It’s a question we ask ourselves all the time. Our care professionals, who come from Germany, have for many years seen successful male candidates in the different social care fields: occupational therapy, physio therapy, educators and speech therapists. And yet, there still seems to be a stigma attached to a young man choosing a profession that is more often than not associated with women.
A male carer’s view:
“I was there to look after a little boy, I prepared his meals, went on outings with him, played with him and took him to his therapies. But it was so much more than that. I was treated as an occupational therapist, with respect and I was asked to contribute to important decisions regarding the therapy programs. It made me feel so valued! I attended therapies with him, to then be able to continue them at home. I was able to feed back if they were helping or if they needed to be discontinued, what my views were on the little boys’ progression and how we could tackle upcoming issues and find new strategies (for new and old problems).”
The fact is that, while caring and the tasks related to it are typically associated with women, men can also be highly effective, nurturing and efficient carers and therapists.
There is nothing inherently female about the skills required by a good carer. Skills like managing medication, preparing food, assisting with personal care and helping people to move about may be required, as well as empathy and commitment. Some of these skills, such as being a sensitive person or managing personal care, may be more traditionally associated with women. But others, such as helping a person move around or lifting somebody from a chair or bed, are skills that rely on qualities more generally associated with men, such as bodily strength.
Sensitive and Tough
For many children having the support of a male carer will provide them with a very positive experience of another adult male, giving them the chance to explore the formation of trusting relationships and having contact with someone who understand their needs. On another level a male caregiver will play quite differently with a child they are looking after. It is likely to be more physical; play wrestling, different sports, pretend fighting. Activities, that we know, are as important as fine motor skills and learning to dress yourself.
Younger disabled people are usually particularly welcoming of diversity in their carers and personal assistants.
Life is about rich positive interactions and modelling positive adult behaviour, from a male and female perspective. Men who have chosen this type of profession are often extremely caring, they know that the work they do with children, with or without special needs can be incredibly impactful and rewarding.
Removing the Stereotypes
Traditional gender roles are changing throughout society, so men moving into the professional care space are adapting with them. The fact is that this is a position that any determined adult can fulfil, as long as they have the capabilities required. Their gender should not prevent them from aspiring to do this job, nor should they let stereotypes about what a “typical carer” looks like get in their way.
In fact, there are certainly times when male carers feel their gender helps them to do a better job. Imagine a scenario where a disabled man has fallen and cannot lift himself up. His male carer arrives for his shift and is able to lift him appropriately so he can get back into his wheelchair or seat. That is not to say that female carers are unable to lift, but typically physical strength is linked to size, and disabled and elderly clients may feel more confident in a man lifting them from the floor after a fall than they would a woman.
Encouraging men into the profession and acknowledging those who are already doing this work will help to reduce the disparity in numbers. Part of this task involves breaking down the pigeonholing that makes people think that this is a job for women only, and making it known that men can – and do – do this job successfully.
We currently have two amazing male carers looking for a host family, do you think you’d be up for it? Why not check them out here?