All too often, a father who is caring for their child is viewed as a baby-sitter, minding the child until mum returns.
I was recently chatting with a few new dads about how they are finding things, and especially, how they are coping. They told me a few things that they could not believe, however, it was all too familiar to me.
One dad was telling me that he was out with his son, and was asked by a total stranger “Is daddy babysitting you today?”.
First off, let’s make one thing clear: Dads do not babysit their own children.
Dads don’t babysit, they parent
All too often, complete strangers, and worse, family or friends, associate a child being cared for by their father as ‘babysitting’. It of course would not be the same if the tables were turned, and the same stranger saw the mother and child together in a public setting. That’s obviously parenting!
Bizarre and unsolicited comments
As the conversation unfolded, more and more dads started telling their tales of babysitting comments. They were getting more and more absurd.
“I literally had a woman at Coles ask me “Oh, is mum not with us?” – to which I answered no, because she was in another aisle.”
“I got asked, whilst carrying a 2-month-old “Is that your kid?” ummm… no, I found it, fed it, and now it thinks I’m its mother!”
The conversation then progressed to all of the strange and bizarre things that complete strangers ask a father, or especially, a stay-at-home-dad.
Kid starts crying: “aw what did daddy do?”
When my kid cries in public, and people just think I am an idiot: “I think he’s hungry!”
Unbelievable and determined strangers
I have personally been told by complete strangers that my baby was crying due to hunger and then corrected when I informed them that it was an ear-ache. We were in a chemist. Waiting for ear medication.
Another person literally lifted the hood of the pram which held my sleeping daughter. The stranger pinched my baby’s foot, woke her causing her to cry, then proceeded to tell me that baby needed her mother, a feed and that I should not be out with a crying baby on my own.
It seems that society is still coming to terms with fathers being able to care for a child and being the stay-at-home parent. I myself am a stay-at-home dad, and I often get asked where my wife is.
Apparently I need permission to look after my daughter, or perhaps I am incompetent without ‘adult supervision’. The strangest part about it all is, it’s almost always women that ask these questions!
I would never have the courage to ask a new mum if she was babysitting.
Something useful could be said instead
Of course, this is not to say that nothing can be said to any parent with a child! There is plenty that can be said, both to a father or a mother. Positive things. Imagine being in a crowded supermarket with a screaming child, a trolley full of stuff and you have just upended your bag on the floor. An offer of assistance is always allowed and usually welcomed. Helping someone with a child unload a trolley as they balance a child in one arm. A simple “You are doing a great job!” is so uplifting!
Maybe just a little less of the “Are you babysitting today?”
Find out this dad’s genius idea for all newborns. Hint: it involves e-mail!