February 15, 2016 5:52am
WHEN Britney Spears hired a male nanny to take care of her son back in 2006, celebrities were shocked, fans joked, hubby Kevin Federline was pissed and the tabloids had an absolute field day.
Perry Taylor, 28, who originally came on board as Britney’s bodyguard, was quickly dubbed ‘Perry Poppins’ after being photographed looking after baby Sean Preston while the pop star was pregnant with her second child, Jayden James. One magazine even referred to her new hired help as “Britney’s sexy new stand-in husband”.
But Brit couldn’t have realised she would kickstart the sauciest trend in childcare, with celebs and well-to-do families flocking to find a ‘manny’ to help raise their children.
A decade on, ‘the manny’ is no longer a novelty among wealthy parents and the odd progressive family. They’ve transformed into a legitimate childcare option, with more and more busy mums and dads opting to hire a male over a female caregiver to help out around the house. Once a radical idea, there are now dozens of certified websites dedicated to connecting families with the right ‘manny’.
For young men in New York looking to make a solid buck, it’s a dream job.
John Brandon, owner and co-founder of My Manny, launched the first all-male nannying agency in New York City with his former roommate in 2013. Once a male nanny himself, the college graduate and professional opera singer says he fell into the role while studying to help pay the bills. He ended up scoring a job with the family of a New York billionaire philanthropist and entrepreneur.
“In 2006 in my junior year I lived in with a family, I lived for free, got paid on top of that, but I didn’t know what to call it,” Mr Brandon told news.com.au. “I ended up working for a very high profile family on the Upper East Side. Through that, all of the families began to ask where they could find a manny for their kids.”
Brit was one of the first celebs to buck the trend and opt for a ‘manny’. Picture X17/Big AustraliaSource:Big Pictures Australia
Mr Brandon says he saw a huge demand in the market for male caregivers, particularly in New York City, with families wanting anything from a few hours’ help a week, to fulltime live-in assistance. And they were willing to pay mega bucks for the right person.
“For single mums, hiring a male nanny means their children receive a positive male influence in their life that they may be lacking,” he said, adding that he receives very specific requests from single mothers every day.
More than 250 male caregivers have created a profile on MyManny.com in the first two months after it was launched. Most of the ‘mannies’ are in their 20s and have at least a university degree and all prospects are put through a rigorous screening process.
“It’s really up to the kids, about who they connect with the best. Some parents have tried both a female and a male caregiver and have found their kids connect more with the guy,” Mr Brandon said.
“We offer everything, from a regular babysitter job, a couple of nights a week, afterschool care, homework, putting them to bed. But then I’ll get requests for a guy with certain specifications or qualifications — a background in childhood education, experience with autistic children, an interest in basketball, guitar. One family wanted a guy not just to help with homework but also with basketball skills to train the kids.”
Now for the good part, the salary. Mr Brandon says many of his mannies already have a fulltime or part-time jobs, but pick up caregiving on the side to supplement their income. And if you happen to land a high profile family, you could be earning a six-figure salary.
Elle Macpherson and male assistant Jonathan Bush take Aurelius out in Double Bay, Sydney back in 2015. Picture: INFSource:INF
He wasn’t able to discuss his celebrity clientele, for obvious reasons, but did say: “Caregivers to celebrities are making more money than I could ever make”.
“A manny to a family on the Upper East Side could be making between $80,000 to $100,000, plus benefits — health insurance, full time employment status,” he said.
“Generally speaking in New York City, the going rate for a part-time manny is $20 an hour.”
Considering the current New York state minimum wage is $9 an hour, and the federal rate is even less, $7.25, it’s easy to see why more and more men are turning to childcare instead of pulling beers or waiting tables.
Mr Brandon said he’s had overwhelming interest from men who have never cared for children in the past. “We live in a day where it’s tough to talk about these kind of things. People honestly want to believe that there are gender specific roles … but if we can get rid of the stigma behind it and tell them they’re going to have a great time and make a difference — I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m just providing families with an alternative.”
For 29-year-old Dorsea Palmer, an actor living in New York, his first ‘mannying’ gig came about in 2011 purely as a means to pay the bills.
Friends suggested he create a profile on a nannying website as the job would give him the flexibility to go to auditions and classes. “I made a profile and literally within two days I had a family asking me to be their manny,” he told news.com.au.
“The dad was a GM of a huge restaurant in New York so he was out of the house at 7am till 8pm. He first had a female nanny but wanted someone to be active with his boys, take them to the park, play catch with them, pick them up from school. He felt as though having a male babysitter would help his two boys grow up into young men.”
Madonna has employed men to help out with looking after her kids in the past. Picture: Snapper MediaSource:Snapper Media
Dorsea has since cared for families with infants, toddlers, boys and girls, and is still working as a manny today. “Now I’m an expert at changing diapers, bed time, feeding time, I even know the perfect song to put child to bed.”
The actor said he’s had families offer him six-figure salaries for fulltime work. “You can very well make a living with just being a manny. It’s a lot bigger [salary] than what a lot of people make … I just got offered $100,000 a year and all I have to do is go to the Hamptons every other weekend, with full benefits.”
He added: “When I first got into it I honestly never thought I would be any sort of babysitter or manny, but I’m very outgoing, I love to have fun and at the end of the day these kids, they are wanting to have fun, they’re very active.
“And I think in every guy, we all like to play with cars, we all like video games, we all like to act silly — the things your girlfriend complains about,” he joked.
“I’m 29 years old, I am a big kid at heart. When I realised what this job entails, not only being a big brother or a mentor but I get to be someone who gets to play Xbox and to wrestle and to jump on a bed and use my imagination — it really is a dream job.”