At NYC Mannies, we are redefining what it means to be a caregiver. We employ guys that are not only experienced male nannies, but enjoy the task of being mentors and role models for kids. When I was 14 my dad passed away. I felt lost, confused, and lonely. I remember aimlessly pacing around the house trying to figure out what to do with my time. That summer the roof on our house started leaking. So my mother enlisted the help of one of our neighbors, Jeff. He was an all around handyman and my mother hired him to take off our roof and put on a brand new roof with cedar shake shingles.
Jeff was a single guy in his mid-30s. He was an avid bird watcher, nature photographer, and a very talented contractor. My interaction with Jeff as a kid was minimal. I had seen him around the neighborhood, heard tales of his travels to all seven continents, but never really spent much time with him until my dad was gone. As he began working on the roof Jeff noticed the funk I was in. I wasn’t talking much. I wasn’t outside playing. I wasn’t eating. Jeff told me to get on the roof and help him. He taught me how to prep a roof, how to lay down tar paper, and how to install shingles.
As years passed after the roof was finished, I realized that Jeff’s invitation on the roof has nothing to do with him needing help. It was about me needing help. He saw that I needed to put my mind to something and be productive. I needed some direction. I needed to feel a sense of accomplishment. Most important, I needed an older guy to teach me all the things that my dad wasn’t going to be around to teach me…how to shave, how to talk to girls, how to swing a hammer. Most of my time on the roof with Jeff was spent sitting and talking. He wanted to know my interests, what I wanted to do when I grew up, and where I might want to go to college.
11 years later, a tornado came through my neighborhood. I rushed home from North Carolina to Tennessee to assess the damage to my old house. For three months I stayed with my mother and rebuilt everything that needed repair. The roof that Jeff and I put on needed to go and a new one needed to be put on. Because of the skills that Jeff taught me, I decided to put on the roof myself.
Next door to my house lived a 10-year-old boy named Nicolas. One month prior to the tornado his dad passed away. As soon as I got to working on my roof I noticed him by himself in his yard looking much like I did right after my dad died. So I invited Nicolas on the roof. I taught him how to swing a hammer. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Nicolas spent the summer with me helping me around the house. I was able to teach him all the things that Jeff has taught me.
I still see Jeff and Nicolas every time I come home to Tennessee. I go hiking with Jeff every Saturday. And every Sunday, I take Nicolas out for breakfast to talk about what’s going on his in life. He’s 13 now and he might be getting “too cool” for me, but I know he appreciates the bond we share. After I created NYC Mannies and went on CNN to talk about my company, Nicolas’s mom came up to me and said, “Don’t forget that you were Nicolas’s manny first.” Jeff also played the role of manny without even knowing it. He was my manny. And in some ways he still is. I continue to learn from him and absorb everything I can. I admire the way he treats people and his endless curiosity. And I am eternally grateful for the role he has played in my life.
I consider myself very lucky to have had great male role models. When I interview a potential NYC Manny, I am looking for people like Jeff. I am searching for guys that aren’t simply looking for a job. I need someone who wants to be a good influence. I need people that have inspiring stories of their own and want to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. We are proud of what we are doing at NYC Mannies and we look forward to finding more Jeffs in the world.