Monday, August 16, 2010

Manny Nanny

The frum world is no stranger to the concept of men watching children. Heck, since the economy went haywire, for some reason, Moms are the ones with jobs and Dads are left at home to watch the kids. Kollel Dads are nothing new either. Its nice to see that people are somewhat okay with men taking care of their own kids, but what about taking care of other people's kids?

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, 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.


  1. i was also thinking at one point of going into ot/pt (definately glad i didn't). at the time i was told that there is davka a demand in the the frum community for male therapists because many people don't want their kids treated by women.

    "As if a woman isn't capable of molesting children...hmmm..."

    what percentage of molesters are women . . . hmm . . .

  2. your comment moderation is very annoying.

  3. I used the word capable. I didn't talk about statistics. There no way to be sure, but because the statistics point towards men, it doesn't allow for suspicion of every male.

    As far as comment moderation goes, you don't like it, don't post. Its there so I can control whats on the blog. I don't censor anything. People call me all sorts of things and I'm open to others opinions. I just need to know whats being said, I don't stop people from saying it.

  4. For what it's worth, in public schools the therapists are almost all women. I can't recall a single male at the preschool age, except once my son's class had a male paraprofessional who came in one hour a day when the teachers went to lunch.

  5. Meshuga Parents - You mean well, you really do. But you know where good intentions can lead....

    First of all, yes, there are some babysitters who are male and wonderful. And many men are very well-suited for professions/side jobs that are traditionally held by females. If a 16 year old guy is extremely interested in watching my kids while nearly all of his friends have interests that differ significantly, that parental protective side of me does kick in and make me wonder, "Why is this guy so interested in hanging out with my kids alone?" Is that completely fair? Probably not. But you've said many times that overprotection has its merits when it comes to our children. If a female is available and equally qualified to babysit, I'm going with her. Sorry, but LoZ is right - the statistics re. the percentages of molesters who are actually women speaks for itself. Of course, anything can happen. But how do these types of stories ALMOST ALWAYS go down? Be honest.

    Finally, there is a line in this post that completely kills it for me: "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.)"
    That just comes across as irrelevant, ignorant, and patently false. What gives you the right to blame a child's need for OT/PT on something the parents did or didn't do? Developmental mess? Your own fault? I'm beginning to think that your decision that the helping profession of OT "wasn't for you" has more to do with a lack of sensitivity and finger-pointing attitude than a personal preference. If you actually know much about what OT is and what it's for, it sure doesn't come across in that remark.

  6. I pointed out with regard to babysitting that if one exercises caution and makes sure they know and trust the babysitter, it doesn't matter if they're male or female. If you're leaving your kids with someone you know nothing about, the risk of the kids being in a dangerous situation is equal on both sides.

    With regard to my other comment...

    First, I am no expert on therapy, but the reading I have done on the subject illustrates my view on the matter and I have experienced first hand what child therapists do.

    Notice I used the word "could". I'm not saying that every child that needs therapy is a product of negligent parenting. However, in some cases, there are many things that parents could do in the early stages of their child's life to help prevent the need for therapy in later stages. Not every case, but some...and one can't ignore the huge need for childrens therapy in the frum community.