If my husband is the babysitter, then I’m the nanny, and someone owes me a whole lot of money.
If you’re ever caught in a friendship with me, and can’t handle how awesome it is, a really easy way to get me to leave you alone forever is to jokingly refer to my husband as a babysitter. I know that as parents we’ll hear a lot of dumb stuff from people who mean well or who have a broken sense of what’s actually funny, but this is one cutesy bit of humor that just grates against my brain.
My husband is not a babysitter. My husband is a parent.
When I go out with friends, or when he goes out with his friends, neither one of us is doing the other a grand favor of “watching” or “babysitting” our kid. There are no gold stars here.
Besides the fact that calling Dad a babysitter just drips with the kind of, “Oh, aren’t you so lucky that your man deigns to change a diaper once in a while,” gender stereotyping, I think it’s incredibly insulting to dads.
How is it that we’re here, all the way in the year 2015, and people still imagine that men are big, bumbling idiot man children who can’t figure out which end the food goes in? You see it everywhere. Hilarious Buzzfeed listicles about why it’s a bad idea to leave kids alone with their moron dads. Stupid commercials about why it’s a bad idea to leave kids alone with their moron dads. Unfunny e-cards about why it’s a bad idea to… you get the picture.
If someone referred to me as a “nanny,” I’d be pretty annoyed, and why wouldn’t I be? I don’t have anything against nannies. After all, I worked in child care myself, but it is not, and never will be, the same as parenting. Babysitting is a job, while parenting is an extension of all of that other stuff that you do. As a parent, at the end of the day, you come home and more work begins: the care and keeping of the fruit of your combined sweaty loins. When you are a nanny or a babysitter, the opposite is true: You go home at the end of the day and do pretty much anything that isn’t watching a kid. You can turn it off, and it doesn’t represent the larger part of your identity or life.
We’re not doing anyone any favors by pretending that dads are doing something rare and spectacular when they watch their kids. It’s ungenerous to Mom, who is supposed to feel some kind of gushing gratitude that Dad has put whatever his plans are on hold to do something so out of character as change a diaper or put a child to bed. It’s patronizing to dads, for whom these activities are neither rare nor particularly challenging. To assume that they’re operating out of their comfort zones to do these things is gross and it makes you a jerk.
If no one’s getting paid, then no one is babysitting, OK? So if that’s the language we’re going to use then I would just like to point out that someone owes me a whole lot of money. I’ll take it in twenties.