Thursday, April 12, 2007

I am NOT the Babysitter!

So... there I was: A newly minted father. Ready to be the participatory dad that I believe all men should be.

During Mrs G's pregnancy, I had done all the right things... gone to Lamaze; read the "what to expect..." books; made the baby's room ready (Well, I painted and lifted... Mrs G did the planning); and went to the appropriate appointments. I had all of the right gear, too!

I was ready.

Soccer Girl(SG) arrived a few weeks early, but no worries, she was (and still is) supremely healthy and hearty (and by God, my kid can eat!).

I took three weeks of leave from work so I could be with Mrs G and do as I said... be a full participant. We learned a lot, and did pretty much all of the right things. We even took turns sleeping with SG in the glider chair that my dad gave us, because SG wasn't even THINKING about sleeping in the crib, yet.

Well, those three weeks came and went and it was time for me to go back to work. Mrs G would be out for another three or four weeks, but this way, if I went back to work, I'd have more leave on the books so I could take off at need.

Since I was back at work, Mrs G, obviously had to pull more of the freight with the baby stuff, and I would return home to find her wiped out. Seeing this, I started taking SG to the local mall so her mommy could sleep, read, recharge or whatever for a few hours.

One evening, as I was walking through the mall with the stroller, SG started to cry... so I checked the diaper (it was clean/dry), I checked to see if there was anything poking her, and I figured she was just hungry. Well, no worries, I sat on a bench and prepared one of the several bottles that I had brought with me.

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(No, that isn't me)

The bench we were sitting on was right outside of the Payless shoe store, and while I fed SG, the lady working in Payless stood at the entrance of the store and looked at us and smiled. Being a proud father, I smiled back. She looked up one end of the hall and down the other like she was looking for something and then walked over to us and said: "Where is her mother?", to which I replied (proudly) "At home, having a nap" The woman, in her mid-thirties I'd guess, looked shocked and said: "She LET you take the baby out... ALONE?"

I guess you won't be surprised to hear that I took great umbrage (don't you love that word?) at her question and the tone in which it was delivered. I told her that I knew what I was doing and my wife needed the rest, or words to that effect. Then she pushed all of the rest of my buttons at once, by saying: "She is a lucky lady to have dad babysit for her!, I'd never let my huband do that"

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh! Danger Will Robinson! Danger! Danger!

I was pretty mad but refrained from telling her to go... er, jump in a lake. I told her that I wasn't babysitting, I was PARENTING, and if her husband didn't do any of the parenting of their babies, perhaps she should have found a better man. Oh, and what's with this crap about "letting" a father take care of his kids??? What? since when do I need permission?

It only got worse. As our evening strolls in the mall went on, I would often see other parents, all moms, walking with their babies. As much as I liked to talk to them about baby stuff, I eventually had to stop talking to them altogether, because if one more of those bitches women had said: "I wish MY husband would babysit!" I would have committed bloody murder!

I used to hear it so much, and sometimes still do, that I want to scream "I'm not a babysitter. I am this child's father! What is wrong with you people?" and then punch the offender in the face.

I'm still sensitive about it... when SG and I go to the mall or bookstore or someplace else, women get all googley-eyed because we are having fun together. I swear, I am sick of the "aw, that's so cute routine" routine.

I suppose some of you are probably laughing yourselves silly about this. I suppose there are some who would read this and wonder what business any man had being involved in their kid's life to that extent. Well, I am here to tell you that I don't think it's funny.

What kind of man can't take care of his children? I don't mean support his children... I mean take CARE of them. Feed them, clean them, and do all of the other million things that a baby needs. Men who can't, or worse, won't do those things, in my opinion, are beneath contempt. Indeed, I don't think they are real men at all.

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Ladies, if you are single and reading this... take a little advice from your ol' Uncle Gunfighter: If your potential husband seems even slightly unwilling to be a FULLY participatory father... dump him immediately. He isn't a real man. Additionally, don't be a barrier to your husband's full participation.

Men: Take the time to be full participants when your kids are infants. It will be an incredible experience that will make you closer to your kids later on, and to your wife.


super des said...

Gunfighter, I love you. When I get pregnant, I want you to give full lessons to my baby daddy. (Not that he'll need them, right?)

I can't believe those people's reactions. You should've said something like "Your husband let you spend his money?"

sherri said...

As an only child with an awesome father, I say Bravo!

Were people calling it babysitting back in the 70's? My folks worked split shifts when I was very young and I spent a lot of alone time with my Dad when I was a little girl. We had a lot of bonding time, developed our own routines (Date Night was Friday evening), hair styles, shopping, reading and homework.

I'm such a Daddy's girl... and I mean that in a good way. ;-) He's earned every bit of it!

Rose said...

First of all I think you should start a "Real dads..." meme (a la Kristen of Motherhood Uncensored), I'd even get my husband to guest post.
I so fully agree with what you are saying! It's sad when even the dad considers it babysitting. However I think that the mothers are just as often to blame as the dads. The comment "I'd never LET my husband do that" speaks mountains and is very reflective of many of the moms I know.
Thanks for visiting my blog! I can't wait to discover more of yours.

weese said...

I love you too.
My wife's brother is going through an icky divorce, and he is seeing a new woman who was shocked to learn that he was the one who bathed the kids each evening, got them in their jammies and read to them.
I don't understand her shock. He is their dad. and... I am pretty sure he knows how to read.
Thanks for this post.
I couldn't agree more.

Janet said...

I think you should be more forgiving of the women in the bookstore. I can't imagine that you and SG in public, or private for that matter, are anything less than adorable.

Brillig said...

My husband is a Super Dad too, and has heard all of that kind of thing, over and over again. This post is so RIGHT ON. It makes me so angry when people call it "babysitting"--even when they're saying it because they admire him for it. Get rid of the word "babysitting"! He's not some teenager making $3 an hour for his services, he's their PARENT EVERY BIT AS MUCH AS I AM THEIR PARENT!

And you know what? They have SO MUCH FUN with him! They have experiences with him that they would never have with me! Why do women deprive their kids and spouses from having these incredible memories together?

My dad, too, was a very involved parent. I guess I've been kinda spoiled by great men.

Why are so many people surprised by great dads? Why are so many women left on their own to do all the parenting? A friend recently told me that she wanted to go to the store by herself one evening, after her husband got home from work. She was gone for an hour. Her husband didn't speak to her for a week because she'd dared to leave him home with the kids.


I guess you can see that this is, ahem, a very hot-button issue for me too. Y'all still like me, though, right? ;-)

impromptublogger said...

My husband was a SAHD, and I don't remember those comments, more about him being "Mr. Mom" which he hated just as much.

But my dh also commented how having a baby or small child was such a 'babe magnet'... ;-)

Melanie said...

I so agree with this post!!! Why do dads get considered "babysitters" or "watchers" when they are parenting?? What makes them less of a parent then the mother?? It's not called "babysitting" when I'm home all day with the kids is it?? Then why if my husband does it?? What's the difference?

Check out this "real" dad's site!!

soccer mom in denial said...

I just can't stand that - dad is the babysitter. But also I have friends that are not supportive of their husbands. It's a real my-way-is-the-right way mentality.

My husband and I came up against the daddy-bias when the boys were in the NICU. I would go in and pick up one of our babies without any grief whereas he would go in alone and 3 nurses would pounce on him as if he would hurt someone.

Gunfighter said...

Thanks for the support, all.

I knew I wasn't the only one thinking this...

But I'm not a superdad.

I'm just a dad.

Warts and all.

(but I have great legs and I give good hugs!)

Tasha said...

You rock, Uncle GF. Thanks for being the kind of dad to SG that so many of us (myself included) can only wish we had.

PunditMom said...

I've NEVER referred to my husband babysitting PunditGirl, but I'm guessing she's heard that about other dads, because on the rare occasions when I get to go out with the girls, she'll ask, "Is dad babysitting?" When I say 'no,' she gets worried, "Who will be here with me?" I firmly reply, "Your dad, but hes not a babysitter. He's you DAD!"

Kelley said...

What bizarre logic the Payless woman was employing - who is taking care of her kids while she's there at work? She's basically saying that she trusts a hired babysitter or daycare more than her own husband!

Smiling Mom said...

This is fantastic! The "babysitting" term bothers me to no end as well! It's refreshing to hear a male's perspective about this whole parenting thing!

Lawyer Mama said...

I love you, GF.

This happens to my husband all the time. Whenever he has the kids out alone invariably someone will stop him to tell him what a great dad he is, how lucky his wife is, etc.... He thought it was kind of funny the first few times, but now it just pisses him off.

I can't believe women put up with men who aren't equal parents.

Lola Gets said...

You damned right! A man CANNOT "babysit" his own kids - hes parenting!

I wish more men out here felt like that.


Lady M said...

I agree, it's only called babysitting if they're not your kids. The other term I hate is "Mr. Mom." Dude, it's called being a parent. One of my old-school colleague used the term, so I had to respond with, "I need to leave the office at 5pm today. My husband has to work late and I'm being Mrs. Dad."

FENICLE said...

Bravo indeed! My mom said that exact statement to my husband not long after our little boy was born. She asked (in front of him) if he was going to "babysit" Ethan the next day while I worked.

WRONG thing to say. Now granted I had not thought too much about it before. My husband took great offense. And I've never been prouder than when he told her that he was not a hired babysitter, he was Ethan's father and took great pride in his responsibility to raise and care for this child.

Don't mom felt badly for making such a statement (granted my father rarely "babysat" us and referred to it as just that)...all is well now.

PT-LawMom said...

Yay!! Go, Gunfighter, go!!