People love to joke about the trouble kids can get up to when they stay home with Dad, but there's nothing funny about dismissing fathers as incompetent or secondary caregivers. Blogger Matthew A.C. Newsome explains why fathers can't be called their children's babysitter, in this post originally featured on Fatherly.
A video came across my Facebook newsfeed the other day that elicited a chuckle. Someone had attached wheels to their baby's Bumbo chair (if you don't know what that is, look it up) then hitched it to the back of a remote-control truck. The dad was controlling the truck, towing the baby around the driveway, who was laughing hysterically (the baby, not the driveway).
Any time you have a cute baby laughing, it makes for a worthy minute and half watch on YouTube. My only problem (besides the obvious safety concerns) was the video's title — "What happens when Dad babysits."
Do a Google search for that phrase and you'll discover all kinds of humorous videos and images of what "silly old Dad" does when left alone with the kids — the baby's drinking beer, the baby's napping in a tackle box, the baby's duct-taped to the wall, etc.
OK, these are meant to be funny. I get it. But they play into an unfortunate stereotype of the modern-day dad. Leaving aside the implication that Dad is too incompetent to be left alone with the kids, the main problem with all these "What happens when Dad babysits" gags is that Dad is not the babysitter.
Dads who are reading this, please pay attention. You can never babysit your own kids. They are your kids. You can parent them. You can raise them. You can care for them. But you cannot babysit them.
A babysitter, by definition, is one who "sits in" for the primary caregiver(s). Both father and mother are primary caregivers. To call Dad a babysitter demotes him from being the equal partner in raising his children and places him on the same level as the 16-year-old next door who charges $10 an hour. It suggests that Dad's responsibility for his children only kicks in when Mom is not around.
This does not just happen in YouTube videos and Facebook memes. You hear it in everyday conversation. Many times when my wife has been out for the evening someone has asked her, "Is your husband babysitting the kids?" She usually smiles and says, "Yes, he's home with them," because she is polite (she's good like that). But in her head she wants to say, "No, he's not babysitting. He's being their father."
Matthew A.C. Newsome is a husband of one wife. Father of six children. Catholic Campus Minister at WCU. Candidate for ordination to the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Charlotte.