Society is a fluid and changing thing. Caring for a child is also fluid. The way people behaved even a few years ago draws very different reactions today. In this torrent of changing opinions is the perception of men as caregivers.
There are more expectations and opportunities for men to be involved in children’s lives. But what happens when a male caretaker is not a father, not a relative, but a daycare worker?
There seems to be a comfort level with a male nanny or daycare worker playing sports, safely rough housing with, or being in charge of boys, but other aspects of care give some parents pause. One comment on the BabyCenter community boards crudely (but directly) nails what I am trying to say:
“I’ve learned on the BHB that many feel penis=pedophile.”
Is society more accepting of men in daycares? Sure there are terms like “mannies” making their way into popular culture, but would you be comfortable with a guy changing your daughter’s diaper?
Should a daycare have to send a letter out informing parents that a fully qualified male nanny/teacher would take part in changing diapers? Don’t we want our kids to feel comfortable interacting (and learning from) both men and women?
Before my son was in daycare, I really didn’t think about anybody changing my kid’s diaper. I remember having a chat one day with one of his teachers about a diaper rash and the whole room chimed in with techniques. I remember thinking “wow, there are a alot of people that have seen his rash.”
I had to process that situation. Would I be more freaked out if there was a male teacher instead of one of the other women? No. I just had to get my head around the idea that somebody was doing these things for my son… gender is superseded by personality.
Some people say there is a gender bias in education. I don’t think this is true. I do think it is problematic that there are not more men in early education. Here is a quote from the DC Urban Mom board:
I toured a preschool that I like but one thing that threw me off was that they have a male teacher. Just one — I hate to assume the worst but why would a man be a preschool teacher? Also, he seemed a bit “off” or weird to me. I really liked the preschool but this one thing is bothering me. Is it common for preschools to have male teachers? He is an activity teacher, so he actually sees ALL the kids everyday from all the classes. Should I go with my intuition? If I look at other schools can I expect to find some male teachers?
When you read quotes like the one above, you can see that there might be more to the story than “guys just don’t like to do this type of work.” I found several stories of male daycare workers talking about the perceptions they face. It is so sad to see people jump to the worst possible conclusion out of the gate.
As parents, we have to feel comfortable with the professionals that care for our children. Before denouncing a daycare or preschool for hiring a male teacher, at least check the person out. Speak to the director or principle to learn about the guy’s qualifications. Maybe your opinions will change, maybe they won’t… but don’t react without meeting the person first.