*I learned recently that male nannies — “mannies” — are all the rage. More and more families are turning to male professional caregivers to take care of their children while they’re working or traveling.
Learning of a new business in Los Angeles that met this burgeoning demand, Mannies Of LA, I reached out to their owner, Michael Lin, who as a developmental kindergarten teacher at a private school in Los Angeles identified a need in the families of the kids in his classroom.
“A lot of my students’ parents told me how lucky they thought their kids were to be in my classroom and have a positive male role model in their lives,” Lin, 30, said. “Prospective parents often told me the same thing. A lot of the kids don’t see their dads that much, as they’re at work or traveling on business. The kids are at home with their moms, or if they have help in the home, it’s a female nanny. At school, most early elementary school teachers are female. If the families have a housekeeper, that person is usually female.”’
“A lot of the parents would ask me to watch their kids, or come on a trip with their family, or teach them sports,” Lin continued, “and suddenly a lightbulb went off! Even though these fathers are there, these kids need a male presence. I particularly noticed that the boys were lacking that consistent male role model.”
Committed to meeting that need, Lin launched Mannies Of LA in November of last year. He employs over 50 mannies, although his talent pool fluctuates from month to month. He’s constantly recruiting and hiring qualified, committed male caregivers of a variety of ethnicities.
Mannies of LA has employed an extremely comprehensive screening process for their mannies, and matching process for the families they serve. After completing the initial application, Lin personally conducts home visits for each family, often meeting with the families’ children as well. In the home, a second questionnaire is completed, after which a similarly exhaustive screening process with individual nannies is conducted. The goal is to find the perfect, hand-picked manny for each family.
“With my mannies, I ask personality questions and job related questions, and I also ask hypothetical questions like ‘What would you do if you were in Target with a six year old and he threw a tantrum because he saw a toy that he wanted,” Lin shared. “I ask about typical scenarios that happen. I want to see how they would come up with solutions on their feet — that’s a big part of working with kids. Things happen all the time and you just have to be prepared.”
Given Mannies Of LA’s focus on providing positive male role models, I asked Lin whether his business targeted single mothers.
“I have had some single mom clients,” Lin said, “but my target could be anyone: those who have boys or girls, single moms, same sex parents — any child can benefit from having a positive male role model. Most of my clients are single moms or families that have a boy that’s five or six and getting to that age where they want to go outside and ‘rough & tumble’ and all of that.”
As Lin talked about helping his families find positive male role models for their kids, I detected a slight wistfulness in him that led me to ask about his relationship with his own father while he was growing up. Something told me that Lin had yearned for something more from his own dad, and perhaps, that had fueled his desire to meet that need in kids he came in contact with.
“Growing up, my father was very strict,” Lin remembered. “We never really talked about feelings or about why you should or shouldn’t do something. It was basically ‘Do this because I said so. If you make me mad you’re gonna get in trouble.’ I’m not trying to make it sound like my dad is a horrible person, because he’s not. He’s very caring, and today we have a great relationship and we do talk about a lot of things. But growing up, I didn’t really have that ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling. I never hugged my dad — we just shake hands. I never said ‘I love you’ to my dad..”
“I knew that when I have kids,” Lin continued, “I want to be different in that sense. There are some things about my dad that he was great at and I want to pass on. I just also want to have that open communication with my kids.”
Families employing Mannies of LA pay a $150 start up fee, 100% of which Lin donates to area non-profits that serve children. After a final placement is made and a manny is in the home, families pay a second placement fee. Lin says Mannies Of LA has already met its first year revenue target. Given the agency’s success, I was surprised to learn that Lin had no immediate plans for expansion.
“The hesitation I have,” Lin reflected, “is that I’m all about building and keeping relationships, and I feel that if I were to expand, I personally wouldn’t be able to do the home visits. One of the very integral parts of Mannies of LA is that I do the home visit. Not every agency does that, and I think it’s so important not just for me but for the families as well, to build that relationship and to figure out together what type of manny would work best for them. That’s my hesitation, so [with regard to expansion] I’m leaning towards ‘no’ at the moment.”
“That’s the thing I like about being a small business,” Lin continued. “You have those connections. I’m not in this to make millions of dollars. I’m a teacher and I love teaching, and I love kids! So that’s what I want to help families find: someone who’s gonna love their kids and be a good role model.”
Information for Mannies of LA is available at manniesofla.com.