I have a job. I am a caregiver for a one-year-old boy, Tues-Fri while his parents are at work. We play with toys (balls, cars, a boat, toy pianos (2), toy phones (3), blocks, hockey sticks, a xylophone thing, puzzles), listen to music (Raffi, Fred Penner, The Barenaked Ladies, CBC Classical, and his fave, the CD from Rainbow Songs), go to Rainbow Songs on Tues (baby music), sometimes go to the kindergymn on Wed (babies and toddlers, balls of various sizes, foam gymnastics equipment, slides, rocking horse, teeter-totters, hockey equipment, mats, cars for riding in), sometimes do things with the moms of the neighbourhood, go for walks (sometimes with him in backpack, sometimes in stroller). I feed him lunch and a recently illimitable number of snacks. He naps twice daily.
He likes bananas, tiny Chinese oranges, Cheerios, crackers, “The Grand Old Duke of York”, the kitties, his family — especially his dad.
While he naps, I read (I read a giant PhD dissertation earlier this year), surf the web, blog, drink tea, pray, tidy up.
One relative has reminded me not to stop looking for work that is more in line with my interests. As someone who hopes to one day be a father, what interests would those be? Career interests? As a future classical/theological scholar, I see no jobs in Toronto in line with my career interests for which I am eligible. This work is certainly more in line with my long-term life interests than working in a book store or a desk job with government or being a knight at Medieval Times.
No doubt it is the fact that this is not a characteristically male profession, that of nanny (or “manny”, male nanny, if you will).
I see no real reason why the number of men involved in childcare and elementary-school teaching be so small. This is, first of all, actual work. I mean, sure, right now my little charge is asleep, and I’m blogging. But once he’s awake, I must keep him entertained, amused, fed, out of trouble, out of danger, clean (including the diaper). I, who am neither his favourite nor second favourite (nay, not even third or fourth, really), must spend time with him and help make sure that he is healthy, happy, and growing up as he should. This takes work. Taking care of a willful one-year-old who sees no reason that the poopy diaper need come off or who wishes to hit things other than the xylophone with the mallet is work.
Second, this is meaningful work. We should honour those who look after our children. Honour housewives and house-husbands. Honour nannies and babysitters and daycare workers and elementary-school teachers everywhere. To help a little person grow into the big person whom he will someday be is a tremendous privilege and of greater meaning and truer value than helping someone in Chapters get the latest book by Donald Trump or Dan Brown. To encourage a little guy to try new things, to help him improve coordination, to watch these things unfold before your eyes is truly meaningful and life-affirming. To produce smiles and laughter in a world of sorrow and pain is always to be encouraged — and one-year-olds have the winningest smiles of all. To hold a child in your arms as the child falls asleep — priceless.
Children are not merely the future — although they are, and should be nurtured into their almost infinite potential — they are the present. They are real people here and now who need love and compassion, who need mercy and honour, who need the strength of community to flourish. The Psalms say that many children are like a quiver full of arrows. They are the treasure store of a family, the most precious possessions in a household.
Not only is this meaningful work, but it is work to which a man brings different things from a woman. I am glad that many women choose to be nannies and daycare workers and schoolteachers. This is good. So should men. Every human being is different, and this includes children. There are children whom a man, because of the combination of genetics and culture, will be more suited to care for than a woman (inevitably, this goes vice versa). Men and women are different, so we bring different skills and outlooks to the task of child-rearing. For too long men have inhabited a childless world, a world where the daily grind is meaningful for no reason other than it being work. Women have entered the factories, the small businesses, the kitchens, the towers of business, the ivory tower, the halls of government. Good. Now let us see the men — the right men — enter the elementary schools, the daycares, the Sunday Schools, the nannying jobs.
Finally, a man with a nurturing heart, a man who knows what it takes to be a man, a man who likes children, a man with imagination, a man with a strong work ethic, a man with strong protective instincts — these men should be in the lives of the sons of our society. In a society where divorce, death, deadbeats, and other factors leave many boys fatherless, these boys need strong male influences to help them see what a man should be. In a society where men abuse their wives and children, where men work excessively long hours, where men are couch potatoes, boys need strong male influences to help them see what a man should be.*
*They also need female influences. And girls need both male and female influences. It is my understanding that a healthy dose of both genders helps us grow up to be healthier psychologically.