Male Babysitters

Archived Responses: 

October 2002

I want to know if I'm overreacting by being afraid of hiring a male babysitter when we go out at night. My 2 year old son has a great new teacher at his daycare, he loves him. This caretaker is one of the few who cuddles the kids now and then. He's great, so I thought it would be nice if he could come at night. But we also have a 5 year old girl. You hear and read such terrible stories. I just can't bear the thought of something terrible happening to her. Him coming at night means being there when she undresses and so on. I also don't want to draw negative attention, by telling her that she should undress in private or before he comes. We try to be 'normal' about our bodies.

Do you think I'm overprotective? On one hand I'd like to give him a chance, on the other hand if something happens, my daughter's life (and mine) will be ruined for ever.

I am convinced that the vast, vast majority of men involved in childcare do NOT pose any threat of child molestation. As with any babysitter, you should ask the man for references. One or two telephone calls should put your mind at rest. If he is working in daycare professionally but has never babysat in a home, or has no references, that would be a red flag in and of itself.

It's hard for me to understand why you fear him on behalf of your daughter and not your son -- there is no basis for the perception that the danger level increases because of her age or gender. Child molesters come in all flavors (hetero, homo, bi), and are not likely to make a distinction between a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. If you have a bad feeling about him, why would you leave your son in his care?

Finally, always be vigilant to what your children might be going through, but get it out of your head that a single incident of molestation will ruin your child's life -- and your own -- forever. Speaking as someone who knows a number of people who have survived torture under oppressive political regimes, I believe that we can make choices about what ''ruins our lives.'' One bad babysitting incident shouldn't be given that kind of psychological power -- you can help your children be resilient.

If you trust this man with your son, why are you nervous about trusting him with your daughter? People are capable of molesting and sexually abusing boys and girls both! If this is someone you trust, I would let him babysit both of your kids, but if you have any reason not to trust him, find someone else.
Another paranoid mom

I think anytime you leave your children with someone else you must have a certain amount of faith and trust in the person you are leaving them with, whether it's a young teen or an older grandmotherly type, a male or a female, a relative of yours or someone you found from an ad. If your instincts say ''No'' then look around for somebody else. But if you feel comfortable about a caregiver, don't worry too much about whether they fit in with the idea in your head about what babysitters are supposed to look like. Go with your instinct.

Here is my perspective as a mom who has hired male babysitters and whose teen sons have babysat. When my two oldest boys were little, I always tried to hire male teen babysitters, rarely young women. The young men just seemed to ''relate'' better to my boys, my kids were crazy about them, and wanted to be like them, playing the same sports they did and so on. Throughout their grammar school years, some of their favorite teachers were men, and I was so glad that they didn't have all-women teachers like I did when I was in school. When my sons were teens, they babysat themselves and enjoyed it to varying degrees, and were very popular with the neighbor kids. I'm confident that they will be involved and loving dads in part because they got the chance to see lots of men including their dad taking care of children and having fun at it. I think it is important for both boys and girls to have examples in their lives of men caregivers and men teachers, so we don't raise our sons and daughters to think it is exclusively the job of women. So if you found a babysitter who really likes taking care of kids, and your kids like him, and you like him, then what's not to like? Ginger

We have had two male babysitters (full-time) for our children over the course of the past 6 years. I can easily say they were the best child care givers, and we still have strong relationships with both of them even though they don't work for us anymore (too expensive). While we are using high school kids to do nighttime babysitting now, one of the male babysitters is the only person we call when we go away on trips without the children.

I also shared your fears, and it took a while before I felt comfortable with the situation. I was very lucky because I was working at home, so I could monitor the situation most of the time. In the beginning, I would make phone calls verifying times of arrival and departure, ensuring the babysitter was where he said he would be. I probably would not have taken such extreme measures with a female nanny, however with all child care givers, I believe it takes time to build up a complete sense of trust.

I can't speak highly enough about how much my children love these men. There are no guarantees in situations like these - only time and your instincts will be the best judges. I think you have to judge each person individually regardless of whether they are male or female. I hope this is helpful. Daphne

I must admit that I am absolutely phobic about leaving my children (male and female) in the care of men. I don't ever leave my children alone with a man. The children's sports teams require that there always be two adults with the kids. I know church's that have classes for kids in which parents are the teacher's. They requre that two adults be in the room. These rules are to protect the children and also the adults from accusations. I know many men that do not want to be left alone with children that are not their own. It's sad that the actions of a few, make some of us suspicious of the many. There is really no way to tell if someone has bad intentions. We only find out once they have acted on them. I would rather know that my children are safe, than take a risk. Susan

it doesn't sound like you are at all comfortable with using him. chances are good that he would never abuse your daughter (or son) but if your instints register a ''what if'' then don't put them to the test. gael

I used to be a fulltime preschool teacher and was seriously impressed with several of the male teachers that I worked with. Also, I managed a daycare center, so I had several assistants both male and female. Most of the males were they because they genuinly loved the kids- in what I believe was a very healthy way. That being said- if you are not comfortable, don't leave your child with him, or ANYONE that you aren't comfortable with. Mothers have instincts, they have them for a reason. Lastly, if the man would her a child, your son has as much to worry about as your daughter.

Just had to add my 2 cents on the male babysitter issue.

I'm speaking here both as a male former babysitter in my teen years and as someone whose parents hired male and female babysitters for me and my sisters.

While you are obviously right to trust your instincts about whomever you choose to look after your child, I think it's important to not rule out all men, just because of a few predators. Some of my best baby sitters when I was a child were the high school boys my mom hired. (And remember, sexual abuse and non-sexual abuse is not the domain of men alone.)

Do we decide not to hire female nannies because some of them have not worked out, or have treated our kids poorly?

I'll step off my soapbox with one last comment. The only way to help our children perceive the world more broadly than we do is to give them the opportunities to do so.

I was very very unhappy with some (not all!) of the responses that were posted regarding the original query about using male babysitters. If that question and those responses had been posted about any other conceivable demographic group, there would have been SUCH an uproar on this group, but because it was ''just men,'' there was barely a muted murmur. I ask you -- what if I had asked if I should feel unsafe leaving my children with, say, a Jew, because after all, they sacrifice Christian children and put their blood in the Passover matzoh, or with a woman who had recently had a baby because those women drown children in bathtubs and besides, women in general are irrational, emotional, and controlled by their hormones? People would be -- and justifiably so -- furious. Well, I'm pretty mad.

I am finding the Advice newsletter to be less and less useful, in no small part because of threads like the foregoing. I am angry on behalf of my father, my husband, my brother and my sons, none of whom has ever behaved inappropriately with a child, and all of whom are or will be good caretakers. I think some of the members of this list owe ''Men'' an apology.

I feel really badly that some people think that men should not be around children. If I were a dad I would feel very disheartened and offended. So here is one mom who wants to say I am ashamed of those remarks ansd I would just like to apologise to all the dads on the list for that. Most of us do not feel that way. I hope that the people who do feel that way will think a little about what they are saying about half the planet's population. I really wonder why they are saying it.

As a mom, and as a daughter, I know firsthand how important it is for men to be actively involved in the lives of their children and other children. As a feminist I know how crucial it is to have partners in childraising, to see dads at work in management taking parenting leave and bringing the kids in, making it possible for us to do the same. My mother had nowhere near the opportunities I have, because the only acceptable role for her was full-time mother. Things are so much better now for women who want to have children and a career, in large part because men are doing home-work that our dads never did. When I see a dad shopping with a baby strapped on the front, it fills me with happiness and hope. We should all be in this together, in the business of raising children. It is not something that should be left to the women to do any more than thinking and creating and working and politicking should be left to the men. And it is so wonderful for men to be able to experience the joys that were only available to women just a generation ago. It is in all of our best interest for men to be taking an active part in the care of our children. Sally