“I’m a black man who was a nanny, people treated me differently”

I’ve always had a strong paternal instinct. Then, in 2018, I thought: what better way to channel that than taking care of kids? So I signed up on a remote nanny website. I didn’t have to take any training but I did a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check which confirms I have no criminal record and can be required to work with children in the UK. Then a woman in Wimbledon, London, approached me. She wanted me to look after her eight year old boy who had learning and behavioral difficulties.

I asked her, “Why did you choose me over other nannies?” What she said afterwards stuck with me. This woman explained that while working in schools, she had noticed that young black men were generally very well respected by students. She also noted that black students were often the ones who brought out the best in their peers. I was completely shocked to hear her perspective as it was one I had never heard before. But when I met her son, it was almost like whatever she said would come true because he respected me immediately and we got along really well. He was also very open with me.

When I first started looking after her son, I would cycle to her house in London and usually arrive in the evenings when he was coming home from school. I would start by making sure he did his homework, we would walk his dog, and I would engage with him and ask him how his day was going. I then prepared his food for dinner and read him a book before the night.

Shaun Flores
A picture of Shawn Flores.
Shawn Flores

After a few months, his mother noticed that he had a very different attitude and temperament than before. For example, his parents had told him to be gentle when playing with his dog as he was often overbearing. In one instance he continued to be overbearing with his dog even though I told him to stop. So I let him know that his actions had upset me and I said, “If you’re willing to have a conversation with me, we can move on.”

An hour later he apologized to me in a passive-aggressive tone. I said, “We’re not going to act like that. We will apologize appropriately and then we will move on.” The next time I saw him we were able to do the things he enjoyed because he understood the importance of communicating in a calm way. His mother also stated that he has become more approachable and more aware of the consequences of his actions. But most importantly, he was much more aware of who he was as a person.

In the year that I was a nanny, I also realized a lot about myself. I love children. I found my patience increasing and as I looked at the boy I was babysitting he reminded me of a younger version of me. Unfortunately, when I was quite young, my father passed away.

Being close to the boy I was babysitting not only allowed me to be a nanny but also an older brother to him. Taking on this other role brought out the best in me. It allowed me to be a lot more caring and more in touch with the male paternal side, which I think is something men don’t explore often enough. I also found that my empathy increased because I realized he was just a kid in need of a little guidance.

There were days when I picked him up from school, which was fun. But I also remember that people often asked, “Who is that?” And looked completely shocked when he said, “That’s my nanny.” As an eight-year-old, he didn’t understand certain hostile reactions from people either. Some would even ask if he was sure I was his nanny.

People were always so surprised that as a black man I took care of him. I felt that at times they acted quite anxious and a bit hesitant as well, as I was almost the polar opposite of who you would normally want to take care of your children; typically an older woman. I found that disappointing. It showed me that as a society we have too many prejudices. However, I have also received a lot of praise and recognition for being a nanny.

Shawn Flores
A picture of Shawn Flores.
Shawn Flores

In 2019 I decided to give up my role as a nanny as I was finishing my masters degree and needed to focus on my studies. Although I’m not currently taking on a nanny, I do do a lot of mentoring for young black children. I was diagnosed with OCD in 2022 and have written many articles about my diagnosis and mental health.

I really enjoyed being a nanny; it taught me so much about who i am. My mother always reminded me that as a little black boy, I generally have to work two to three times harder than my white counterpart. So I wasn’t surprised by people’s shocked reactions when I decided to become a nanny, knowing that the role I was taking on was tied to a specific gender and race.

One thing I’ve learned is not to let people’s opinions sway you. I would say openly and honestly to those who are considering doing something similar: if it’s something you love, don’t let that stop you from doing it.

Shaun Flores is an obsessive-compulsive disorder advocate, model, and influencer focused on mental health, well-being, and lifestyle. He is also a public speaker and volunteer advocate for Orchard OCD, a UK-based charity researching faster and better treatment for people with OCD.

All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

As Carine Harb, Associate Editor of Newsweek, said.

https://www.newsweek.com/i-was-male-nanny-1753482 “I’m a black man who was a nanny, people treated me differently”

Rick Schindler

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