Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why Dads Don't Babysit

It’s always interesting when I am out without the Droidlet and people ask me “Oh, is Daddy babysitting today?” It almost makes me laugh every time because Funk is at home with the Droidlet, but Funk is most definitely not babysitting. I asked Funk one night if people ever ask him if I’m babysitting when he is out without us and his face scrunched up as if saying, “What kind of question is that?”
                When I honestly think about it, the question seems so ridiculous. Funk isn’t babysitting Droidlet. He’s not on some “temporary assignment.” They are spending time together, hanging out, just being. I’ll often reply (sexistly-) that they are having “boy time” or “father-son” time. But it’s strange that I even have to put it that way. I don’t think of it as “mother-son” time when I am alone with Droidlet. I’m a mama. I spend time with my babe. Funk is a papa. He spends time with his babe.
                Of course, this all has to do with gendered expectations. And although I think the idea of a stay at home dad is becoming more normalized, there still tends to be a double standard. A friend of mine made a really good point about the perception of a parent and child conduct. When a father and his children are out at a store and the kids throw a tantrum/start a rucus/are acting like monkeys, the sentiment is still “oh, you’re being such a supportive father! How great of you to be out with your kids!” However, if this happens when a mother is out, the mother receives dirty looks – the why-aren’t –you-controlling-your-children-looks looks.
                This is especially interesting for me because Funk and I try, as much as we can with him working full time and me working part time/being a student, to have equal parenting with the Droidlet. While Funk is at work, I have full reign of the Droidlet and home, but when he gets home, I work on my thesis or lesson plan, and Funk is more often than not the one who rocks Droidlet to bed and handles the nighttime feedings. On weekends, you’ll find both Funk and I doing various household chores and playing with the baby. Both Funk and I are equally involved in the physical, emotional, and life choices that we make for Droidlet. Since conception, Funk has been at EVERY single doctor’s appointment for Droidlet as well as every class dealing with childbirth/rearing (even the breastfeeding one! GO TEAM!).
                And all of this was just natural. We didn’t pre-plan it, it’s just the way our family works. I’m reminded daily that not many fathers do all of the things that Funk does for our Droidlet (and I believe there are more out there than let on). I’m saddened when I hear mother’s refer to their husbands/partners/boyfriends as “sperm donors” or “just the father” and wonder,  not only if men feel they can’t take on these roles, but if women don’t give them the chance to try.
                In our house, we joke that Funk has more of a “mothering instinct” than I do. The best part is, we’re setting an awesome example for Droidlet. We’re showing him that compassion, affection, and nurturing aren’t “feminine” or “women’s roles”  - something I think is important with all the “machisimo” and masculinity that is in the rhetoric of raising boys.  Instead, we’re showing him that he can love and kiss and hug and wrestle and dance and sing and play with both his parents and that both his parents play an active role in his life and the life of the family.


  1. When I'm out with Madigan, I get a lot of compliments for hanging out with her. Which is odd, as I never feel like I spend enough time with her. I also note that I am usually the only dad at the park when we go. Which I kinda get if I go earlier in the day and the other families have stay at home moms. But if we're at a park at 6-7pm, it seems particularly odd if I'm the only guy.

    This doesn't always happen, and there's one other father/daughter pair I see at the park semi-regularly, but by and large, I feel like father/daughter time is rare - at parks, the mall, restaurants, grocery shopping, it is always rare to spot another father / daughter without a mother there.

    You should check out the song "when I was a boy" by Dar Williams. Great take on gender roles.

    A final note... I have always thought well of you. But that "Dad's" is making me cry. :p

  2. Oh, man. Epic grammar FAIL. Am I allowed to blame it on the fact I've been working on thesis stuff for hours straight? *facepalm*

    And yes, I agree that father/daughter pairs are even more "taboo" than fathers and their sons. Society is oh-so-interesting! I'll be checking out the song tonight... it's going to be my "carrot" for thesis work.

  3. I second the comment about Dar Williams. LOVE her.