The past six weeks have been busy and I've been away from home more than usual for Created for Care, three speaking engagements, and other random things sprinkled in. I don't leave town without my family often (only a few times a year), and I try to be home with them as much as possible. I've noticed over the years that folks are curious about the kids when I'm not there. "Who has the kids?" is the most common question, and the answer is always the same: "They're home with their Daddy."
Sometimes people look surprised with that answer and mention how nice it is that my husband can "babysit" our children. Sometimes that term is used in the question, "Is John babysitting the kids while you're away?"
It's an odd use of the term, isn't it? I've noticed no one praises me for "babysitting" while my husband works or asks him while he attends an evening meeting if his wife (me) is able to babysit for him. I'm not offended by the term, but I also don't like using it when referring to my husband.
Why? Simple. He's not a babysitter. My husband never has been and never will be a babysitter. My husband is a father. Father and babysitter are not the same thing.
The babysitter doesn't know exactly how my daughter likes her food cut and why we only wash her hair once a week and what her "pee-pee" dance looks like. The babysitter doesn't know the correct order and dosages of the medications my son takes every day. The babysitter doesn't know where Mareto left his Scooby-Doo Lego set the day before and what songs to sing to Arsema before she goes to bed.
Their father does.
The babysitter doesn't know that it's OK to cut the tags out of Mareto's shirts if they're itching him, and that it's OK if he won't eat dinner. The babysitter doesn't know just what to do to help Mareto's tummy feel better when it aches, and the babysitter doesn't know the exact way Arsema likes her back scratched when she lies in bed at night.
Their father does.
I am extremely grateful for the friends we have who watch our children on occasion. They are wonderful and fun and my children consider it a treat when the babysitter comes over. But our sitters know they aren't an equal substitute to us, the parents. We are a team, a duo in this parenting deal. My husband is an equal part of that team.
When I leave town and the kids spend a long weekend with their dad, he is not stepping into the role of babysitter -- he is continuing in his role of father.
I think it's time we start speaking better of our men. I think it's time we stop making jokes about the state of the house and kids while they are with Dad. I think it's time we stop making dads feel incompetent and unable in comparison to moms.
My husband does things differently than I do, and that isn't wrong. The mom down the street has a different routine and style of housekeeping and parenting, but I don't make jokes or belittle her for it, because it's what works for her. So why do we treat our men as less than, simply for doing things differently?
When I came home last night, most of the laundry had been washed and folded (differently than I do it, but still done and wonderful!). All but a few dishes were done, and John had made a plan for dinner. Our bed was made with the top comforter pulled all the way up (I usually fold it at the foot of the bed) and the sheets were washed. It wasn't the way I typically do it, but it was just as good. The kids were happy and playing in the living room, and I could tell from their sweet/fruity smell that they'd had a bath the night before.
Honestly? That's a lot better than some of the scenes John walks into after he's been at work all day. And other days it looks a lot like that. Parenting is a tough and wonderful and rewarding job and there are many different ways to do it right. Our husbands are more than capable of doing just as good a job as we can.
Let's stop demeaning their role of father by referring to them as babysitters when we aren't around. And instead of being surprised when everything is fine without us for a weekend or an evening, let's start by assuming it will be.
I'll close with just a few of the pictures John texted me over the weekend...
(I noticed that when John shared these on Facebook, he used the hashtag #dadlife ... because that's what he was doing. Simply being a dad... no, a GREAT dad!)