Monday, August 16, 2010
For some reason there is this taboo about men watching children who are not their own. Who could blame people? All those horror stories about Jewish children being molested always involved men. (As if a woman isn't capable of molesting children...hmmm...) Growing up, my younger sister had weekly opportunities to make lots of money babysitting. She made no effort to ask people. The phone calls just poured in and she'd waltz right on over to said home and basically get paid to sit in their living room for 3 hours while the kids were shluffing. Talk about a sweet gig. As a teenager who grew up in a big family I was used to being around babies and knew my way around a home with little kids. Watching kids was part of my responsibility, but when it came to, say, babysitting someone else's kids when my sister wasn't available, their tone of voice shifted to the usual vocal shrug in the form of Well, uhm..nyum...no thank you we'll find someone else. click.
When I first started college I wanted to be an occupational therapist for children. I was very good with kids and it seemed like the natural choice. Plus you could make your own hours, and God help us, there are so many Jewish children who need therapy, especially in the frum sector. I was sold. I started taking the appropriate classes and when asked about my collegiate goals, told people I was going into an OT program. Upon hearing this, people's faces began to conduct a hellish frenzy of gestures expressing extreme discontent but attempting to mask it with some kind of a haphazard grin, followed by Oh...interesting...
My little brothers were getting help with OT and PT and some of their therapists were male. I figured I'd ask them about their experiences. They responded with a resounding "Oh man don't even start me on this." Almost 9 times out of 10, when dealing with frum families, the parents always requested that no male therapists be sent in, women only. I don't know if this has to do with the whole yichud thing, but either way its just plain ridiculous. These men are coming to help your children get out of the developmental mess they're in. (which, in some instances, could very well be your own fault.) They are just as qualified as female therapists and theres no reason to have a bias against them. (and no, just because a guy deals with children for a living, doesn't mean hes gay or a pedophile) This problem doesn't just exist in the ultra-frum community. Some of the modern orthodox world is guilty of this as well. (By the way, it turned out that OT wasn't really the thing for me anyway.)
Its hard for many to have a solid opinion on this. How do you know you can trust someone? Oh, well if its a woman, what could she possibly do to this child that could be so bad? I don't think I need to even answer that. A man on the other hand could be more of a threat, right? Why? Because he has testicles? Because his voice is deeper? Because he has facial hair? (Hell, I've seen more facial hair on some women than on some guys!) Allowing a male to be around your kids not any more of a risk than allowing a woman to be around them. Period.
People need to lighten up. Practice caution with a man as you would with anybody who would spend time with your kids. Be there to supervise and if you can't, do the same background work you would on a female babysitter. As this blog and many other sources can tell you: Possessing the ability to give birth doesn't qualify you as an expert in childcare. To extend that thought, not possessing that ability doesn't disqualify you either.