Have you ever noticed that there are hardly any male babysitters? Part of that is because men are less likely to be interested in the job overall (especially teenage boys.) But many parents also have concerns and feel it's unsafe to leave their child with a man compared to a woman.
Is it safe to hire a male babysitter? A male babysitter can be just as safe, caring, and responsible as a female one. Rather than immediately ruling out a male babysitter simply based on gender, it's better to set that aside and compare their qualifications and recommendations with those of your other candidates.
In this article, we'll discuss the stigma that male babysitters face, what stereotypes might contribute, and some of the statistics surrounding it.
Are Men Safe to Leave in Charge of Your Children?
I don't want to get too preachy and political with this post, but considering the subject matter, I think that might be unavoidable.
As a straight white guy, I know that pretty much everyone in the world faces more discrimination than me. And the world has really come a long way in terms of gender equality in the past few decades.
But when it comes to professions involving children like teaching and babysitting, men still face a lot of stigma.
Even in 2019, many parents still feel less safe leaving their child alone with a man than a woman. Why? If you ask them, they might not even be able to articulate why they feel that way.
It's my opinion that, on a subconscious level, most of our society believes that a man who wants to work in a career involving children must secretly be some kind of sexual predator. There's a deep level of mistrust there.
Here's why I think that is. We hear about it in the news more and more it seems, males in positions of authority like teachers and priests assaulting children. And I think that plays a significant role in forming people’s feelings.
But is that a true representation of male caregivers as a whole, or is the media blowing isolated incidents out of proportion?
To get an accurate large-scale picture, we really need to look at the statistics.
What Do The Stats Say?
Regarding Sexual Assault
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 93% of reported cases of sexual assault were perpetrated by men (source). The U.S. National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male, and close to 77% of them are adults (source).
Whoa, that's pretty damning evidence, right?
Well, it's not that simple. There are some other statistics we need to consider too.
What About Babysitters In General?
Let's set aside male vs. female for a second. Should you feel safe or unsafe leaving your child with a babysitter in general?
Of crimes committed against children, babysitters make up a significantly smaller proportion than any other group, including family members, and even complete strangers.
It is important to keep in mind that of the cases reported to CPS, 80% of the time the perpetrator was most often the parent, the next in line were other relatives at 6%, parents' partners at 4%, and only 5% of all cases were perpetrated by siblings or strangers (source). That means it is altogether unlikely, in the larger scheme of things, that a child will be assaulted by a babysitter.
So based on the numbers, it seems that your children being with a babysitter is actually less risky than with almost anyone else.
What Male Stereotypes Make People Cautious of Guy Babysitters?
Men aren't as emotional as women and don't have many feelings. Some people might think that men are less qualified to be babysitters because they aren't as in touch with their emotions.
In the 1960s and earlier, this was definitely a thing. From an early age, boys were taught that men don't cry. Men had to keep it together and not show emotion. Anger was the only acceptable emotion because it somehow showed strength, but definitely not weak emotions like sadness.
Through the decades since then, this has become less and less of a thing. It has now gotten to the point that I'm not sure parents really teach their kids that kind of thing anymore. I can't recall the last time I heard someone tell a boy that they had to "be a man" when they were feeling scared or fell off their bike and cried.
Men are more aggressive and risk-taking. Blame it on testosterone, but there is likely some actual truth to this one. For example, in many places, car insurance companies will charge young men significantly more for coverage than women of the same age due to increased risk. Insurance companies have actuarial data to back up their claims.
Men are more likely to get speeding tickets or to engage in full-contact sports. But does this really translate over to behaviors while babysitting?
The kind of guy who dares his friend to climb up on the roof and do a belly flop into the pool probably has a very different mindset than the type of guy you'd hire to be a babysitter, and he probably wouldn't be interested in doing the job anyway.
When it comes to babysitting, guys can be just as responsible as girls. Your male babysitter isn't going to play paintball with your five-year-old while you're gone.
They, like anyone else, just want to follow your rules, do a good job, get paid, and keep their good reputation. After all, they might want to use you as a reference for a future job at some point, so it's important that they keep your house under control when you're not home and stay on your good side.
Boys are less mature than girls. Yes, they take a little longer for maturation than girls. But by the time they reach babysitting age, this should be less of an issue. A little playfulness can be good... after all, they need to be able to relate well with your kids!
Men are useless around the house. This stereotype also dates back to a time when a man's job was to go off to work while the woman stayed home to cook, clean, and take care of the children.
In modern times, men are just as capable as women when it comes to housework, including cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
Just because men traditionally like things like sports and cars doesn't mean that male babysitters aren't awesome at arts and crafts either. In my family, it's the males who are the artists!
Make Sure You're Hiring Babysitters Safely, Regardless of Their Gender!
Looking at national statistics is important, but it remains controversial and possibly misleading. According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, there has historically been a lack of information about these types of crimes. There is a reporting bias, as only those that come to the justice system are counted, and the statistics that are recorded do not differentiate the types of caregivers such as professional daycare providers, licensed or unlicensed sitters, teachers, or those in other roles. In addition, information about the actual number of children in the care of those other than their parents is unreliable.
Therefore, it's difficult to know the exact percentage of those harmed by babysitters in light of all children being cared for by others. The true number of kids that are recipients of any kind of child care is estimated to be quite large. If you think about it, almost every kid alive has been cared for by someone other than their parents at some time in their childhood. That means the true baseline number of children in the care of babysitters (whatever type that may be) is really huge. When looking at it from that perspective, the actual incidence of those being harmed may be quite minuscule in comparison (source).
These pitfalls in reporting, the overall lack of information, and other statistical issues make it very difficult to create a preventive formula that will completely protect your children. There continues to be a need to teach them about inappropriate touch and how to communicate things that they may not be comfortable with related to anyone they are with, whether male or female, well known to them or stranger.
In the end, it just comes down to the fact that you really need to thoroughly screen all of your potential babysitters, not just guys.
That includes things like doing background checks, following up with references (See what questions to ask references here), and doing a Google search of their name.
The kind of people of either gender who want to hurt children can be very deceptive, charming, and difficult to identify. That's why it's important to really vet your babysitter instead of just going off feelings and vibes.
Read our complete guide: How to interview a babysitter for essential tips and our trusted techniques to help you find the best sitter, regardless of their gender.
Our babysitter interview questions can help you weed out unsuitable candidates.
Always be on the lookout for bad babysitter warning signs and take action if you suspect anything.
Some parents may choose to install nanny cams for added peace of mind. If you're considering this, read this article first: Is it legal to record a babysitter and learn what the law says you can and can't do in your country.
The idea that male babysitters are inherently less safe than female babysitters is inaccurate and based on faulty assumptions. There are truly great babysitters of both genders, and those that are awful, as well.
Do male babysitters get paid more?
Yes. According to this study, a wage gap does seem to exist for male babysitters. They're paid $0.50 per hour more on average than their female counterparts.
See our Complete guide to babysitter pay to learn what costs to expect in your situation.
Can I ask my daycare provider only to let female staff change my baby's diaper?
Some daycares actually do have a policy where only female staff can change babies, mostly as a result of complaints and concerns from parents. Technically, this probably would count as some type of employment discrimination. But if I were a male employee and told that I'm not allowed to change diapers anymore, I wouldn’t exactly argue! Don't be surprised as a parent, however, if you make this request and the daycare tells you no.
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