How's this for common sense being paraded as breaking news? The Wall Street Journal has an article out this week titled, "No, Girls Are Not Natural Baby Sitters." Considering my husband babysat as a teenager, they're only 20-some years behind the curve on that one, huh? And yet, when is the last time you hired a male babysitter? Have you EVER hired a boy to stay with your kids?
Even in areas where parents tend to be pretty progressive, the number of parents who are willing to let a male come into the home to watch their kids is pretty low.
In a survey of parents in Park Slope, Brooklyn, 97 percent of the sitters were female. But as the WSJ's article points out, based on the new book Babysitter: An American History, by Miriam Forman-Brunell, there's no reason to think a girl is going to be better with your kids than a boy.
I happen to have two female sitters at the moment, but over the years, I've left my daughter with a male sitter more than a few times. She loved it. I loved it.
I'd do it again in a heartbeat because there's so much to gain (and so little to lose):
1. They provide a male-centric viewpoint. This isn't to say that girl-centric viewpoints are bad, but we're all trying to raise well-rounded kids, aren't we? The more people exposing them to a variety of experiences, the better we are able to do that.
2. They teach kids to ignore gender barriers. If you always have a female sitter, your kids are not-so-subtly being told that only girls can care for kids. Fast forward to adulthood, and you set a daughter up to accept a husband who doesn't pull his weight around the house or a son who doesn't believe he needs to chip in.
3. They're taller and stronger. OK, that's a bit of a generalization, but there's a scientific basis. My brother used to throw my daughter up in the air and catch her because he's over 6 feet tall with broad shoulders. He COULD do that. At 5'4" with puny upper arm muscles, I couldn't safely do the same. But the fact is, she LOVED it. There are things that people with bigger body types can do with kids that people who are smaller just can't.
4. You break down gender barriers. It's not just about teaching your kids to ignore them, but also about retraining yourself not to play into stereotypes. There's power in breaking the mold.
5. Pedophiles come in all shapes and sizes. This is the big elephant in the room, isn't it? That some boy is going to molest your kid? Sorry, but women can be molesters too. Or murderers. Just hiring females is NOT going to keep your kid safe; checking references, doing interviews, and going with your gut instinct is going to do that.
Have you ever hired a boy babysitter? What's holding you back?
Image by Jeanne Sager