Celebrities aren't normal people like the rest of us, but they do have the knack of spotting a trend -- or creating it -- before we mere mortals do. The hottest accessory du jour isn't an outsize handbag, or six-inch heels -- it's a manny.
Yes, the latest to hire a man-nanny for her children is Elle McPherson, and having had a second glance at him, it's hard to tell who's getting the better deal. Hunky Mike Tanner used to be 'The Body's' driver but sons Flynn (13) and Cy (8) clearly needed some male company to help them use up all that boyish energy, and Elle opted for sexy Mike. He could also be called 'The Body' in my view, but let's not confuse things.
Elle isn't alone -- actress Keeley Hawes has one too, as does Britney Spears. Boys are a handful, and having a male accomplice you're not romantically attached to has its benefits -- especially if they're paid to provide their services. Now, now -- I mean bringing the kids to the park, or just taking them off your hands for a few hours. Boys can be exhausting.
When I was growing up we often had mannies. They were actually the male children of neighbours who babysat for us from time to time, and while we usually preferred the story-telling, baking and crafts that our girl babysitters were happier to indulge in, it was interesting to have boys minding us occasionally. I've been trying to get my teenage son to follow his sister's lucrative footsteps and offer his child-minding services. He's having none of it. "That's for girls," he says. I have an inkling if the mother of the kids looked like Elle he'd probably change his mind, but I'm keeping that to myself.
But would you employ one? To come to your house (or live in it?), drop and collect your kids and mind them while you worked? Well, I'm not sure there are that many who would. It's a pity, because in a single-mother household particularly, it could be an opportunity to provide a valuable male role model for sons. Part of the reason there are so few mannies is probably the worry over child abuse. After all, the vast majority of paedophiles are men, although it is, of course, only a tiny proportion of all men. Better safe than sorry, eh?
After all, look at the men we entrusted some of the State's children to over the decades and what a sorry mistake that turned out to be.
But perhaps it's time to redress the balance. Although my kids are no longer in need of child-minders, and I always had a ready supply of girls for the job, I would be mightily offended if some other mother turned down mine solely on the grounds of gender.
How would you feel if your local creche employed a man on the staff? Amazing that we even have to ask that, but when was the last time you found one there (that wasn't the book-keeper or owner?)
In these straitened times far more men than women are out of work. Enormously strict vetting goes on for men occupied in coaching football teams, or running scouting groups voluntarily, so why not embrace the manny? Surely there are men out there who are simply wonderful with children and would prefer to earn money minding them than simply sitting at home filling out CVs for jobs they won't get.
Keeley Hawes said she had dozens of female applications for the nanny job, but her final choice was simply the best candidate. That he happened to be a bloke didn't feature. That she's already married to hunk Matthew McFadyen probably helped assuage any romantic feelings though.