Helping Dads Be A Parent Not a Babysitter

Raise your hand, if you’ve ever called your co-parent a babysitter?

It your hand went up, you’re part of the problem. To be honest, my hand went up as well. I have not only used the word “babysitting” to refer to my husband’s role, but I’ve used it when speaking of other dads. And it’s neither fair nor helpful. So let’s all go ahead and shake “babysitter” in that context out of our vocab. Labels matter in how you, your fellow co-parent, and your children see the roles within your family.

Think of any team out there – your favorite sports team, your work group, or even the cast of Friends. Every individual plays a role, and if you take that one person out – the dynamic completely shifts. Your role, and your co-parent’s role may not be identical, but in most situations they’re both valuable. So it’s important not to dismiss either contribution.

So now that we got that out of the way. What do you do if your fellow co-parent, acts like the babysitter?

During my pregnancy a veteran mom gave me this advice, “Don’t ever tell your husband he puts the diaper on wrong, he’ll never do it again.”

I grew up with three younger sisters, started babysitting at ten years old, worked as a nanny throughout college, and even worked as a teacher. My husband was a smidge intimidated by his lack of applicable skills to parenting especially compared to mine.

But our daughter didn’t check our resumes when she was born.

She loves us both for our shared love of her and for all our unique pieces. Sure, I may be the best at healing a skinned knee, but no one knows how to play tea party like my husband. To take away from the joy my husband naturally brings to her, by criticizing his band-aid application skills, seems ridiculous. But it happens.

It’s important to not demean the other parent in your child’s life especially in front of your child. Creating a tier where one parent is better than the other, or one parent always takes over, sets the stage for the other parent to feel (and eventually act) like the babysitter, the back-up plan.

It’s not just moms, making dads feel like a babysitter, it’s reinforced by others. Literally, no one has ever asked me if I’m babysitting Henley. But, I have been asked, “Is Quinn babysitting, tonight?”. What? No, he’s spending time with our daughter which he does nearly every night. His role is not less than mine.

And that brings me to the workplace. When it comes to late nights at the office, or a day off to care for your sick child, workplaces create a divide between what makes sense for a working mom, and what makes sense for a working dad. My husband is not seen as an equal part of the equation. If Henley is sick, Quinn’s office assumes I’ll be the one to take off work. The hand-wavy reason is that I’m the one Henley wants, and I probably want to be with her. Of course, I want to make my daughter feel better, but she doesn’t prefer me over Quinn, she loves us both. So, it makes more sense for the person with the fewest obligations to stay home, which is sometimes Quinn. We’re a team.

So I’m going to be better at not using the word babysitter or any derivative of it unless I’m talking about our actual babysitter, who we pay to spend time with our child while we go out on date-night!

Anyone else guilty of labeling your co-parent the babysitter?



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