What People Don't Get About My Job: The Male Nanny

By Derek Thompson

"Please stop calling me a manny."

I am a nanny. I care for a rambunctious one-year-old and occasionally his nine-year-old brother.

I am not starting a daycare, I am not a babysitter, and I do not nanny to make extra cash. Nannying is what I do. Seeing the world through children's eyes is intense and beautiful and fleeting, and I get to experience it every day. I don't just change diapers, I teach a new person how to engage and interact with the world. Right now I am teaching the kid I care for to sign before he can speak. I am teaching him to be gentle and kind, to appreciate music and books, and to respect boundaries. At his age, children can make between ten and twenty thousand new connections in the brain every second they are awake. That's an incredible amount of 'teachable moments' where I can actually change the course of this child's life. It's an awesome responsibility and I take it seriously.

What I don't love? All of the good-natured ribbing about how what I do is so easy. The questions about why, as a guy, I am a nanny. Childcare isn't the sole domain of women and I am not engaging in role-reversal. It doesn't mean I'm feminine. It doesn't mean I'm gay (It doesn't mean I'm not any of those things but I shouldn't have to go into this). And please stop calling me a "manny." What it means is that I'm well equipped for and interested in caring for children, and that I have found a way to match that with a child that needs looking after.

But what I do isn't easy. For example, diaper-changing time. This is an exercise in rule-enforcement: there is no wiggling, no kicking, and no stray hands groping for the diaper straps. Then it's breakfast time while I go over his development with Dad. We quibble over things like allowing him to climb a playscape unattended (absolutely not!) and what he's not allowed to eat yet and why (let's wait on that brisket, hm?). Then Dad goes to work and it's playtime til his first nap. Naptime is a ritual that I follow so he'll be comfortable, get to sleep quickly, and stay asleep as long as he needs to. Any interruption of the ritual is a domino that sets off the rest of the day so it is important that it remains undisturbed. The fan goes on high, the blinds are drawn, and the pacifier (only for sleeping) goes in. I lay him down in the same direction, tuck the blanket around him so he's comfortable enough to close his eyes. Then I leave immediately, perhaps read a few pages in my book before I start cooking lunch so it can be ready when he wakes up. Having lunch ready is important because if he doesn't eat right after nap #1 he won't release breakfast before nap #2. Which means he will wake up in the middle of the nap needing a diaper change. Hence, domino effect. Then Mom comes home and we go over when he's scheduled to sleep the rest of the day, what signs we are learning, problems in behavior that need to be addressed.

I love teaching and I love children. The amount of attention required to raise a small child precludes my watching more than just a few at a time so I am a nanny. It's sometimes stressful but always rewarding. As long as the adults don't make my profession a joke.

We're asking readers to tell us what the public doesn't understand or appreciate about their jobs. Learn about the project here.

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/08/what-people-dont-get-about-my-job-the-male-nanny/243584/