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noun [countable]

a male nanny


noun [uncountable]

'With singer Britney Spears and actress Gwyneth Paltrow employing male nannies, known as "mannies", there is a growing acceptance among couples to employ men in childcare roles …'

Metro 4th September 2006

'My mannying days began as a way to supplement my income in college; I ended up as an instructor in the after-school program at the downtown Manhattan private school I had attended.'

New York Post 8th June 2006

'My Mannying Career Began Today. Today I hung out with John, his wife Suzanne and their three kids.'

the last polka 27th September 2005

Although as little as ten years ago male nannies were practically unheard of, in 2006 an increasing number of working parents are opting to employ the services of a manny.

According to a recent survey of 1500 families by a childcare recruitment agency in the United Kingdom, 94 per cent of parents interviewed said they would consider hiring a man for the job, and a fifth of parents said that they already knew of a family who had employed a manny.

Though only 4 per cent of people working in the UK childcare industry are men, reflecting the traditional perception that childcare is 'women's work', this is a substantial increase on figures from just three years ago, and looks likely to continue on an upward trend. Mannies are increasingly fashionable on both sides of the Atlantic, especially in London and Manhattan, promoted by high-profile mothers like actors Liz Hurley, Gwyneth Paltrow, pop star Britney Spears, and featuring as characters in popular US sitcoms like Friends and Ally McBeal.

male nannies or mannies are in short supply, with many men put off by lack of career progression and low rates of pay

A key factor in the increasing popularity of the manny is thought to be the emotional insecurity of mothers, who fear that hiring an attractive female nanny might be a threat to their marriages. Other families have more pragmatic reasons for favouring a manny over a female carer, such as dragging their sons away from TV and computer screens and encouraging them onto cricket and football pitches. Some believe that a male carer is a more effective role model for boys, and mannies are especially popular with single mothers who want to provide some kind of male influence for their sons.

However, mannies are in short supply. Current evidence confirms that childcare remains a female-dominated profession, with many men being put off by lack of career progression and low rates of pay.

Background – manny

Manny is of course a playful blend of the words man and nanny (nanny dates back to the early 18th century, and was in fact based on a pet form of the name Ann).

Although the term manny has only entered the spotlight during the last three or four years in the context of changing trends in childcare, there is evidence for informal use as far back as the mid eighties. Manny follows the normal spelling rules of English on the model of nanny, and forms a plural by changing ending -y to -ies. On the model of nannying, which refers to 'the job of being a nanny', it has also morphed into an uncountable noun mannying.

A couple of other nanny neologisms used in related contexts are nanny envy, referring to the envious feelings mothers get towards their nannies because of the amount of time they spend with their children, and nanny cam, a tiny video camera small enough to conceal in a teddy bear which is used for spying on babysitters.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 6th October 2006.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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