I’m A Dad And Dads Don’t Babysit (Unless We’re Paid)

“So, are you babysitting today then?”

A question which hadn’t been posed to me until today when an ignorant woman working at a high-street bank uttered this sentence. Maybe she was trying to acknowledge the fact that I had a baby strapped to my chest. Maybe she was trying to deliver ‘exceptional customer service’ by engaging in conversation. Maybe she was in the market for a hot, new babysitter.

Whatever her reasoning, the question massively pissed me off. Just because I have a penis, why is the assumption that I must be babysitting, whilst the missus has some well-deserved time away from the baby? I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for four months now, this is what I do. The last time I checked, it takes two people – or one person, a pot of spunk and a turkey baster – to make a kid, so why can’t both parents, parent?

I’ve read about other dads who have had similar insensitive comments and admit that it was one of my fears about becoming a stay-at-home dad, so my experience is nothing new. In a way, it was inevitable. The fact that I’ve reached a year of fatherhood without hearing something like this, is probably somewhat of a triumph considering I’ve spent pretty much every day with the sprog. To date, the most I’ve had to deal with are nice comments about how good it is that I can make it along to baby classes.

dad and baby looking in mirror

Here I am NOT babysitting my daughter.

But, the truth is that even one stereotypical comment like this is too much. It helps no-one. Imagine if I turned to her and said “oh, you’re in work, who’s going to do the cooking?” or “have you asked your husband’s permission to leave the house today?”. There’d be a shitstorm. I’d be accused of sexism, chauvinist pigism and massive bellendism.

So, why is it appropriate or acceptable for a female to use out-of-date stereotypes about a man without having to check what comes out of her stupid mouth? Judging by the 61 Facebook Likes, 34 Twitter Favourites, 11 Twitter Retweets and dozens of comments (which is loads for me!) I’ve had within two hours of sticking this ‘experience’ on social media, it appears that the overriding answer is that it isn’t acceptable.

More and more families are breaking with tradition in how they live their lives. With things like shared parental leave, flexible working and fewer gender defined roles, the typical man vs woman and dad vs mum tasks are not what they were. As a family which made the decision to mix things up by the missus going back to work with me looking after the sprog, I guess I think it is more common place than it actually is. Still, the times they are a-changin’.

I understand that she may be from an older generation. Her experience of what a dad is may be firmly stuck in the 1960’s with Don Draper from Mad Men. After all, my own grandma did innocently say to my brother “Isn’t Dave a good dad, it’s like he’s a mum”. I also understand that I’m probably being a bit overdramatic and oversensitive to what was a comment made without malice. I can understand, but that doesn’t mean it’s right or should be forgiven.

So what can we do about it? We can do nothing and bide our time – after all, the older generation with views such as these will soon die out. We could partake in mass genocide and do away with people like this – however, on reflection, that could be a tad extreme. A tad.

Or, we could let people know that insensitivity and rudeness such as this should not be tolerated. This should have started with me today, but I already let the side down. Instead of telling her where to go, I nicely replied that I’m a stay-at-home dad, so I’m with the sprog every day whilst the missus is at work. I let the rage boil up as I left the bank, then like any good blogger, passive-aggressively stuck it on social media when I got home.

I don’t know what I should have said or what I should have done, but I feel that my response should have helped to educate and point out her ignorance. All I can really do is learn from this experience and come up with some witty replies for when – and it is a ‘when’ – something like this happens again.

dad and baby reading in restaurant

Here I am again NOT babysitting my daughter.

Until then, I’ll close by saying “I’m a dad and dads don’t babysit, we parent”. (N.B. I guess some dads might have a part-time babysitting job, in which case they are more than welcome to babysit as long as it’s not their own kid).

Have you or your partner had to deal with any crap like this before? What would you have said or done if you were in my position? What witty responses should I prepare for next time? Let me know below!

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  • Definitely one of those occasions to have an answer ready – sadly I fear you’re right, this is something you’re going to have to address again. I’ve heard it said many times, even by dads themselves and it’s always grated me so I’m loving this post and you standing up to it x x

    • Thanks Colette! As I say, plenty of dads before me have experienced it and plenty after me will too, so this is nothing new. I think it’s just about educating and pointing it out! I’ll let you know whether I get the balls to do that as I usually don’t!

  • Donna Wishart

    Love this post and totally agree with you. My husband and I both work and have time with the kiss pretty much 50/50. I am sure he has had comments like this in the past. Definitely have a response ready next time! x

    • Thanks Donna 🙂 Interesting to hear you guys split your time 50/50, It’d be great if more families were evenly split, but obviously loads of factors play a part and ultimately it’s down to what works for each individual family. Hopefully as more dads are seen to parent rather than babysit, outdated views and comments such as these will disappear! 🙂

  • In all honesty, my hubby does class his time alone with the kids as babysitting… IF I’m out doing my own thing. But I do understand where you are coming from.

    • I guess ultimately the word ‘babysitting’ means to look after the kids, so technically he is! I’m more picking up on the point that there is an assumption that a dad is babysitting when he’s with the kid and the mum isn’t around. Maybe it annoys me a bit more because I’m the primary carer, but some people like this women assume I’m not. Who knows?! 🙂

  • I guess I would have given her a puzzled smile and said, “It’s not babysitting when it’s your child is it? Is that what you mother’s call it when you take care of your kids? Never heard of that before?” Then let it go. I guess I like to plant seeds, but not be rude, she wasn’t meaning too, and hitting over the head with a sledge hammer answer won’t do much good either. Then you’ll just be the asshole babysitter! LOL

    • Haha! Very true, maybe it’s more of a slow burner which gets her to think. I doubt it was done maliciously, as I say, more of a conversation piece or picking up on the fact that it isn’t the norm (particularly where I live with loads of yummy mummies!). Maybe the calm, factual response is the best!

  • Man vs Pink

    I hear you brother…

    • Man vs Pink

      What bank was it btw? 😉

      • Haha, no names – although, if you go into each of the banks on the high street with your daughter, the same question might be asked of you! It could be a family adventure! 🙂

  • Jemma Chambers

    i think you answered well – just tell her as it is ‘I’m a stay at home dad’ – it might make her re-think her views. She’ll be at the bookclub tonight all ‘Ooh, deborah, there was a MAN at the bank today, with a CHILD! He’s one of them new fangled Stay at home dads’. At which point hopefully Deborah will have a pair and put her in her place (see where Im going with this?)…. Whilst I totally agree with you, I cant help but feel a bit sorry for her that she thinks only mums parent and dads babysit. If she has kids they are probably desperately starved of their dads time. #MMWBH

    • Haha, that’s awesome and I totally get where you’re coming from. There’s more than one way of skinning a cat! I don’t think the comment was nasty, maybe more that she was picking up on something being different – as you say a man with a baby during the day, jesus wept! Hopefully the experience has broadened her horizons 🙂

  • Michelle Kellogg

    I am right there with ya! I still hear from women in my family and in my ex’s family making remarks such as this. When we first split up in fact, I heard from his uncle, grandmother, and mother that he doesn’t need to help me (I was working and going to school while he wasn’t doing anything) out by watching the kids. What?! Help me? They’re his kids! He isn’t watching them for me, he is taking care of his children so that I can provide for them! Last time I checked parenting is a two-person job (though for many single parents it really isn’t, unfortunately). They’ve since stopped looking at his part in taking care of his children differently but thanks for posting this. Next time I hear remarks about him needing to “watch” his own children, I will show them your blog. Visiting from #midmadweekbloghop

    • Thanks Michelle and sorry to hear about the shitty situation! Totally with you, he should have looked after his kids, as he’s the dad, without it being seen as babysitting / chore, or like he’s doing you a favour. I guess some people (including your relatives and ex it seems!) are stuck in their ways when it comes to male vs female stereotyping. 🙂

      • Michelle Kellogg

        Fortunately, he came around and is great with our kids. It was the family but as it turns out, they had a harder time with us splitting up than we did. Go figure.lol

  • I would have to agree with Jemma. I think you put her in her place with your response. The fact that you said I’m a stay-at-home dad may have made her re-think her comment. If I were her, I would be utterly embarrassed by what I said, and perhaps rethink what I say before I go off spouting whatever I’m thinking to the next stranger that waltzes in.

    You may not have had a witty come back, but the fact that you posted and shared this through various social medial is making everyone aware that yes, dads are just as important as moms. There’s not one who does more than the other because the goal always points to the same person–the sprog you’ve both dedicated your life to.

    For me raising a child isn’t what moms does well and dads do better, its what both do together. It’s the PARENTING that matters, not the motherhood or fatherhood of it all. And we should all be more aware of that.

    Thanks for sharing this, Dave. Though the experience was unpleasant, it’s definitely an eye-opener to anyone who reads it.

    • Thanks Maria – great comment, much appreciated! Very true – the fact that I explained the situation has hopefully enlightened her and made her think. Totally agree with your take on parenting and that’s how the missus and I try to do things – everything is for the best of the little one and we do the tasks where our strengths lie. 🙂

  • Ah! My husband and I share the childcare 50 /50. I just asked him if he had ever experienced anything similar and he said that he had a few times.
    He said he just brushed it off.
    Man alive! Some people need to roll with the times. I guess it’s a generation thing. My mother in law expects me to prepare dinners for her son and iron his pants. That’s what wives do apparently.
    Believe you me I wasn’t lost for words when she said this to me. I told her exactly where to stick the iron….and the gravy dinners.
    Great post!
    Chat later. I’m off to bleach the toilet….that’s after I’ve put the lid back down. A certain numb nuts keeps leaving it up, but hey, that’s what all men do right?

    • Haha, I love hearing stories about your mother in law. I reckon she should have her own feature on your blog 🙂

  • Random Musings

    I totally agree with this, parenting your own child and babysitting are two very different things! It also bugs me how men aren’t allowed to be sexist, but some women seemingly think it’s ok when they do it. I have a friend who regularly says she will have to ask her husband to babysit! Every time I tell her no, you will have to check if he is available to stay home that night! She doesn’t get why it bothers me so much and I don’t get how it doesn’t bother her 🙂 #mmwbh
    Debbie

    • Thanks Debbie – well all you can do is keep trying to educate your friend! Yeah it does seem sometimes that blokes are pulled up on sexist comments, but women can say what they want. Ah well, such is life!

  • Completely agree and I love your response – you can’t get clearer than that! Mr M gets it all the time too and it’s hugely inappropriate. I’m definitely entering ‘bellendism’ into my vocabulary from now on! Mim x #brilliantblogposts

    • Thanks Mim, I’m not pleased your huband gets it too, but kind of am pleased I’m not alone and being over-sensitive! Haha, feel free to use the word, I was particularly proud of it 🙂

  • Brilliant response and like you write, it’s a backward generational thing but it mustn’t be tolerated. I believe in micro politics, kindly and politely standing up for my rights, ethics and beliefs, loved this. My husband and are equal in this family as my Dad was when my brother and I grew up, thanks for this and being you!

    • Thanks Vic – yeah that’s a good attitude to have, better to be nice and make a point rather than shouting / getting angry etc. Aww, bless ya, thanks for being you too!

  • I love this! Nothing annoys me more than when narrow minded people assume that a dad isn’t hands on! We have to deal with something similar on a regular basis. My partner has 2 children from a previous marriage and you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who assume he only sees them every other weekend!! He has shared custody and they live with us for half the week. Thank you for sharing this with the world 🙂 #brillaintblogposts

    • That sounds a bit crappy – I can imagine that most people just assume that the kids are with the mum all of the time and he is ‘only a dad on weekends’. Really shitty attitude some people have, but great to see that you have it sussed out 🙂

  • Milly – DamBaby

    I’ll be honest with you … when I first read this I thought you were over-reacting somewhat. I’m guessing it was just a thoughtless throwaway comment from someone trying to make jovial conversation. Me & my husband often describe our time with our baby as ‘Daddy daycare’ or ‘Mummy daycare’ which isn’t a million miles off.

    Then I gave it some more thought and tried to put myself in your shoes. And I imagine these little comments add up to an annoying belittling of your role as primary child carer. Spending all day every day with an energetic sprog is most certainly not just babysitting. So I get why you were cross. But, I think your more gentle response, telling your role as it is, was probably the right one. That’s one more person educated, one little victory by you. Be proud of that.

    BTW I’ve always disliked the term ‘stay at home parent’ too. Because let’s face it, staying at home is NOT what a day with a bambino involves! Might re-name myself ‘(part-time) Director of Childcare @ My House.’

    Thanks for the food for thought.

    #BrilliantBlogPosts

    • Director of Childcare – I like it!

    • Thanks for the considered reply and interesting to hear what you say. Yeah very true ‘daycare’ is basically the same thing, but I guess the slight difference is that you have control of this term as you use it, rather than other people saying this about you. Thanks for backing me up on how I dealt with it, all I can hope is it did open her eyes! Haha, yeah I agree, I don’t like stay-at-home parent either, mainly because it is used as a catch all but misses the point – you’re rarely at home, what happens if you part work etc. Haha, love the job title! 🙂

  • citygirl101

    What an utterly backwards perception of parenting she seems to have. I’ve felt bad for shooing hubs out the house with two babies, he can look a bit thugish at times and him strolling along with his double buggy and singing nursery rhymes to them garnered many a dubious look from passerby’s. But perceptions of parents wont change unless we continue to stick 2 fingers up at them and carry on as we are; sharing responsibility and educating them when we can.

    • Right on sister! Haha, I love that description of your fella with the buggy 🙂

  • Can’t believe someone said this to you! Though I have to admit, I have heard it before, and have heard people refer to their husband as ‘babysitting’. Sometimes I think people don’t think and revert to very old fashioned stereotypes.

    Maybe next time, if someone asks if you are babysitting, reply, ‘oh no, I’m the father’. I think (and hope) societies attitudes are changing. Great and thought provoking post!
    #brilliantblogposts

    • Thanks – yeah I think attitudes are changing (to a whole range of things), but it probably just takes time. Hopefully this is the type of thing we’ll look back on in 20 years and laugh at how things used to be!

  • Beth

    I love this post! Such a shame that she said that to you. x

  • It’s so true. Daddy’s are looking after their kids, not babysitting! I’m afraid I did have a chuckle at ‘isn’t he a good dad, he’s like a mum’. Excellent post #brilliantblogposts

    • Thanks Megan. Haha, yeah I had a laugh at that too when my brother told me. Definitely meant as a compliment, but funny how being like a mum and not a dad was a positive for her 🙂

  • When you are out with the dog is it because you’re dogsitting?

    • Who knows?! You’re opening up a totally different can of worms here! 🙂

  • Fiona

    This used to drive me insane when my daughter was little. If I ventured anywhere alone, people would ask if my husband was babysitting. No, I would say, he can’t today because he’s looking after his own child. It’s such a patronising attitude towards fathers, as though they are incapable and inexperienced and only as good as a babysitter. I think a lot of society’s attitudes toward dads need to be changed, the world has progressed, so too should our attitudes. x

  • Rob Carew

    That’s a tough one and I must admit I may have even used the term myself once or twice but I certainly agree with your point. I’m looking after my kids, not babysitting. Small steps I suppose. #BrilliantBlogPosts

  • Great list I even get people say this to me if i dare leave the house with out all three children oh is other half baby sitting – no he’s parenting. Such a silly thing for people to say! #brilliantblogposts

  • Babysitting is a funny and totally inappropriate phrase when used in relation to a parent! I agree with you totally on this one. I’m not even really sure how it came about? As the primary carer I do have to arrange for him to cover if I want to get my hair cut / take one of the kids to a hospital appointment, whereas he announces what time he’ll be home (variable). So in that sense I DO have to ‘ask permission’ to leave the house but that just goes with the territory I think?

  • john adams

    Have i ever faced this? Oh yes, several times. Most memorably from a young, female GP. On the basis of her age, that took me by surprise. When the older woman in the cafe lifted my baby out of my arms and repeatedly told everyone around her I was babysitting, well, I put it down to her age. Even so, I didn’t have to say anything. Her adult daughter was with her and she was incredibly uncomfortable with the situation and leaped to my defence, telling her mother I was simply “being a dad.”

    I think you responded appropriately. Responding with rage would merely have made you like an angry little man. A charm offensive like the one you employed will make her think positively about guys like us in the future.

    This is, however, a double-edged sword. Some men refer to themselves as “babysitting” when looking after their offspring. These guys need to go to a re-education camp.

  • I haven’t come across this too often, to be honest, but I can imagine how irritating it can be to be thought of as an auxiliary parent.

    I’ve been looking after J-Bone for almost two years now, and I still get annoyed by adverts aimed at ‘Mums’. However, I can’t help but see this as showing exactly how much is expected of mothers rather than a sign of unjust treatment of fathers. I feel if anything I get more recognition as a Dad for doing things that Mums are simply expected to do. But that’s just my experience.

    In terms of witty responses, though, I’m afraid I’ve got nothing. If I think of one, I’ll let you know.

  • sam r

    It is appalling to be asked that question. If.I am a honest my honest does a better parent role then me. It is about the gender and whatever is best for.you.and the family.as everyone is different but ultimately we are all trying to reach that goal of bringing up children X

  • We’ve definitely found this – every time Anthony takes our daughter to an appointment or whatever they will ask something like ‘is mum ill?’ No, she’s at work… The assumption, locally at least, is still very much that mum will be home with baby and dad will be at work. It’s a bit like time travel! 🙂

  • Lynn Lemon Fancy

    My son’s Dad always found it really hard to find a male loo with a baby changer in. BHS are quite good as they generally have a separate room but generally always just in the womans! It is damn awful! Great post!

  • I do think it’s a bit odd to be asked that during the day time. So many fathers do have children to look after during the day time even if they’re not the full time carer. To me babysitting is the traditionally evening exercise of being at home keeping an eye on kids when they’re in bed. In which case, my OH does do that sometimes although I’d refer to him as ‘being at home to look after N’ rather than babysitting – he doesn’t do much else other than let N go out with him on the farm while he works – that’s more like work experience than parenting imo, N just has to follow along. But most dad’s do more than just look after the kids.

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