It is often said that the home is a woman’s realm – and professional childcare roles have traditionally fallen into line with the stereotype.
But a pair of London entrepreneurs hope to give men a leg up in the industry as part of a groundbreaking new business.
Manny & Me is the brainchild of Jamie Leith and James McCrossen. The agency aims to offer time-poor parents the combined service of a nanny and tutor while promoting the role of men in childcare.
Around 60 per cent of the agency’s workforce are men, combining the care responsibilities of a traditional nanny with educational tuition and sports coaching.
Despite a surge in the number of men taking up childcare roles, Leith and McCrossen say old stereotypes persist.
“While there are definitely more and more men entering the industry, there is still a long way to go before working in this capacity is seen by everyone as something that men and women can do equally,” says Jamie.
“We still rightly have parents ask us many questions around child protection and safety, but we find every family an individual specific to their needs. That can be male or female.
“With current news surrounding historic child abuse, now more than ever the profile of the right males working with children needs to be promoted so we don’t go backwards and define parenting and childcare roles by gender again.”
Both men have backgrounds in education and childcare. James started out as a tennis coach before moving into football, gaining a teaching degree and travelling the world with families as a private ‘manny’; Jamie spent the last eight years teaching in primary schools in London and leading on arts and education projects across the country.
Their business model is built on the idea of offering families “more than just a nanny”. It serves as a platform for parents to meet multi-skilled individuals who can inform, educate and coach as well as tying the shoelaces.
“London has a wealth of great nannying and tutoring agencies,” explains James. “But they are all essentially offering the same singular service. No one is offering an individual that can be both nanny and tutor.
“Our overriding aim is to offer a service that benefits everyone – from child to parent, parent to manny or nanny.”
The agency is up and running across west London, with mannies jobbing around Fulham, Shepherd’s Bush, Notting Hill, Holland Park and Marylebone.
Leith and McCrossen believe the capital is the perfect place for Manny & Me to thrive, with thousands of hard-working parents in need of support.
London is also home to a pool of qualified teachers and top-class graduates – two groups that make up a big chunk of the agency’s workforce.
The pair believe ‘mannying’ can offer respite for exhausted teachers at the end of their tether in the classroom.
“Having both been primary teachers, James and I are all too aware of the pressures teachers are under today and how all-consuming the profession is,” Jamie adds.
“Working as a manny or nanny can allow for a break from the classroom while continuing a role in education that can offer a different perspective on one’s pedagogy. This can lead back to school or off on a different path.”
Leith and McCrossen were recently selected as Virgin Money’s ‘start-up of the week’ after impressing industry experts with the Manny & Me model.
Now their aim is to expand the network across London and tackle the myth that childcare is a women-only role.
“As Manny & Me grows we are seeing a community within in it,” says James. “Our aim is to continue to build on this and create something new and exciting for both families and mannies and nannies.”
Jamie adds: “In today’s climate, families’ time and money has to stretch further and further, as does that of graduates and educators.
“We have a number of plans on the horizon that will encourage the breaking down of long-standing barriers, hopefully working towards a more inclusive and multi-dimensional childcare industry.”