There's an interesting discussion going on at Parenting.com, in which the parent of a preschooler wonders about a new male teacher in the toddler "potty trainer" room. The school hired a male teacher for the 4- and 5-year-old classroom, which raised a few eyebrows, but this parent is particularly nervous about having a young man help her 2-year-old daughter in the bathroom. "I just don't understand why a young man would want to be a daycare teacher," the parent writes. "It makes me think they have an ulterior motive or something."
I don’t understand this. How can we expect our husbands to be hands-on parents if we don’t trust professional, trained caregivers just because they happen to be male?
My now 4-1/2-year-old daughter had a male preschool teacher for a while when she was about 3, and I'll admit that, upon meeting him for the first time, I wondered why he was there. Would he be working directly with the kids, or in the background? Was he studying early childhood education? Were his certifications up to date? Did he just really like working with kids?
The answers were easy enough to get via a quick chat with the preschool director, and any trepidation I felt about him vanished when I saw the way the kids -- especially the little boys in the class -- related to and listened to him. He helped out in the toddler room as well, and the 1- and 2-year-olds followed him around like a flock of happy baby ducks. My kids adored him, and I was as upset as they were when he left the school the following year.
"I know i may exaggerate but i don't even trust my husband giving my daughter a bath! I know i may be wrong on not trusting him but thats the way i think!" one parent commented in the Parenting.com discussion, leading me to wonder if perhaps the issue is rooted in the parent and not the childcare provider. Others posted that they’d feel comfortable with a man providing certain aspects of care, but not others. "If a male teacher were employed in the next room, 4-5's, I think I would be okay with that. It's the whole potty training area I wouldn't be comfortable with. And the fact that my little toddler wouldn't be able to communicate she was touched improperly..." another parent added.
When it comes to hiring a caregiver for a daycare center, “gender shouldn’t be the consideration; overall qualifications are the key criteria that should be judged,” writes Robin McClure at About.com. And there are other issues to consider as well; Dr. Janet Rose Wojtalik, author of The 7 Secrets of Parenting Girls, points out that it can actually be a very positive thing for children, especially girls, to have a male caregiver. "The media and society place so much pressure on girls to conform to typical 'gender roles,' that being exposed at an early age to both men and women who challenge the typical stereotypes is a good thing," she writes.
Would you be comfortable with a male caregiver in your child's preschool? Why or why not?
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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