“Free” childcare


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.


8 thoughts on ““Free” childcare

  1. I literally detest the idea that a dad is only babysitting or somehow helping mum out when he is looking after his children. I think it’s demeaning to him as yes he is their dad too and luckily for me, my husband and I do share the responsibility so routines and rules don’t go out of the window when he is looking after them. It is so old fashioned to think only a mum has the responsibility of looking after the kids. I think when separated that view point is even worse. Surely as their parent the father would want to see their kids and have a hand in their upbringing and share the responsibility. Poor kids to think their dad is only spending time with them as a favour to their mum! Great post xxx
    Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) recently posted…Our obsession with weight and the affect on our kidsMy Profile

    • You are lucky to have such an involved partner Caroline! I still think it’s weird to hear fathers describing themselves as ‘babysitting’ – it’s like the dark ages!!

  2. Oh man, I HATE it when people say dads babysit. Although I’m with you on the whole once you’re separated what if they aren’t taking full responsibility. Oh man, it’s so hard. At the moment a little bit of babysitting would be amazing! That’s not how it’s supposed to be though. Well done you!
    Ellamentalmama recently posted…The MiscarriageMy Profile

    • I can’t really comment on other people talking about dads as babysitters because I haven’t really experienced that – its more when the dads describe themselves that way! It’s not even that the parenting is bad or less relevant than the mums but its sometimes a control thing – ‘I won’t provide you with free childcare’ which translates to mean ‘don’t expect regular time to yourself because I think that’s the only reason you want me to have the children and I refuse to make your life easier’. It totally negates the needs of the children themselves – regular and routine dates with the non-resident parent which they can rely on.

    • I’m sure it could be argued that where there is a stay at home dad with that role reversal then a woman who is normally out at work could just as easily describe herself as ‘babysitting’ her children at the weekend or whatever. It’s just more likely to be the other way round at this point in time but either way, no parent of either gender gets to genuinely think of themselves as a babysitter or child minder of their own children for all the reasons I’ve mentioned here! Thanks for linking up Jeremy 🙂

  3. Hi Sam,

    Separated parenting definitely adds another dimension to this. Because I split up with Cygnet’s father when Cygnet was only 5 months old, I don’t feel that Cygnet’s dad has ever really got to grips with the difference between a father (who cares and nurtures but also sets rules and boundaries) and an Uncle (who indulges, gives in, provides sweets and lollipops and leaves rules and discipline for Mummy). Although my delightful ex doesn’t feel that he is babysitting, he is most definitely fits the Uncle rather than the father role. Anyway, I hope all is going well. Take care Pen x
    Pen recently posted…Net-curtain-gate: spying spinster strikes againMy Profile

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