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Dads Watching Their Own Kids Are Not 'Babysitting'

06/05/2015 11:40 am ET | Updated Jun 05, 2016
Jenny Witte

With Father's Day around the corner, 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. Nine times out of 10, when I am out without the kids and without my husband, people ask me, "So is your husband 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 OK.

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 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 devalue the role that fathers play in their children's lives, which is just as important as the role mothers can play.

I'm tired of the old-fashioned notion that mothers are always the primary caregivers and the only ones who know how to properly parent a child. You've seen the commercials, the ones where the dad might be at, say, the grocery store, in the diaper aisle, like, "Huh? Diapers? What are these?!?!" -- as if he's completely clueless and this whole "Dad" thing is just beyond his comprehension. Or the sitcoms 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. Such portrayals promote the idea that dads (AND moms) have to fit into these certain roles -- each parent providing a certain brand of parenting (or in this case, babysitting) -- and that those roles can't be interchangeable, or 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 out with my kids and not my husband, no one will 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 this 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), 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 some of the obvious tasks like actually giving birth and breastfeeding, dads can kiss owies, have tea parties, remember school snacks, wipe butts and noses, soothe little ones to sleep, and parent with the best of them. This Father's Day, let's all give credit to the dads who are out there doing an awesome job.

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