Norland’s first male degree graduates to qualify as Norlanders graduated with their professional titles in 2019. Liam and Harry (Set 39) are among the small but growing number of men in the field of nannying. They are pioneers within the nanny profession.  

Traditionally, early years professions are considered a female role, entwined with domesticity and care.  So even as the demographic evolves, mindsets can remain stuck in tradition. This Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, Norlander Liam explores how male nannies can care for their mental health in a gender-inclusionary manner, both for themselves and their little charges.  

“I believe there is some degree of stigma surrounding men in the early years,” Liam says, because on reflection, “this is purely because I have experienced it myself.” Stereotypical gender roles perceive men as existing purely within the public sphere, outside of the home, whereas women are perceived as being in the private sphere, within the home caring for the children. This is a generalisation that may be damaging for all genders in a multitude of ways.

As Liam argues, men should be seen as having the ability to care for children in the same manner as women. “I want to be compared to my peers for my ability to care for and nurture children and, thus, my skills as a nanny. I want my skills, experience, and knowledge to precede my gender.” 

a male Norland Nanny holding a certificate

Liam writes that his gender means that oftentimes it is assumed he will only be “suitable for a family of boisterous, active boys.” This presumption, that men lack the nurturing skills necessary to care for children, is bolstered by the stereotype that charities such as Movember, the leading men’s health charity, aim to counteract through their activism. Their goal is to generate conversation among men surrounding their emotions and mental health struggles, something traditional gender stereotypes, for the most part, have excluded them from.  

It is conversation, for Liam, that is key to feeling supported in what can be an isolating career. He comments, “a good set of reliable friends” is the key to preserving mental health. “Friends you can call upon to pick you up when you feel down, but also with whom you can celebrate your successes and vice versa!”  

In the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 (Mind.com) yet 75% of men who reported as struggling with their mental health did not seek help, whether through talking therapies, medication or reaching out to loved ones. Engendering an ethos of open communication with young children is essential if we are to lower this harrowing statistic going forward.  

Liam’s advice to opening conversation and encouraging children, no matter their gender, to understand and tackle their challenging emotions, is through emotion coaching. “I will always, without question, afford my charges my fullest attention when discussing their feelings and emotions. I once read a quote that has stuck with me: ‘You should listen with the intent to hear, not to reply.’ I find this to be sound advice when discussing feelings and emotions, because you want the child to engage with that feeling for themselves and work out what it is that prompted it, how it made them feel as a result and what can they do next time to better manage the emotion if it were to arise again.  

a nanny holding a child smiling

“Your role as the grown up is to merely guide that conversation, not to put words into their mouths. As that can oftentimes lead to unforeseen circumstances such as either the child closing up, or just repeating back to you what you have said, which has stripped away the engagement with the emotion.”  

Research on Emotion Coaching led by Norland’s Principal, Dr Janet Rose has shown that using emotion coaching (such as that displayed by Liam’s interaction with his charges) can help young children develop the ability to regulate their emotions and behaviour more effectively. It involves ‘affect’ labelling which research has shown can help your brain move from a reactive to a reflective state of mind, improving your ability to regulate your stress.  

For Liam to truly “switch off” from his intense nannying schedule, Liam lists getting outside and onto the golf course. “Golf is my way to switch off, it is a game that can be enjoyed individually, or that can be incredibly sociable.” For Liam, finding “something you enjoy, that is completely removed from work” is an easy and quick way to practise mindfulness during a busy week.  

Simple mindfulness techniques can be done alone, with friends or even with your charges, and can be a brilliant way of encouraging the children in your care to create mindful habits of their own. Small activities such as going for walks in a quiet side of town, writing or drawing, going for coffee with a close friend or family member or playing a sport are all little ways to escape the business of our lives, that care for our mental health, especially during the dark winter months.  

a male Norland Nanny smiling

“Looking at the bigger picture really helped me at the beginning of my Norland journey.” Liam notes that “seeing things in the near, medium and long term is essential. Ask yourself what is it you want to achieve, be it in your career or in your life or even within yourself? Write it down and work back from that point. This will help you to figure out the small steps you need to take in order to get you to that place. The problems may seem insurmountable now, but if you can break them down into small enough pieces, you can conquer them and make progress.”    

Reminiscing back to his time as a first-year student, Liam remembers “laying there in my bedroom dreaming every day about the day I would become a Norlander and what my life would be like, what my life would look like; because that’s all I had to guide me, was this unrelenting desire to become a Norlander. It was a long and sometimes arduous journey, but I reflect to those times and remember them with great fondness, because I am now, living the life I dreamed about when I was at the start.”

For more information and resources about mental health, visit the Mind website.

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