For two years now, I have been a stay-at-home mom. As rewarding and fulfilling as it is to care for my kids, I inevitably have commitments come up that require my husband to watch them. When this occurs, it never fails that someone asks him how he’s going to handle a day alone with his children. There is always someone who says something along the lines of, “Oh, so you’re on babysitting duty, then?”
It could be a friend or a relative. It is sometimes a person from our generation, and sometimes it’s someone older. We have heard this statement from a man, and sometimes it comes from a woman. And let me be clear — no matter who says it, I know for a fact that every single time they were well-intentioned.
The “babysitter comment” is almost always made in jest. Still, it bothers me, this idea that my husband lives a life so far removed from his family that watching them for a day could be considered babysitting. It grates on me for two reasons:
It insults my husband.
My husband works extremely hard to be present at doctor’s appointments, school events, soccer practices, and family outings. He often makes dinner for all of us, and he is regularly the one who gets the big kids ready for bed while I care for the baby. My husband goes with us to the park on Saturdays when the weather is nice, and he stays home on dreary weekends running around the house.
He gets upset when he cannot attend the preschool luncheon because of a meeting. He feels incredibly torn when work gets crazy and the kids get sick all at once. I know it. I see it on his face. He is the kind of husband and father who wants to be there with us for everything, and it hurts when he can’t. It is an insult to call him a babysitter. That word does not give him even half the credit he deserves.
It sends the wrong message to my kids.
When my children hear their dad referred to as their babysitter it reads: Mom is the “real” parent and Dad is the understudy. It delegitimizes his role as their father and undercuts his authority as a parent. Furthermore, this all-too-common sentiment mischaracterizes our relationship as husband and wife. It places one of us above the other, but we are equal partners working together to build a family. We are both involved in our children’s lives, constantly striving to ensure our kids see a cohesive and supportive team when they look to us.
To anyone who has ever used this phrase: I urge you to rethink what you’re trying to say. Perhaps consider if you’re simply trying to fill a conversational gap by saying it? Know that we are not angry with you, but we will not be shy about correcting you if it happens. Because my husband is my teammate and my “better half” (half implies we’re equal, right?). He is every bit a parent to our kids as I am, some days even more.