Uh-oh. Another Duggar brouhaha? Jill Duggar’s husband, Derick Dillard, has managed to draw the ire of moms everywhere by calling the time he spends with son Israel… “babysitting.”
When Dillard tweeted and then Instagrammed the following, he probably didn’t know how far into his mouth he was shoving his foot, but plenty of people are more than happy to show him the error of his ways:
— Derick Dillard (@derickmdillard) October 13, 2015
The Dillards have had to contend with plenty of bad press lately, including the allegations that they misused donations for their missionary trip and the news of their rejection as missionaries from both the International Mission Board and the Southern Baptist Convention. They haven’t responded to that criticism, and it looks like they won’t be responding to the criticism surrounding this babysitting tweet either, despite the fact that Derick’s description of his time spent with 6-month-old Israel has really rubbed people the wrong way.
“It doesn’t count as babysitting of its your kid. Come back from the 30s and join the rest of society,” says one user on Instagram. There were plenty of remonstrations in reply to his original tweet too, with people quick to point out that “if you made it, it isn’t babysitting.”
Not that people aren’t defending Dillard as well. There are plenty of people willing to point out that “it’s just a phrase” and that everyone upset about it should “calm down.” The thing is, we’re well aware that it’s just a phrase, even a joke.
It’s just that it’s not funny. It’s old, tired and perpetuates the idea that men should get little gold stars when they rise to even the most basic of parenting tasks: watching their children all by themselves, like big boys. It’s something moms do constantly, and we never call it “babysitting.” It’s just called “parenting” or “a Wednesday.” Babysitters are paid individuals who watch kids that aren’t their own every once in a blue moon. It doesn’t resemble parenting in even the most generous sense of the word.
We have set an incredibly low bar of entry for fathers as parents, and it’s harmful to mothers and, frankly, pretty unfair to dads too. When we all swoon over dads who change diapers or “babysit” their kids or call the women with partners who do this “lucky,” we keep that bar at ground level, which doesn’t make sense in our changing culture, where more and more fathers are staying at home and finding fulfillment in parental involvement.
When we let men who are parents but not primary caregivers get away with calling their parenting duties “babysitting,” we allow the stereotype that men are big, dumb buffoons around babies persist, and we legitimize the idea that parenting isn’t really very important work, which is why it’s so perfect for women.
Dads don’t babysit. They parent. When they are involved in their children’s lives, we do need to encourage that, because it allows the division of one of life’s most thankless and rewarding jobs to be more evenly split.
But it’s long past time for us to bend over backward thanking them for participating in even the most basic of parenting tasks, especially just hanging out with your kid for a few hours while your partner pops out of the house.