Kids, Fathers, and Free Babysitting
Is there something that really grates on your nerves every time you hear it?
Is it so bad that even when you hear it on the radio or in a movie, you find yourself actually talking back to straighten things out? No? Just me?
There is one thing that really drives me nuts and that’s when I hear comments about a father babysitting his children.
I never thought much about this concept, or even heard this idea, until my husband and I had kids.
Many years ago, a friend of ours was visiting our home with his family. He made a comment that he was going to babysit the next day. I asked him whom he was babysitting. (In all honesty, I thought that maybe the neighbour’s kids were going to his house or something!) He said he was babysitting his son. I didn’t hesitate, “You are not babysitting your own child. You are his father; you are parenting him.”
The look on his face was, at first, that of stunned surprise; then he smiled, until finally he was beaming. “Yes, I am!” he said. He was happy. He had been validated as an equal partner in raising his son. He was recognized as an equal parent. I never heard him mention babysitting his own kids again.
A father is not hired as a babysitter to take care of his own children. A father is given the responsibility to love and care for his children by God.
This comment about fathers babysitting their children bothers me so much because it does not give equal value to fathers as parents. It indicates that mothers are the only parents and fathers are just the helpers. It implies that fathers are not as competent as mothers when they are relegated to the office of a babysitter.
This is not okay.
A father is not hired as a babysitter to take care of his own children. A father is given the responsibility to love and care for his children by God. Being a father is a vocation, not a temporary job that he does when his wife needs his help occasionally.
Fathers and mothers are equally important in the raising of their children. They are called by God to share in the responsibility of caring for their family together. They are to raise, nurture, and guide their children as a team. Each parent has valuable gifts to share with their children and unique perspectives to bring to the family. Their specific roles within the family unit may differ, but one parent does not have more value than the other.
Calling fathers babysitters also communicates to women that the responsibility for their children lies completely on their shoulders; that is a lot of pressure! The consequences of such an approach are far-reaching and also affect a child’s perspective of the roles of mothers and fathers. When a father’s role within the family is relegated to the status of “babysitter,” or even “the fun babysitter,” children are taught that their father is not as important in the functioning of the family; it devalues fathers and by extension all men, and above all, it alters society’s perception of fatherhood as a vocation, removing from it the responsibilities that are inherent to this role.
We know that boys and girls look up to their parents as role models. Considering fathers babysitters sets a precedent and becomes part of a pattern that our kids may end up adopting when they have their own families in the future. Kids observe and hear everything, even when we think they aren’t paying attention.
What examples are we setting for our children?
Raising a family takes a lot of prayers and a lot of hard work. God intended that men and women share equally in this responsibility, each using their God-given gifts and talents and the grace that comes from their sacrament.
This can be especially difficult when mothers and fathers are not raising their children together in one home or when there is only one parent raising a family. Single parents certainly have a greater challenge, working by themselves to support and raise their children. But all parents, whether married or single, can successfully help their children to appreciate the value and role of both a mother and a father within the family dynamic.
May we always pray for both fathers and mothers, for the strength and grace to continue the hard work they do to care for their family together. May we work, as mothers and fathers, to not treat our spouse as a babysitter or allow ourselves to be treated as a babysitter for our own children. May we prayerfully work together in marriage to be whom God has called each of us to be.
One day at a time, with God’s help, we can do this!
Have a blessed day,
Mary Saltzmann and her husband Alex have been married for almost 25 years. They have five children, ages 11-21, and are involved in World Wide Marriage Encounter in their diocese. In her spare time, Mary enjoys scrapbooking, knitting, and can usually be found with her nose in a book. You can follow Mary at Blessed Catholic Mom where she provides simple steps for growing in faith each day.