I was just speaking with an acquaintance of mine about an upcoming work trip that I am taking. So your husband would be babysitting your kid, she commented. Would he? Isn’t my kid in fact “our kid?” So why is it that when a father looks after a child in absence of the mother, be it for an hour, or a day or a week, we refer to it as babysitting, and not parenting? By labelling the child care provided by fathers to their children as babysitting we further coat parenting with a gendered stereotype don’t we? Also, it seems to say to dads that no matter how hard you try, how well you take care of your child, your parenting skills are of no match to that of a mom. This needs to change.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • We often say that dads babysit their kids in the absence of their mother, but are they really doing that?
  • When a father takes care of his children, isn’t that parenting?
  • Modern dads are very hands-on, and they have no qualms looking children after all on their own.
  • Yet, why do we see them as substitutes to mummies?

By labelling the child care provided by fathers to their children as babysitting we further coat parenting with a gendered stereotype don’t we?

Urban dads are more hands-on with parenting than previous generations of Indian men. They have no qualms changing diapers, feeding a baby, they even know the dosage of all the medicines in the emergency cabinet. This active participation in parenting duties means that dads are also taking up other odd jobs around the house, which are still largely touted to be women’s duties. They’ll fix up nutritious meals and snacks for their wards, dispatch a load of dirty clothes to the washing machine and dry it out, help children out with their homework, and also put the house in order, after children are done with their mischief. And yet, I do not come across many people who acknowledge dads with ace parenting skills. The word babysitting is very often used to describe any situation where a father overtakes parenting duties from a mother, even if it is for a longer duration.

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We still carry the burden of stigmas associated with Indian parenting, or the way those duties are divided as per gender. Which plainly means that we fail to see a father as a full-time parent. Come to think of it, doesn’t the word “babysitting” signify a temporary arrangement? A replacement that is supposed to fill in till the original caretaker comes back and resumes her duty? So when we say a father is babysitting, it hints at how we still think of mothers as the primary caregivers for children. Infact women themselves, refuse to be accepting of the idea often that dads can be at par as caregivers with mothers. How could they, when women have been brought up by our patriarchal society to see motherhood as their primary duty?

Doesn’t the word “babysitting” signify a temporary arrangement? A replacement, that is supposed to fill in till the original caretaker comes back and resumes her duty?

But if dads are taking a step forward to be equal parents, then women need to learn to take a step back as well. Be it your partner or someone else’s do not assume that a dad is only a substitute parent, filling in for the mother. But above that, learn to see fathers as an efficient parent. Value their instincts and opinions as much as your own. If they say that they can manage to look after a new-born baby or a school going kid in your absence then don’t doubt them. What’s the worst that could happen? They’ll make mistakes. But haven’t we all? Isn’t parenting a trial and error method? Don’t we all get better at motherhood with experience? Then how can a father become a better one, if you deny them experience and a chance to test their capabilities?

So, the next time a woman tells you that her husband is looking after the kids in her absence, don’t say anything, because isn’t that what you would have done if the genders were switched?

Picture Credit: Image Thirst

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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