Why calling dads ‘babysitters’ is bad news for everyone

Posted in Family.

My husband is a godsend. There, I said it.

He cooks, cleans, does the laundry and yes, he even takes care of his kid. Read that: his kid.

He is not a babysitter.

There are times when I can get through to my son more than Daddy can. After all, I am around him more often and sometimes, it’s easier for me to discern his moods.

But equally, Daddy has more patience. Daddy plays more games. Daddy lets him splash so much in the bath, water covers the bathroom. And sometimes, Daddy can break through his attitude like no one else in the world can.

The key word here is DADDY. And not giving him credit for being a dad is exceptionally detrimental to everyone involved, including our son.

Here’s why. 

happy toddler in the bath

The changing dad

There’s no denying that the role of dads has changed drastically over the past couple of decades. It’s no longer a ‘primary carer is automatically mum’ environment. 

Mums are going back to work (some because they need to, others because they want to) and dads are more involved than ever before.

While there’s still a long way to go, employers are creating a more flexible environment which means dads can be at school concerts, work from home if their child is sick and do school drop-offs and pick-ups. While these were, traditionally, ‘mum’ jobs, now they’re ‘parent’ jobs.

And pop culture is mirroring this change in society.

Bluey is a firm favourite in our house, not only because Bluey and her sister Bingo play fun and imaginative games, but also because Bandit, their dad, is so present. In fact, it’s mainly Bandit who is playing all the games with the children while Mum goes off to work, for a run or to play hockey. Daddy Robot has visited our home a number of times and our son loves nothing more than joining Daddy to cook sausages on the BBQ.

Dads parent, they don’t babysit

I formula-fed from birth, so my husband has always had the ability to care for our child on his own. And right from the get-go, I’d get the questions … “Oh, who’s looking after your son while you enjoy this leisurely lunch?” or, “Who’s taking charge while you’re at your work conference?” Time and time again I found myself close to screaming bloody murder, all because people had completely discounted the other partner in this family.

Following the first round of questions, I sometimes even get “so you have to be home for [insert child’s name]’s lunch?” Ahhh no, his father is very capable of spreading some peanut butter on some bread and enjoying a lovely meal with his child. His father is also very capable of reading him books, giving him a cuddle and putting him to bed.

There have been times when I’ve been away and out of the country – “Sayonara dude!” And my husband has not only had to keep our house running but he has also had to sort out breakfast and lunch for our son, handle playtime, bath time, bedtime and keep it going for a full week. He’s had to pack the nappy bag, schlep our son to and from kindy, take him to playdates and even to the grocery store. Shock, horror! 

This is not babysitting folks, this is called parenting.  

And on the flip side, my husband has even received remarks about how wonderful he is because he’s giving me a ‘break’. Oh, how lucky am I? I never get any congratulatory remarks about dealing with a tantrum-ing toddler because I can’t give him a banana before we pay for it. Dad, on the other hand, is a saint because he is spending time with his child.

It devalues Dad’s role

The role of a dad is just as important as the role of a mother and calling them anything other than a father is completely devaluing their position in the family. On top of this, there’s the assumption that the role of parenting should sit squarely on my shoulders. You’re lowering the expectations of the father, indicating that he’s an amateur in this parenting gig and suggesting that the role of childcare is mine to bear alone. Implicit in this suggestion is that I should be grateful for all the ‘help’ I’m getting.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a joke – the insinuation, when you call my husband a ‘babysitter’, is that he’s less of a parent than I am. And quite frankly, he’s probably better. Not only does he bust his butt all day working, but then he comes home with a smile on his face, and no matter how tired or stressed out he is, he insists on chasing our child through the house playing ‘running games’. 

It took two to make the kid and in my house, it takes two to raise him. There are other adults in my son’s life who babysit him from time to time. My husband is not one of them.


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