If you constantly find yourself saying things like, “My husband is great, he helps out with the kids all the time,” you may want to adjust your thinking. That’s not helping, that’s parenting. In other words, dads don’t babysit kids, they raise them! Keep reading to learn why treating dads like part-time sitters is unfair to your partner, your kids, and even to you.
Dads don’t babysit kids, they raise them
Over the last few decades, fathers have become increasingly involved in their kids’ lives. That’s not just opinion, it’s a well-researched fact. More and more dads are taking on the role of stay-at-home parents. Those who do work outside the home dedicate their nights and weekends to making sure they get plenty of quality time with their children. Even dads who don’t live with their kids go for (and win) joint custody more often than just 30 years ago. So, yes, it’s safe to say that fathers are more active in their children’s lives than ever before.
Yet, it’s still so common to hear the phrase “my partner helps me with the kids,” but have you ever thought about how unfair that statement is to everyone involved? No? Well, then, let me explain why starting with how demeaning it is to dads.
Dads aren’t just helping, they’re parenting
Calling your children’s father a “babysitter” diminishes his extraordinary role in their lives. It makes him sound like hired help. He’s not a teenager that you pay to come to play with your kids for a few hours while you run errands. He’s a parent.
Fathers are so aggravated about being called helpers that they even started an entire movement called, you guessed it, “Dads don’t babysit.” Al Watts of the National At Home Dad Network makes an excellent point, too. How would we moms feel if someone said referred to moms as “helpers” or “babysitters”? Go ahead, imagine it in your head, your husband’s friend saying, “Wow, she’s great for helping out with the kids!” So, yes, calling dad a helper absolutely demeans his place in his children’s life.
Kids shouldn’t see their fathers as part-time babysitters
Plain and simple, when you treat your partner like a babysitter, your children will start to see him as one, too. Why is that such a bad thing, aside from the obvious? Well, think about the people you hire to babysit your kids. Sure, they have “authority” (for lack of a better term) over your kids when you’re not around. However, they still answer to you and your kids know it. Do you want them to think that their father’s rules aren’t as important as yours?
More than that, though, when kids see dad as a part-time babysitter, it’s hurtful to them. Consider this, would you want your kids to think that their dad is only spending time with them to help you out? Children are incredibly literal and take what we say at face value. If you tell them that dad will be babysitting them this weekend, their little ears and hearts hear, “Dad’s only with me because he has to be, not because he wants to be.”
Moms have a right to expect more than just “help” from dads
Calling dad a helper doesn’t just diminish his role and hurt your kids, it’s also demeaning to you. Nicole Christensen of Baby Gaga put it perfectly when she wrote, “As a society, we need to make sure that we are not saying things about a dad that we wouldn’t say to a woman. You would never say “mom is babysitting,” and you wouldn’t tell mom that she is amazing for “helping” her husband with the dishes.”
Why is it that we still think that the responsibility of taking care of kids is only for women? This isn’t the 1950s anymore, and you’re not June Cleaver. Women have a right to expect equal partners in all aspects of their relationship, including raising kids. Your partner shouldn’t be someone that makes your “work” a little bit easier from time to time. He is someone who knows how to be present, who loves, takes care of, and takes responsibility for what gives real meaning to his life: his family.
Fathers truly do experience the same depth of emotion as mothers
If the above isn’t enough to convince you that dads don’t babysit, maybe a little bit of science will do the trick. Turns out, fathers experience the same depth of emotion towards their kids as moms. One study even found that dads can experience postpartum depression.
Also, did you know that if a man plays a primary role in taking care of his baby, he experiences the same neurological changes that women do when they become mothers? A 2014 study suggests that fathers experience the same brain changes that help new moms bond with babies.
According to the study, “…caring for children awakens a parenting network in the brain—even turning on some of the same circuits in men as it does in women. The research implies that the neural underpinnings of the so-called maternal instinct aren’t unique to women, or activated solely by hormones, but can be developed by anyone who chooses to be a parent.” This is really amazing and proves that a father can actually have the same level of emotional attachment to their kids as we mothers do.
One last bit of scientific wisdom. I read an excellent article on Psychology Today that explained the different sort of bond that dads have with kids. Not less than mothers, just different. The authors talked about how a father’s interactions with his kids are more playful and full of humor (there’s a reason we have “dad jokes” and not “mom jokes”). In other words, they provide balance. Kids need that as much as they need mom’s intimate interactions.
Fathers who are not involved with their children are missing out!
A father who is involved in every single aspect of his children’s life is rewarded with the most beautiful gift life can give him. And those fathers who are involved will tell you it is the most rewarding experience.
Dads who wake up at night, change diapers, and give baths, are not “helping.” They are experiencing the most wonderful part of their lives: fatherhood. In return, they’re rewarded with unconditional love and many memorable life experiences.
What about dads who can’t be as involved in their kids’ lives as they’d like, though? Whether through divorce, separation, extreme work hours, or military deployment, there are a few things dads can do to keep that bond going strong with their kids.
- Make regular “dates” with your kids (and don’t break them unless something on YOU is broken!).
- If you’re unable to be physically present, set up regular video calls so you can be “virtually” present.
- Show your kids that they’re as much a priority to you as they are to their moms. In other words, when you’re home, actively engage in things like feeding, bathing, and reading bedtime stories.
- Let them see your emotional side. Too often, kids think their dads don’t care as much because men try to “be strong” and not let their kids see them cry.
As for moms, make sure you never refer to your partner as a helper when he is home. Also, don’t let your kids hear you speak negatively about him when he’s not.
Dads Are Not Just Helping, They Are Parenting
Let’s make this clear once and for all, dads don’t babysit, they parent. A father is someone who not only gives life, but educates with love, and takes full responsibility for his family.
A father is someone who teaches, listens to concerns; and even plays when he is tired after a full day at work. A real dad also cries when their kids are giving him a hard time. Only a father who is involved will understand that being a parent is the most difficult and challenging job in the world.
Taking care of our children should be a mutual responsibility. Not one that is imposed but one that comes naturally when we become parents. Remember that love is all we need to raise our children. If both parents are fully involved, we will teach our kids such a good example. They will grow up without stereotypes or gender labels.