A friend shared this article on Facebook and I found it an interesting read. What are your thoughts?
Seeing All Men as PredatorsBy Lisa Belkin
A lone man is sitting on a bench at the playground, watching the children on the swings? Your reaction?
That is Nicole Sprinkle’s as well. And in a guest post today she explores the assumptions so many of us make about men and children, conceding that she has an intellectual solution, but not an emotional one.
By Nicole Sprinkle
When it comes to our kids, men get a pretty bad rap. As a society we talk ad nauseum about racism and other forms of discrimination. But when it comes to men, no one seems to have much to say.
Here’s what I mean: Recently, I was in a big child care bind. My daughter began a preschool that ends at 3:30, and my husband and I both work until six. Finding a sitter for just 2 1/2 hours five days a week was tough. Most qualified nannies wanted full-time work. That left us with a relatively small pool of candidates made up mostly of students with flexible schedules who were willing to get any money they could in between classes, and one stay-at home mother with a 4-year-old looking for a little extra spending money. She seemed like the no-brainer choice. Local. Mother. Good references.
Yet, there was also this 23-year-old young man who responded to my ad on our neighborhood’s Listserv. He was well spoken and exuded a quiet friendliness over the phone. He was studying to become a paramedic (great to have around in case of emergencies), lived his whole life in the neighborhood, had a mother who owned a local daycare, and worked as a summer camp counselor at the very preschool my daughter was now attending – and got rave reviews from his supervisor there. In his e-mail to me, he said he would be interested in the job if my child was a boy. When I spoke to him on the phone and asked why he’d stipulated the male gender, he openly explained that he understood that many parents felt uncomfortable having a man watch a young girl. Touché. And extra points for sensitivity. I told him I did, indeed, have a 3-year-old daughter. He replied that he had no problem with that. Hmmm, but did I? Well, yeah, I did. Or at least I was learning that I did.
Since he was being so forthright with me, I told him frankly that I liked him best of all and yet still wasn’t sure I could make the leap of letting a man watch my daughter: one who might have to help her wipe, clean her up in case of an accident, who would be alone with her everyday for several hours.
I also told him that I felt really awful about having to feel this way, and that it was such a shame that society forced us to discriminate against kind, competent men as caregivers for our kids. Yes, I know that statistically a man is far more likely to molest a child than a woman but, really, what is the likelihood of it happening to your child when the potential caregiver comes replete with recommendations that you trust and a personality and career path you admire? I told him I needed to think about it for a day or two.
He very kindly told me he understood and would wait for and respect my decision. Two days later I called him to tell him I was so sorry but I was going with the local mom. Again, he pleasantly told me he completely understood but to feel free to call him if it didn’t work out. I hung up the phone feeling sheepish.
Then, a few days later I was chatting with a friend who told me that a close, heterosexual male friend of his had adopted a baby who was now 4. I was instantly fascinated. I’d heard of single moms and gay and lesbian couples adopting, but never a single, straight man.
What was his story? He was pushing 40, hadn’t met the right person (and wasn’t sure he would) but knew he wanted children. My friend also added that he was lucky that he adopted when he did because today it would be virtually impossible for him to. I was puzzled and said so. “The adoption laws are stiffer now,” he replied. No one would be willing to give a single man a child. Why? Because of the same reason I didn’t want to hire a male babysitter. Too risky. Or so we believe. I asked my friend if the single father would be willing to talk to me about what the adoption process was like for him given his unique circumstances, but he declined. Can’t say I blame him.
Finally, to round out the week, a big brouhaha broke out on my neighborhood’s parent’s Listserv. A number of men playing chess on the stone chess tables inside one of our local playgrounds were given citations by the police. The reasoning? No adults allowed in a children’s playground without a child. (That’s the rule in all city playgrounds.)
Parents online became incensed – most felt the police were doing their job. The men didn’t belong there and a law’s a law. Some went as far to question why these men had nothing better to do on a weekday. Didn’t they work? Maybe they were criminals or even child molesters.
Other parents, including me, jumped in to say that such accusations were unfair: people in this city work different hours and many are unemployed right now. There were worse things to do than play chess. And these were permanent chess tables clearly intended for adult use. Wasn’t the city responsible for creating a confusing situation?
But, ultimately, most agreed that they didn’t like the men there around their kids. I couldn’t help thinking that had it been a group of women playing chess, the police nor the parents would have given it a second thought.
I’m in no way advocating that we trust all men implicitly – especially strangers — or that we ignore the statistics or even that we punish ourselves for feeling more protective about our children around unfamiliar men vs. women. So much of being a mother is trusting your gut instinct and, if you don’t, you’ll only make yourself miserable.
I just know that as a mom who was faced with a tough decision along the gender divide, I can’t help feeling saddened by my well-meaning bias—or wondering if my daughter missed out on a chance to have a great caregiver and our family a friend.