasional babysitter
who we did not know beforehand (we did know his mother in passing).
Good luck to your son!

13. Is your son into sports? And also, how much does he charge? I am
a single mother and looking for someone to take my daughter to the
park or playground
and play ball with her on the weekends. My very nice regular sitter
is kind of a couch potato and I when I saw your post I thought maybe
a teenage boy would be perfect for what I am looking for. My daughter
is almost eight and very personably and funny.

14. This is a very interesting topic. I think male babysitters are
a great. In fact, I think I remember your posting and being very
intrigued. But, for the last 5 years I have been in the fortunate
position of hiring people I already knew. Most of them I have met
through my children's preschool, where they either worked as summer
camp counselors or teacher's aides. One of them is a young man, and
I think he is a wonderful babysitter. My kids (one boy and two
girls) love him. Based on my limited experience, I would not have
any preference for either male or female babysitters, although my
preference is typically for sitters that I already know. Before I
got to know our male sitter, I think I would have had some doubts as
to a young man's interest in taking care of children. But, once they
have expressed an interest in kids (such as posting an ad on PSP), I
take that at face value. Maybe you should post again? This
discussion in an of itself may help people reevaluate their
presumptions about male sitters.

15. You raise such an important issue, and I can feel how hurtful it
would be to know and trust your son and have him be rejected solely
because of his gender.

I have to admit, I am prejudiced about male caregivers, and it is
100% about sexual abuse. There is a history of sexual abuse, by male
relatives, in my family. My good friend was abused by her
babysitter's son. Statistically, abuse is usually perpetrated by a
relative, family friend, or an older child at a caregivers home.
While I am aware that females do sexually abuse children - one story
I heard concerned the female babysitter being caught inserting her
finger in and out of the infant's vagina - I guess I feel
instinctively like it's just less likely, and somehow would be less
damaging. Whether that is right or wrong. Frankly my baseline is to
be distrustful of anyone, male or female, who I don't know personally
and have a long history with. I am hypervigilant.

The other thing that influences me is knowing that individuals with a
propensity and desire to abuse children SEEK positions where they
will be in close contact with children - camp counselor, day care
worker, youth group coordinator, etc. So I am just always suspicious.
I worry about whether to send my daughter to sleepaway camp.

My daughter is turning 7. My worries diminished as she became verbal.
I had no one outside my family watch her until she was at least 3,
and then it was a woman I was close friends with. And once or twice
with a playgroup teacher, and with parents in a babysitting coop for
short periods (a playdate set up basically). (With the co-op I was
nervous about other dads watching her alone.) In pre-k I started
working PT and hired (with great comfort) the daughter of a good
friend who I already knew well and had seen taking care of her little
brothers. I also reluctantly enrolled her in a childcare center part
time, and there was (a rather odd) 18 y.o man who worked there. My
daughter never wanted to be around him, at all, with no coaching to
that effect from me. In fact since very young she has shown her
discomfort with men (other than grandparents or dads of very good
friends) by hiding from them, refusing to speak, etc. Did she pick up
some signal from me? Perhaps. But I think she simply feels more
comfortable with women. So that also influences my choice not to seek
male caregivers.

That said, I think now she is older, if I knew a family very well,
and didn't get any weird vibes, spent time with a teen son and grew
to trust him, I think I would consider using him for occasional
babysitting, as long as my daughter appeared happy and comfortable. I
have no worry whatsoever about a male babysitter being capable of
caregiving. I think they could bring wonderful energy and fun, and be
especially suited to caring for boys.

Bottom line for me I guess, is the importance of knowing someone well
enough to really trust them and feel safe with them. And it's a big
hurdle!

I wish you and your son all the best, and I hope he has not been too
hurt by this experience.

16. I meant to write and ask you about your son but always forgot.
Thanks for bringing up the situation! I'd have no problems hiring him
and I think that my boys would love to have a bigger friend to play
with! We do have a babysitter during the day, but we often call young
people for the evening.

17. Your posting comes at an interesting time for my family, as we
have been looking for a responsible babysitter who would be available
in the afternoons. I am a mother of two boys (8 and 4) who are going
to be in different schools next year (Manhattan and Park Slope.) I
was hoping to actually find a male babysitter for them to help with
pick ups and such, as I think generally thinking that my boys would
only benefit from spending time with a good male role model and
generally would have a great time. Perhaps this is reverse sexism on
my part?

18. When i was a kid there was a family on the block with a teenage
son and daughter. the girl was hired to babysit by all kinds of
families with all kinds of kids. the boy was by and large hired as a
babysitter by families that had boys. i think the thought process
might have been that the girl could probably keep kids of both sexes
occupied and amused. But the boy sitter would be more fun for little
boys -- would roughhouse with them, etc. -- and might not be all that
interested/comfortable with the stuff little girls want to do, like
play with barbies and put on your babysitter's make-up, etc.

Maybe your son should seek out families with boys and point out the
advantage, that he can relate to them and knows what they find fun,etc.

19. I would have to know a fellow very, very well before I would
trust him with babysitting my son (and even more so if I had a
daughter). I was sexually abused by a babysitter when I was four.
(And I am particular aware that boys are not immune to abuse since my
husband was also sexually abused, but at age 3 by a doctor.) I
realize that women can be sexual abusers, but there are far far fewer
of those than men. Obviously, abusers in general are a tiny
minority, but I'm not comfortable with risking my child's safety in
that regard. The long term repercussions are too painful and
exhausting.

20. I am so glad to hear you've had so many positive responses
(forget the former - I am sure for every male babysitter horror
story, there are at least 10 female babysitter horror stories)

21. My son is a very lively, athletic 6 year old. I have always
wanted a male babysitter for him but never found one. Basically I
just want someone who would hang out with him from time to time since
I have a 11 mos old which limits my ability to sport with him
(especially baseball - since he just started little
league).

22. We need to expand our list of people to call when we want to go
out. I would actually love to have a male sitter for my son. He has
two mothers and, while we have lots of male friends to hang out with,
I think it'd be great for him to spend time with boys/men.

23. I've had male and female babysitters, but I've always known both
sexes them beforehand. I did get some raised eyebrows when I said I
had a male sitter.

24. Yes, I'm not saying there isn't prejudice out there, but the
economy is a big factor, I think. The original poster's kids are six
years apart in age, and six years ago there was a whole different
economic environment. People went out more; there was more
competition for babysitters. Now there are more babysitters than
jobs, I think.

I do think sexism is at work, but also that it works both ways. My
son babysat a lot through his teen years. A lot of parents of boys
thought it was good to have a male sitter as a "male role model," or
the boys themselves preferred not to be taken care of by girls. And
one thing I always mentioned when putting ads for him on PSP
Classifieds is that he went home on his own late at night. Rightly or
wrongly, boys are considered safer than girls alone late at night, so
there was no extra charge for car service home if they were out until
all hours.

25. I'm sorry to hear that your son has a harder time finding
babysitting jobs. I have hired in the past male and female sitters.
Some of the male worked at Park explorers summer camp and some were
fantastic getting kids very active. To me it does not make any
difference, it just depend on the person really! I have posted in
psp a number of time but always got response from female though!

26. When we can afford it, I'd love to hire a male babysitter. My
son has been in daycare since 4 months, where the staff is all
female. Most of our nearby relatives are female. So my boy is a bit
hesitant sometimes around men other than my husband. Every time my
husband's brother comes over, there's a fairly long adjustment period
that includes some crying. I think a male babysitter would provide my
son with one more male role model.

In addition to male babysitters having a hard time, I worry about the
lack of men pursuing teaching thanks to media coverage making it seem
like men everywhere are preying on kids. Some of my favorite teachers
were men. I'd like my son to learn from his kind as well as mine.

27. I totally understand where you are coming from! When my older
son was younger, we had the same issues, he was and still is, great
with kids and had tons of experience with them. Boys and girls alike
adored him and he had the energy to take care of them and play with
them.

But, the only people who would hire him were people with older boys,
people with babies or girls would have no part of it. I guess people
are just very suspicious of males in general, even though females
also commit horrific abusive acts. It's a shame really, because how
are we supposed to nurture our boys into being good fathers when the
world is telling them they shouldn't be near children?

I obviously hire male babysitters, LOL!

28. OK, I'll say it. I have a close friend who was sexually molested
by a male babysitter when she was 7 years old. The teenage boy was
the son of family friends, and no one ever suspected a thing. She is
now in her forties and will probably be in therapy for the rest of
her life. It affects her every day and has caused a tremendous strain
on her marriage and relationship with her parents (who, when they
learned of the abuse years later, refused to cut off the friendship
with the other family). I have another close friend who is a survivor
of incest, perpetrated by her then-teenage brother, who everyone
considered well-adjusted. Again, the parents had no idea and believed
their son was a perfect angel.

Please don't misunderstand me. I know that the vast majority of
teenage boys are not child molesters, and that women can be abusers,
too. I know many wonderful men. But let's face it: young girls are
targets for predators. I completely agree that boys need to learn to
be caregivers, and I might hire a male babysitter under the right
circumstances, but as a mother of girls, I would definitely be more
hesitant to hire a teenage boy. That's just my feeling, based on more
than four decades of navigating life as a female in this society.

29. As a stay-at-home dad, I have seen/felt the, let's say,
discomfort demonstrated by mothers (not all) with a man in their
'mom's with their child' world. It's a very exclusive club to be an
outsider and fortunately there are opened minded mothers I have met
that feel comfortable with a dad as a primary caregiver. Questioning
whether a man can babysit as well as a woman, to me, just extends the
notion that a man cannot love, care for, nurture, challenge and
engage a infant/child as well as a woman. Perhaps dialogue about your
question could open some minds of mothers that feel men belong
somewhere other than at home raising an infant.

30. I will admit that, with three girls, I would be more cautious
about hiring a male babysitter. On the other hand, I would welcome
the gender diversity in
my children's female-dominated world. I think it's a great topic to
bring up for discussion. The only other thing I will add is that way
back when I was babysitting (at
a hefty $1.25 per hour...!) the only family that hired my brother to
watch their sons paid him LESS than they paid me!!! I didn't know
until after the fact, but I was shocked, even then.

31. For the most part I would definitely hire a male babysitter and
maybe go out of my way to get one for variety, but the problem I see
is there is a very small pool of male babysitters to hire from, if
any. Maybe not so amongst teenagers, haven't looked at that route yet
but maybe soon. Yes I also think it is important, really really
important that they are more males being babysitter, teachers,
daycare workers etc. I am all for having the sexes represented
equally in almost every area it can be. For instance when my son does
anything, like soccer or anything I want the couches to have more
females because they are mostly male where he goes, I want the group
of kids to be equal female and male, it upsets me a bit when it is
not. Where I am considering signing my son up for Tae Kwon Do I am so
glad there is two heads there one male and one female. When my son
said (he is almost 6) that there are no female race car drivers I had
to of course find the female race car drivers on youtube etc to show
him.

Honestly there is no reason I would rather hire one sex over the
other, for me the most important thing would be that the person is
fun, intelligent and responsible with my child. But if I am being
honest there is only one thing that worries me more with males then
with females and that is the sexual preying action. One time when I
was a child in elementary school, I don't know how old I was but
obviously young enough to need a babysitter even for a short time, my
cousin, who is exactly the same age as me, and I were babysat by a
teenage boy, he was a neighbor of my cousin's family. Well when we
were there my cousin was like, he is fun he likes to tickle here
really down low just unbutton your pants and let him tickle down
there it is fun (this was the real lower belly really close to the
private part but not on it). Well I for whatever reason from a very
young age was always very street smart and just questioning, I was
like no way and totally not having it. So she let him do it as she
said he has done before when he babysat and I watched and thought she
was crazy for letting him do that. And so, I don't think for the most
part a female babysitter would ever do that or think of that kind of
thing, etc (of course I am sure there are exceptions with females,
but a lot less so). In my childhood there have been a couple of other
also sexually weird encounters with males, nothing ever happened
because as before I was also too questioning, street smart and fast
to know what was going on to let it ever happen, and none of them
every used their physical strength to try anything, so I was lucky.
So that is a fear of mine but I am willing to overlook it though and
still hire a male especially because my son has, since a very young
age maybe 2 years old, has liked and still likes in general male
adults more then female adults and really a lot more.

I also think, and I still can not say why, that as a child my eyes
were really open to stuff like that, I saw it just around, recognized
it and acknowledged that kind of sexual behavior very very young. For
instance I don't know if my cousin even remembers that encounter we
had together, it might have seemed liked nothing to her, not even
worth thinking about, but I still remember it to this day never
forgot it.

32. Sex is not one of the deciding factors when I need a sitter. My
history of sisters is one of equal opportunity. The boys, well
teenage males, I consistently use, are both quite big and this is a
huge plus with my daughter and her friends. They love them and when I
ask why they say,"Well they can throw us around." And I love them too
though there is no rough housing with me.

33. As a child, some of my fondest memories are of the escapades I
went on with my favorite babysitter who happened to be male. His name
was Jimmy and actually a friend of my mother's. I would sneak to the
kitchen phone and call him to ask him to come over to play all the
time! (I had female babysitters, too, but I don't really remember
them so well.) I still keep in touch with Jimmy 30 years later! ;o)

Now, my daughter who is 3 years old interacts well with almost all of
my friends, female and male. However, there is one male friend whom
she has completely found a confidant in. He is her "Jimmy"! And it
makes me so happy that she has that relationship with him. He's the
only babysitter that she truly feels at ease with and doesn't bat an
eye when mama leaves the house. Which is unbelievable as she is such
a mama's girl and never separates easily with anyone but him.

34. Very interesting thread, thanks as usual PSP.

I have a 5 y.o. boy who would LOVE to have a male baby sitter,
Corinne, I am saving your info and will contact soon (as soon as we
can afford a night out!)

Everybody brought up a lot of interesting points, and in the end the
mere act of hiring someone to care for your children is something we
have gotten used to, but it's very complicated. Lots of irrational
feelings are involved, therefore the choices can be dictated by
unexplainable gut feelings.

But I certainly welcome in general the idea of older kids (male and
female) helping caring for younger kids in the neighborhood, I think
it would be beneficial for everybody (baby sitters and baby sats) and
it would strenghten the community as a whole.

I have my share of direct and indirect experiences with abuse, and I
think we should try not to EXPECT it to happen, but just use our
knowledge and experience to be vigilant and never let it happen. As
Leslie has pointed out, one of the main scars that tend to stay and
hurt in the long term is the reaction (lack of reaction) of the
parents, or the ones who were supposed to help and protect, so it's
an entire different story.

35. I don't know how much of this issue has to do with a feeling
that a man isn't equally as nurturing. I believe it represents a
trust factor on a deeper level. This is a really sensitive issue and
I feel a lot of empathy for both sides of the equation. First, there
are plenty of men and teenage boys who are amazing and wonderful
caregivers and would be fantastic babysitting for children of either
gender. On the other hand, I believe the statistic is something like
one in three women are sexually abused/assaulted by the time they are
18 years of age and I'm pretty sure the statistic of sexual abuse is
that in at least over 90 percent of the time, the perpetrators are
male. (These numbers do not even include the women who have not
divulged their abuse). Additionally, most pedophiles put themselves
in positions to have easier access to children. Let me say again that
CLEARLY this does not apply to all or even most men or teenage boys
but certainly makes it understandable why some mothers might feel
discomfort at the idea of a strange man or boy watching their
children, particularly but not limited to, if they represent that one
in three. For those men and boys who would never think of
inappropriately touching a child, this is a sad part of our reality
currently and I have much empathy for them.
For my part, I would want to extensively interview and check
references of anyone who is watching my children, male or female.