By Guest Blogger Denise Heidel, project manager for Forsyth Family magazine
I recently offered to babysit my friend’s 4-year-old and 6-month-old daughters so that she and her husband could have a night to themselves. I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking, taking on two at the same time. While I’m a seasoned parent, I only have one child, having never been brave enough to take on a second one on a permanent basis.
My 16-year-old son amazed me. He stepped in to help out. He either played “Little Mermaid” with the older child or fed the baby. For the entire evening, and through the next morning, Charlie really impressed me with his natural skills with young children.
We talked about it after the girls left and he said, “I enjoy hanging out with little kids and playing games with them. I like playing games and drawing pictures and watching cartoons with them.” After laughing over that, I asked him if it made him feel more responsible and he confirmed my assumption. He said, “I enjoy feeling more grown up.”
It made me think about my teenage years as a babysitter. It’s totally cliché, but despite all our progressive thinking, babysitting is still largely considered a girl’s job. Additionally, as I researched this article, I found that many parents are reluctant to hire a boy to babysit their children, due to fears that boys are more predatory than girls. I was a bit surprised, as I tried to research statistics of boy babysitters, that every search I did returned report after report that boys were considered less trustworthy than girls.
Given the reports in today’s media, I can respect, and even understand, those fears. After all, I am a mother and girls are certainly not the only children on which child predators will prey. But, I also think we’re stereotyping the minority rather than giving honest, caring boys the opportunity to care for young children. There are some really great pros to boys becoming babysitters, including:
- It gives all children—both the babysitters and the babysat—the opportunity to break stereotypes.
- It gives boys the opportunity to demonstrate responsibility and a nurturing side.
- Boys play differently than girls do… it’s like a mother versus a father. A mother is more likely to hold her child inward, as if to protect her child from the world. A father is more likely to hold his child outward, facing the world. So is it also with boys, who are more likely to play adventurous games or help younger children challenge themselves with a new activity.
I polled a few parents on this topic. Their answers were reassuring, especially in light of the negativity I uncovered while researching the topic. Debbie shared, “Yes, I’d hire a guy. It’s really no different from hiring a girl. It depends on maturity level, same as it would for a girl.” Melissa agreed. “If he’s of integrity and trustworthiness, I would love for my boys to have an additional role model to spend time with outside of the family.”
Similarly, Lindsay said, “I would hire a boy to babysit. But it would depend on who the boy was, of course. His maturity level, age, activities and personality would all play a part of the decision.”
One mother I surveyed reported that she has a male friend who babysits her daughter two days a week. According to Payton, “He’s the best!” Jan also had experience with a male babysitter for her son, sharing, “Jake loved having a ‘guy’ to hang out with” and “I used a male babysitter for my two boys,” said Elyse. “Today, their babysitter is considered their ‘older brother’ and my ‘other son!’”
We also had Joe and Bruce both chime in. Both men used to babysit as teenagers, and Joe shared that he has hired boys to watch his children. “It’s more about the person and how responsible they are,” said Joe.
While it’s understandable that someone may worry about predators around their children, parents need to worry about trustworthiness and maturity more so than they need to worry about gender. I encourage all parents to think outside the box and hire the best person as their child’s babysitter, not necessarily a specific sex. Because babysitting isn’t just a girl’s job.
If you don’t already have a trusted resource to babysit your children, contact The Red Cross for a referral. The Red Cross offers a Babysitting Basics class, which includes safe play and care, as well as how to handle emergencies.
This article has been reposted with permission from Forsyth Family magazine.