I’ve seen quite a few articles and blogs lately discussing this. Inevitably, when a father is out and about with his child, he will be greeted by a stranger who will ask – “Ahh, are you babysitting today?”.
We’re guilty of doing it too – I think even I put, in the early days, “Daddy is babysitting tonight!” on Facebook, when I was going out with some friends.
The thing is – how does it work when the tables are turned? We are so used to the idea of the mother being the main caregiver, that when a father takes his turn at looking after the child, we seem to see it as something special, something out of the ordinary – he is temporarily looking after the child, not just ‘being its father’ in the same way as the mother is just ‘being its mother’ every day.
In our family, the situation is different. I am the breadwinner; I go out to work every day. D stays at home with SB and watches her, plays with her, makes her food and changes her nappies and gets her dressed and entertains her and everything else involved in raising a toddler. I come home at the end of the day and I do my bit; I read with her, play games with her, we do bath time together – but it is very rare that I am left alone to look after her.
When I do, am I just her babysitter? Despite the fact that I carried her for nine months, I gave birth to her, I am her mother – when I look after her, am I just babysitting? Or is it different, because I am female, I am the mother. The thought of D saying “Mummy’s babysitting today” – or anyone else saying it, for that matter – makes me feel really quite angry, so why do we continue to use the word to describe fathers playing their part in raising their children?