There are very few things that really get me spun up these days. Leaving the military has had a calming effect on my overall demeanor. I’m more of a go with the flow kind of guy merged with a guy who still writes a checklist to do the grocery shopping. I’ve had many conversations with strangers and friends over these past two years as a stay at home dad. During these conversations, you have the typical banter or “ball busting” that happens when a couple of guys get together. I’m fine with all of that. I’m fine with being called Mr. Mom on occasion because I understand the reference to the movie and my roll staying home with the kids. I know some stay at home dads get offended when they are called Mr. Mom. That one doesn’t bother me at all. However, there is one statement people make that really gets under my skin.
The conversation I have with other people is fairly innocent. I feel like a jerk sometimes when I correct people on this comment. I know that I’m sort of bucking our traditional societal norms in my role. So, I’m not ripping people’s heads of and doing you-know-what down their throats when this statement comes up. However, I’m pretty adamant that I am not referred to as a babysitter.
The conversation usually goes like this. I’m walking the kids somewhere, maybe the mall, and a person comes up to me and says, “Why what a cute bunch of girls you have there.” I reply, “Thank you, me and wife think so too.” The person then says, “So, I see you’re babysitting the kids today. You’re such a good husband for giving your wife a break.” I stare at them for a few seconds and remind myself about societal norms and how I need to help people change there perspective about my position in the family. I then reply, “You f’in moron, how dare you call me a babysitter, I’m going to rip off your head and…” Just kidding! My reply is always calm and I’m always trying to think of new ways to politely shock people into submission. My standard response is, “No, I’m actually their father and my wife doesn’t pay me 10 dollars an hour to watch them.” Or, “Babysitter, no; super dad, yes.”
After they look at me puzzled and try to process what I’m saying, I usually respond with “My wife is awesome, so she has a great job, and I do this full time. I agreed to sacrifice all my great looks and charm to be with the kids full time.” This usually works. I’ve tried the, “I have no idea who’s kids these are! I found them standing around so I just snatched them up for a test drive.” Or, “My wife died last week, were just walking around trying to work things out.” Those don’t really go over so well. Not very good or funny. I think the calm and sensible approach is the best one. Twisted humor, not so much.
Father – To become a father of a child.
Babysitter – To care for children usually during a short absence of the parents.
Why am I not offended by the Mr. Mom remark? The Mr. Mom remark has a logical reference in its inference. Most people have seen the movie and know what it is about. I’ve done a much better job than Michael Keaton by the way. Calling me a babysitter is offensive. It means I’m not even capable of fathering my children poorly. It means that the idea of me watching the kids in a successful or unsuccessful manner is not even possible. The word babysitter means that I’m not even a parent since I’m watching the kids while the “real” parent/parents are away. I’m placed into a category reserved for pubescent girls/boys. At least the Mr. Mom reference puts me in the father category. So no, Mr. Mom doesn’t bother me at all. Babysitter is a completely illogical comparison.
Why is it so hard for us to imagine that a father can successfully stay at home with his kids? Walking around the mall with the kids, how many people think I’m just strolling around with them until the wife is done shopping at Victoria Secrets? More than I would probably want to admit. Luckily, I’m not one that loses sleep about other peoples opinions (well, except for my wife’s opinion). As I have written before, there are women out there who freely admit to me that they couldn’t handle the stay at home role for more than 8 months. Staying at home is not a gender specific role that we are born with. What gets under my skin, is the difference of perception. People see a mother walking her kids around the mall and all is normal in the world. People see a man walking his kids around the mall and he is just giving mommy a break while she picks out some underwear or gets her nails done. Dads don’t really take care of there kids do they!?
Do not call dads babysitters. Even if we are working and the wife stays at home, it is inappropriate. We are out and about with our children because that is what good fathers do. It is not called “babysitting”, it is called “fathering” children. Dads, on this one, don’t embrace the suck. Tell people what you do, that you can handle fathering your children, and you do it well. Tell them this whether you stay home or whether you work a full time job. We are not “babysitting” our kids, we are fathering them. Be proud guys, because we are doing some of the most important things we will ever do in our lives.