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When Nanny Is a Man

If you thought that only a woman could be a nurturing and loving nanny, then you have not seen a "manny" in action! Mannies, the male versions of nannies and au pairs, are the latest trend in at-home child care and they are definitely on the rise.

"Society has changed, and people have realized that care-giving isn't solely a female role," said Marlys Norby of Alexandria, who currently has a male au pair taking care of her two sons. To Norby it felt normal hiring a male au pair, though, since the family is used to male caregivers. "My dad actually stayed at home and raised my first son, and that worked out great," Norby said. "After that we have had three other male caregivers, and I still keep in touch with two of them," Norby continued.

Her current au pair — Jiri Pohoraly, 27, from the Czech Republic — has been with the family since February. Jiri worked as an au pair for two years before coming to the Norbys, and he also spent a year in the army, which he sees as a great advantage. "Being an au pair can be tough at times, so my background has really helped me," Pohoraly said. His host mom agrees: "Jiri has great organizational skills, and even though he is a serious person, he is very open and has a good sense of humor."

Teresa Rutledge of Great Falls feels the same way about her Swedish male au pair, 20-year-old Emil Berglund. "Emil is so nice and responsible. My kids just love him," Rutledge said. "My kids are very sporty and active, and so is Emil, and I think that's why they get along so well," she added.

Emil is the Rutledge family’s first male au pair, and the family has never regretted that decision. "We thought it would be better with a male au pair, since I think that a male would have more in common with my boys than a female. We were right!" Rutledge said.

Emil has been with the Rutledge family since August, so he has only about three months left of his year-long stay. Berglund decided to come to the States and work as an au pair after hearing about it from relatives who had done the same thing. "I knew that being an au pair would be a great experience and that it would help me grow as a person," Berglund said.

Berglund thinks he gets along great with "his children," Mark and Matthew. "They're really good kids," he said. They are really into sports and so am I, so we have a lot in common. They play baseball, soccer and wrestling, so they keep me quite busy," Berglund said. He does not necessarily see any advantages to being a male au pair. "I think the way you get along with your host kids has more to do with your personality than your gender," Berglund said. After a while he admitted, though, that there might be one advantage. "When problems arise between the kids and you have to step in, the kids might have more respect for a male au pair then a female. I never have to raise my voice, whereas a girl probably would have to do that," Berglund said.

Even though Berglund has had a great time with the Rutledges, he does miss things about his home country. "I really miss Swedish nature. I live by the water at home, and we have a boat that we go out with all the time, so I can't wait to go home and do that. I have become such a landlubber being here," Berglund said and laughed.

Kathy McLernon of Herndon has had 12 au pairs, but in May she will get her first male au pair. So why did she wait so long?

"When we started having au pairs, we needed an infant-qualified au pair because our middle son was 1 year old, and that's why we chose a girl, McLernon said. "By the time he was in preschool, we had our third son, so it was back to infant-qualified again. Now that the boys are older, they like the idea of a 'big brother,' so that's why we chose a male au pair this time.”

Even though the McLernons have had several good experiences with female au pairs, Kathy McLernon acknowledges that there are some advantages to having a male caregiver. "Hopefully there will be less of the emotional issues you deal with with a young female," McLernon said. "I also believe that some girls who don't have brothers themselves don't understand pre-teen and teen-age boys, so having a male au pair helps that situation.” McLernon remembers one experience in particular. "I actually had one female au pair that put up a sign on the bathroom toilet reminding the boys to put the toilet seat down. ... Some things you fight about, some you let go. I think a male au pair will understand more instinctively which things to let go," McLernon explained. McLernon admitted, though, that she probably will miss having another girl around the house. "I will be in a family with three sons, a husband and a male au pair. ... Even our dog is a male! I will be completely outnumbered," McLernon said.

The mannies are still relatively few — only 3 to 5 percent of the United States’ more than 1 million at-home child-care providers are male. Parents are still a bit hesitant about hiring a male au pair or nanny, fearing that a man is incapable of nurturing children, or even worse, prone to pedophilia. However, they are definitely on the rise, according to Keri Bartok, PR manager for EF Au Pair, one of the largest child-care-providing agencies in the country. Bartok also said that in Northern Virginia as many as 14 percent of the EF au pairs are male, so hopefully more moms and dads will get over the uneasiness of having a male caregiver and instead see all the great things that can come out the experience.