I have a pet peeve to share with all of you, and I think it is something that is somewhat common in our language about dads that we need to change. With my job as a social reporter I go to a lot of events, most of the time without my husband. 9 times out of 10 when I do and people wonder why he didn’t come with (which he sometimes does) they say, “So is Sean on babysitting duty?”. Now, before you jump all over me, I get it, this is just one of those “things people say”, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.
Being a parent is a full time job, not just for moms. Sure, a lot of dads, maybe even the majority of dads, might work outside the home at another job (for which they presumably get paid) but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also have a “job” and responsibilities as a parent. That also doesn’t mean that those responsibilities are a chore, as in “Oh I can’t go I have to babysit”. Calling a dad a “babysitter” serves to devalues the role that fathers play in their children’s lives, which is just as important as the roles that mothers can play.
I’m tired of the old fashioned notion that mothers are always the primary care givers and the only ones who know how to properly parent a child. You’ve seen the commercials, the one where the dad might be at, say, the grocery store, in the diaper aisle like “Huh? Diapers? What are these?!?!” like he’s completely clueless and this whole “Dad” thing is just beyond his comprehension. Or the sitcom where the mom goes out for a night and finds out the dad was so incompetent he let the kids stay up way too late and eat nothing but junk food cause hey, he’s not a mom, he’s a dad. It promotes the idea that dads (AND moms) have to fit into these certain roles, each giving a certain brand of parenting (or in this case, babysitting) and that those roles can’t be interchangeable as parents or that one is inherently more important than the other.
To realize how ridiculous it sounds, turn the phrase around a couple of ways. If you happened to bump into a mom at the grocery store with her kids, would you say “Oh looks like you’re babysitting today, huh?”. No, of course you wouldn’t. If I’m at an event with my kids and not my husband, no one would say I’m “babysitting” my own children. If we are at an event together with our kids, we are “there as a family”. But if my husband is there and I’m not there, he’s “babysitting”. Sounds pretty silly, right?
I say let’s abandon that notion that dads are these bumbling buffoons when it comes to parenting and give them the credit they deserve, as parents. So no, my husband is not “babysitting”, he is spending time with his kids, which he enjoys. While he is doing it he is probably making them a better meal than I would (he’s a far better cook than me), changing a bunch of diapers, drawing with our daughter, finding a movie to watch with our son, helping with homework and doing laundry. He is not “babysitting”, he is parenting, and he’s pretty damn good at it.
Although barred from the obvious parenting jobs like actually giving birth and breastfeeding, dads can kiss owies, have tea parties, remember school snack, wipe butts and noses, soothe little ones to sleep, and parent with the best of them. Let’s all give credit to the dads that are there doing an awesome job. xoxo
This post originally appeared at the author’s blog, Mamatoga, published with permission.