Dad’s Don’t Babysit. We Parent

“It’s so nice of you to babysit the kids and give your wife a break.”

“You stuck with the kids today?”

If you spend any amount of time with your kids in public, you are bound to hear this from someone. Maybe it’s a well-meaning sweet little grandmother who remembers a different time. Maybe it’s someone without kids who has no idea what they’re talking about. Maybe you’ve even said it to a stressed out dad from time to time.

Let me be very clear: Dad’s don’t babysit. We parent.

We have progressed as a culture in a lot of ways. Pay equity. Equal rights. Stay at home dads. You name it. We’ve come a long way.

Then a commercial comes on, or a new show airs, and the dad is the quintessential archetype of the clueless dad. He comes home from work, he drinks, he watches sports, he fixes stuff around the house, and he has very little to do with the lives of his kids. He’s useless, except to make money so that his home can continue to function.

This dad is sick of it.

When I get home at the end of a long work day, and my wife is at her wit’s end because the kids have not stopped fighting, I’m not there to “help with the kids.” I’m there to parent.

When my wife has a girls’ night and heads out to dinner and drinks with her friends, and I’m at home feeding the kids dinner and give them showers and put them to bed, I’m not “watching the kids.” I’m being their dad. I’m parenting.

What if we, as a culture, stopped treating dads like a second-tier parent? What if we didn’t treat them like substitutes for when mom is not around? What if we started looking at dads as just as capable of love and caring and nurturing as moms?

I read a story recently about a single dad whose daughter wanted to have a sleepover. When he contacted the parents in class about the details, the first question asked was “will her mom be there?” She’s still never had a sleepover.

We are parents. We are capable of love and nurturing and decision-making and wise choices. We’ve got to get past this notion that dads are somehow part-time parents. Parenthood is hard enough without pitting dads and moms against each other.  

So let’s start giving dads the benefit of the doubt. Let’s stop assuming they don’t know what they’re doing and maybe start seeing them as capable, loving parents. If we want to raise kids who see everybody as equals, that has to start at home.

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

Related articles