“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.
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So, why is it appropriate or acceptable for a female to use out-of-date stereotypes about a man without having to check what comes out of her stupid mouth?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.
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?