Sunday 22 September 2019

Girls' jobs for the boys

Andrea Smith

A handful of jobs are still considered women's work, so what is it like for a man trying to get ahead in the worlds of babies, beauty and fashion? Andrea Smith reports

For centuries, women have fought to be accepted in male- dominated industries, but the situation is reversed when it comes to areas that are traditionally considered female domains.

We met four men whose daily work involves delivering babies, minding children, writing for women's magazines and applying eyelashes.

*The Eyelash Technician

Christoph McCormack (26) is an eyelash technician and make-up artist from Moate, Co Westmeath. He recently launched his own product line, Christoph Eye Couture, christopheyecouture.com

Christoph says

"I started my career in retail in Athlone, but always had a vague idea that I would like to be a make-up artist. I took a course in Dublin to learn the basics and I loved it, but in order to develop I had to put in the hours of practice whenever I could.

"I have had quite a few exciting experiences, including working with Dannii Minogue on the launch of her greatest hits album. Emma Watson was another special client for a 'Harry Potter' premiere.

"Women put a lot of trust in me to work with their eyes and face, and it's important to know what you're doing. But when you have that trust, it is easy to communicate.

"I think my real skill is in listening to my clients: if I listen to her life stories and needs, her troubles and her joys, it gives me the knowledge of the person I am working with. You need to have certain skills to be able to put someone at ease and make them feel safe.

"I was introduced to semi-permanent eyelash extensions in Toronto, when I was working there as a freelance make-up artist, and was intrigued because they seemed to offer a lot to women who often hate the process of applying mascara and dread the inevitable panda-eye look.

"I recently set up my own business and launched my own eyelash range, so now I travel between Ireland, the UK and Italy to see clients, train students and meet potential distributors.

"We offer training courses in make-up and eyelash extensions in Dublin and the midlands, and have had men on the courses, but not enough if you ask me. I am always happy to help encourage boys in a woman's world.

"Some male friends are jealous of my job as they feel I get the inside details on 'what women want', and I won't deny that I'll help them out from time to time, as girls can be tricky to read sometimes.

"But generally my mates are really supportive and only make fun of my eccentric dress sense – and often, in retrospect, I have to agree with them!"

*The Midwife

Sean Dowling (47) is a clinical midwife manager at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin. He's married to Cathy and they have three children, Lara (six), Grace (four) and Adam (two).

Sean says

"I previously worked as a bus conductor and a motorcycle courier, so you could say I was always delivering – first it was passengers, then packages, and now babies.

"I decided I'd like to become a nurse, so I went to England to train at the North Middlesex Hospital in Tottenham. You spend time in all the specialities during your training, and I loved the absolute joy and happiness of midwifery.

"So I spent two years training to be a midwife, which was challenging as it's a particularly female-dominated profession.

"I first worked as a community midwife in London, looking after postnatal women. Funny things sometimes happen when you're male, and I remember a Somalian woman putting on her veil when she saw me arriving at the door – and then we went upstairs so I could check her stitches.

"I began working in the Rotunda in 1998, and spent many years on labour wards. I think that having a male midwife helps to relax the woman's partner, as it's a very female environment, although obviously the woman is always my first priority.

"I try to inject a little humour into proceedings, where I can.

"I'm currently working on an antenatal ward, looking after women who have been admitted due to pregnancy complications. We still have deliveries on the ward, though, when nature goes too fast.

"The best part is when you have assisted a woman through a birth, the outcome is good and the parents are delighted. The most challenging is when something goes wrong, and a pregnancy that is so full of hope ends up with those hopes dashed.

"You have to be strong to get a grieving woman through a delivery where her baby has passed on, but that's also an honour, in a way.

"There are only about eight male midwives in the entire country, so, by and large, I am one of the girls at work.

"I love my job, and think it's a real privilege to be dealing with brand new lives.

"I met my wife Cathy, also a nurse, on a course, and I was definitely nervous myself when my own children were born – I was just like any other father."

*The Manny

Luke Barber (26) is a male nanny from Cornwall, England. He has been working for singer Sinead O'Connor since October 2010, primarily looking after her two younger children, Shane (eight) and Yeshua (six).

She also has two older children, Jake (25) and Roisin (16).

Luke says

"I kind of fell into being a nanny. I was a scout leader and taught outdoor activities to children, and then spent five years working abroad as a children's rep.

"I got the job with Sinead when I looked after her friend's children at a resort in France, and she recommended me. There are two of us working for Sinead, and Jamie and I split the seven days between us on a rota basis, and sleep at the house when on duty.

"People may think it's unusual having a male nanny, but it's the 21st century now. There are a lot of single fathers around, so if blokes can raise kids by themselves, why can't they be nannies?

"When children are young, most of the influences at school and creche are female, and it can be good for them to have a male influence.

"I think that blokes are more laidback, so I just came in and adapted my way of doing things around the children.

"The boys I look after are at an age where they are into rough and tumble and boys' stuff, so I have fun and have a laugh with them. And the bonus is that you get to give them back at the end of the day.

"The most challenging part is that it's different to being a kids' rep, where you have a team around you – as a nanny, you're on your own.

"I get a bit of banter from my male friends about my job, but, at the end of the day, I'm lucky to be in a job that I enjoy, and I've become very attached to the whole family.

"I'm quite proud of the fact that I'm a male nanny, as it's unusual. My girlfriend Leanne always says that women love blokes who are good with kids, and she liked that about me when we met.

"I'm very lucky to have had my first nanny job with someone like Sinead, because her whole heart is in her kids and she makes you feel like part of the family."

Sinead says

"One of my son's fathers was unable to be involved in our son's life for the first seven years, due to unfortunate circumstances beyond his control. He is now involved and is a wonderful daddy.

"This earlier period was very difficult for my son, and I realised he needed male attention and male role models. I opted for male nannies, and his self-esteem and sense of himself as a little man have been phenomenally enhanced by the presence of such loving and solid men in his day-to-day life.

"Some people were horrified that I was looking for male nannies. The general rubbish was, 'Oh, they'll be gay', as if that would be a bad thing, and of course the revolting suggestion that somehow gay people are more likely to sexually abuse your children than heterosexual people.

"Jamie and Luke are extremely far from homosexual, and it would make no difference whatsoever to me if they were as gay as Christmas as long as they loved my children and they were happy in their care.

"My sons, though young, are extremely alpha male, and female nannies can be difficult for them because they can be experienced by the boys as being a little too unnecessarily controlling.

"Luke and Jamie are less rigid than women would be. Things are more relaxed. The boys feel like little men, not babies.

"To be fair, though, minding alpha males is rather like being Bart Simpson's babysitter – nervous breakdown territory. You wouldn't wish it on anyone.

"They really do need strong male discipline, and male nannies are calmer than females in how they discipline, because they don't feel guilty or fall for the big eyes or the temper.

"And I must add that it has been lovely to have Luke and Jamie around my teenage daughter. Roisin is unusually responsible and academically focused for her age. She doesn't drink, smoke or muck about, so she isn't the type who responds well to being treated like a child.

"Females can be a little too bossy, I think, for a young woman as responsible and deserving of trust as my daughter.

"People have given up making remarks to me about having male nannies because they see how fantastic Luke and Jamie are, and how happy the children are with them. From the minute they started work, all I have heard in my house is my children screaming with laughter all day."

*The Feature Writer

James Duggan (25) is from Limerick, and is a feature writer for 'RSVP' magazine and its website, rsvpmagazine.ie.

James says

"When I saw the job with 'RSVP' advertised, I went for it as I studied English and history at the University of Limerick, and have always enjoyed writing and research.

"The job mostly involved office administration at first, but I was hoping that eventually they would let me do a bit of writing. That paid off, as I went from doing the usual filing and data entry to writing pieces for the magazine and becoming one of the main contributors to our website.

"'RSVP' covers celebrity, fashion, beauty, diet and weddings, and I admit that when I started, almost all of these subjects were far from being in my comfort zone. But if you do the research and become as well-informed as you can, I find that you can pretty much write about anything.

"The work on the website is something I enjoy a lot, as I write the showbiz news and gossip stories, run the competitions, and also do gig guides and pieces on movies and TV.

"I work in an all-female office, and everyone has been very welcoming to me. We get quite a few free samples in the office, and seeing as I have no real need for make -up and beauty products – unless I want to feel particularly pretty that day – my female friends definitely see the advantage of me working at 'RSVP'.

"I've certainly learned more about what interests women, and my new-found knowledge of celebrity gossip and ladies' fashion has turned me into quite the stud.

"Seriously, though, the job has helped when it comes to chatting up girls, but it's more a case of the confidence that comes from having a fairly interesting job to talk about – at least, they pretend to be interested – rather than me talking about what looks are going to be in this spring to seduce women.

"I get a surprisingly small amount of stick from my male friends about my job, which slightly worries me as about 50pc of our communication is generally just slagging each other off. Going out with them at weekends is more than enough to counteract the 'femaleness' from the office.

"I'm genuinely really glad to be working at 'RSVP', and once I'm writing things that people are going to read, I'll be a happy man."

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