I’m not entirely sure who bought into this idea first – that a man – a father – could be considered as a ‘babysitter’ to his own children when their mum is (temporarily) out of the house/incapacitated. I just read a funny piece over on Scary Mommy which argues that *some* men can, technically, be thought of as ‘the babysitter’ due to their general attitude to the whole thing (you know the kind of thing – Pringles for dinner, up til 10 on a school night, routines and boundaries often out the window, etc.).
I might have even once described my husband as having done babysitting for me whilst I popped to the supermarket for 40 minutes but in reality, each parent has what’s known as ‘joint parental responsibility’ which actually means that whilst one is alone with one’s children there is no question of ‘payment’ involved (the Scary Mommy article goes for the ‘no such thing as a free lunch’ argument mind you – bartering, sexual favours – you know the drill).
But what about couples who are separated? Where is the ‘free lunch’ under these circumstances? How can one party describe themselves as providing the other party with ‘free childcare’ when a hired helper has no real investment in the upbringing and emotional stability of the children? Doesn’t a childminder look after their charges to the best of their ability but with reservation? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to them whether one particular child they minded grew up and went to university or won an Olympic medal or set up a charity.
As a parent those are the kind of things you will always have in the back of your mind. You want your children to be well-balanced, happy, healthy and outgoing. You want them to feel that you are a rock for them – someone they can turn to on their worst day and always know that they can trust you to put them first and be there for them with no strings and certainly no payment.
In reality there is a *huge* difference between parenting and child minding and no amount of spin can change that fact.