How many times have you heard that comment? Sometimes its at the grocery store, sometimes it’s at a play gym. And sometimes it may be from our own relatives. It happens and I get it a lot.
It makes me cringe and it should make you cringe to.
You may not notice it that much anymore and for the most part, neither do I. When I am out and about conquering the world with the kids my main focus is to make sure no one commits any felonies or breaks priceless works of art. So my mind is not always focused on whatever adult interaction I happen to fall into. But those words do bring me back to focus most times and a little part of me inside thinks “Can a man even baby sit his own kids?”
Let’s be clear on a couple of things. This is what I am: I am a father and a handsome one. What makes me a father is the fact that twice my wife let me get lucky and as a result, I was able to produce two children. They are my blood, I have made them what they are. The inner Hoss that is in me, is in them. I happen to be the one that stays at home to provide childcare and daily lessons on how to live through a zombie apocalypse. I am bald and yet I am hairy everywhere else, a constant reminder that God has a sense of humor.
This is what I am not: I am not a young teen trying to score some extra pot money and a quiet place to make out with my boyfriend. I am not a young British au pair that secretly covets the man of the house because he looks oh so hot doing stock market stuff and making big deals. I am not trying to put myself through college by picking up baby sitting jobs on the side which is great because it allows me time to get ready for my Female Studies final.
In short, I do not baby sit my children. Doesn’t happen and it is not physically possible for me, or any father, to babysit our children. It just can’t happen. When I am with my children I am a parent, I am their father. And when people use the phrase “looks like Dad is babysitting” it drives me crazy.
It drives me crazy because it’s the natural assumption that because I am a father that I don’t know what to do with my kids or can’t stand to be around them for more than an evening. It implies that only a mother is suitable to stay home with the children. It gives the very impression that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and that mom doesn’t trust me for any period longer than it would take to eat an evening meal and watch some b rated chick flick where they dance with bread and sing songs around the kitchen.
This goes for all of us my brothers, every father out there. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home dad, a full time working father or somewhere in between. Many times you will see a father getting pushed to the side. We hear about father’s who don’t get shared custody or who gets treated unfairly because of the fact that he is man instead of his ability to parent. These are stereotypes that have very real world consequences. But we can’t change any of that by laughing along at comments like this. The history of fatherhood is not a particularly pleasant one. There are many deadbeat dad’s out there, there are many abusers out there and there are plenty of idiots out there. But there are also plenty of Dad’s like me out there. Take a look around, you’ll find them and you’ll find that none of them are babysitting any kids. The only way to get that equal respect when it comes to caring for our kids is to demand it, to take it. We have to show through our actions that father’s are a hell of a lot more than just guys that provide a paycheck or watch the kids on occasion. And that starts by getting away from the common assumptions that we don’t know what we are doing, have no desire to do it or couldn’t handle being in charge of a toddler for longer than 3 hours at a time.
I don’t mean to rant and rave so much. Well, actually I do. I do mean to rant and rave because this is something that hurts all of us, all of our families. These assumptions, although innocent for the most part, play a bigger part in the world. That innocent assumption at the grocery store migrates in this culture to more serious consequences later in life. Look, I’m not saying that all fathers are great or deserve to even get the honored tittle of “father”. But none of use are babysitters and to even assume so not only degrades me but also let’s those other screw-ups off the hook way, way to easy. Man up and be a Dad, it’s not a choice. Don’t let anyone off the hook, hold all of us accountable. We need to do this even to ourselves.
None of us babysit our children. We raise our children and there is a big difference.