Dads Do Babysit

I’m gonna do it again. I’m gonna piss off my compatriots in dadhood by writing about how I don’t care about something they care about. (Something they really, really, really, really care about.)

Because I don’t care if someone says I “babysit” my kids.

I do babysit my kids.

I also chauffeur my kids. And chef my kids. And maid my kids. And personal shop my kids. And tailor my kids. And coach my kids. And doctor my kids. And teach my kids. And on and on and on. I don’t get paid for any of those things because they come with the gig.

I’m a parent; I do everything. Don’t you? fatherhood, dads, babysitting, dads don't babysit, parenting, gender, gender roles, equality, dad and buried, funny, humor, dad bloggers, mommy bloggers, motherhood, fatherhood, winter, stress, kids, family, entertainment, boredom, fun, outside, lifestyle, cold, activities, mike julianelle, dads, moms, children

I get it. You’re confused because I’m a man. After thousands of years of social programming and cultural tendencies and only a few measly decades (if that) of something more like actual gender balance, you’re still having trouble with the idea that men are parents too. That’s okay. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s not an easy transition for everyone.

It doesn’t offend me. Dads do babysit.

Are you implying that I’m a lesser parent? I hope not, but I don’t care. Besides, I may well be, but that has less to do with my gender than it does with my individual shortcomings (and how amazing my wife is). I’m working on it.

Are you assuming that I’m a lesser parent merely because I’m a man and not a woman? I hope not, but if so, that’s less insulting to me and my fellow fathers than it is to women. As a man, my role in my son’s life is determined by me and my wife and no one else, regardless of your outdated perspective. As a woman, my wife – and mothers everywhere, often faces the challenge of having her role, both inside and outside of the home, dictated and reduced by strangers and society. To me, that seems much worse. In the face of actual discrimination and systemic inequality, I can let the occasional tone-deaf “you’re babysitting today?” go.

(Which isn’t to say that the belittlement of fathers isn’t a real thing, or that I don’t understand the impulse many of my fellow dad bloggers have to stay vigilant against those dinosaurs who want to keep fathers – and mothers – in their pre-enlightenment boxes. It just doesn’t bother me personally.)

My wife babysits the kids sometimes too. No one ever says that to her, probably because it seems weird to suggest that a part-time job like babysitting would be done by what they assume is the full-time parent, but it’s true. Babysitting is one of the many aspects of being a parent, whether you’re a mom or a dad, and it’s one of the many for which parents don’t get credit. Credit isn’t why we parent. But it’s also true that dads are often the full-time parent these days as well. In fact, in my house, we’re both full-time parents. Actually, we both have full-time (office) jobs too, so maybe we’re both part-time parents? Eh, it’s semantics.

Who cares? At my house, my wife and I are both just parents. She might be my oldest’s favorite (she is definitely my oldest’s favorite; jury is still out on number two! FINGERS CROSSED!) but that has nothing to do with my gender, other than the fact that hers made it possible for him to both develop and survive. We’re both babysitters. We’re both doctors and disciplinarians and schedulers and soothers. We’re everything to our kids all the time, some of it fun, some of it less so, some of it rewarding, some of it less so.

Someone else’s goofy idea that we fathers “babysit” our own kids has a lot less to do with me than it does with that someone. More people than should think that way probably still do, but no one I know seriously thinks that way.

The general population (and Madison Avenue) might be a little behind, but when is that not the case? Someone is always on the wrong side of herstory. I don’t mind when they out themselves.

The fathers in my world, the dads I interact with, are almost all hands-on, fully engaged parents. And the mothers I know are almost all full-time, ambitious working professionals. Together, the current generation of parents are changing the old perception, from the inside.

So no, I’m not concerned when someone refers to dads as “babysitters,” or with anything else a similarly misinformed person might call me. Just so long as my kids call me “Daddy”.

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12 thoughts on “Dads Do Babysit

  1. THANK you. I appreciate dads’ desire to be viewed as “equal,” but we’re not exactly an oppressed minority trying in some sort of battle for civil rights. Other people’s misperceptions have yet to actually affect me in any way other than a possible chuckle.

    As for the roll of babysitter, I feel that way sometimes, especially when I consider that I am financially compensated (my wife keeps a roof over our heads), I’m allowed to have whatever I want from the fridge, and sometimes she leaves me $20 for pizza.

  2. Have to say I’m with you on this. I often say I’m babysitting the kids and I’m a full-time stay-at-home dad and self proclaimed feminist.

    I understand the sentiment, and kinda’ agree with it, just not enough to take offence when it’s said to me.

    It could be because I’ve always approached being a SAHD with self-deprecating humour, or possibly I’m just too tired to care, but either way it’s never bothered me.

    For balance my partner also babysits the kids on the rare occasion I go out, so maybe that’s why.

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  5. Just a random internet person here…

    I think that whether a dad is “babysitting” or “parenting” depends on his role and respect within the household.

    Does his wife consider him a true partner? Are his parenting decisions considered equal to hers, even if they’re different? If so, then he’s parenting. But if his wife is one of those controlling women who disrespects his adult initiative by treating him like a little boy who has to follow her instructions, then he’s no more than a babysitter.

    If mothers want fathers to take a more active role in childcare, then the mothers need to step back, let the fathers do how they see best, and not fly into an emotional tizzy every time something isn’t done to their standards.

  6. I have seen my mother-in-law and an aunt (who don’t know each other) go on rants about the the idea of dads babysitting. Apparently, you are supposed to say “I am taking care of my kids” instead of “I am babysitting” because babysitting implies being paid for a temporary job whereas taking care of kids implies a full-time responsibility that stems from fatherhood. I don’t understand the distinction so much, but perhaps that is because I did not do much babysitting in high school. I often substitute the term “watching” instead.

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