Starting in my younger adult years and now into fatherhood, I heard dads use this phrase quite regularly, “No, I can’t make it to [whatever gathering], I’m babysitting [my kids].” They usually mean they are home alone with their children while their wife is out running an errand or doing something for herself. That phrase always sat uneasy with me. I figured I would understand it better when I became a father.
Three kids later, I still don’t understand the statement. In fact, I openly deny it when people put it on me. “Oh, Rezwana is going to be gone. So, Gary’s going to be babysitting?” Nope. That being said, here are six reasons I do not babysit my children:
Babysitting is when there is a family friend or professional, sometimes paid, watching someone else’s children while the parents are away. A babysitter makes sure the children of another family are fed according to schedule, kept in line to get the task done, and generally make sure they don’t die. That’s good enough for a babysitter. It is not good enough for a father.
I am not at home most of the time because of work, so I am more of a commodity. As their father, they need my undivided attention at least as much as they need their mother’s. My son and daughters crave my masculinity at least as much as they crave my wife’s femininity.
Even the most consistent, dynamic babysitters can only build off the foundation the parents lay. When I break up a fight between my children, I am not trying to make them quieter; I am teaching them to be men and women that show the love of Jesus in their words and relationships. When I take them for wagon rides, I am not trying to entertain them until they crash, I am teaching them the God who made the world pursues them and delights in them.
There are a million and one things my wife does I don’t do well, if I do them at all. However, there are also things I do for our children my wife could not possibly replace. She is also a stay at home mom, which rightly gives her a lot of control over the house. I don’t need to be the tidiest person, know where everything is, do everything the way she does, or do the same activities to have quality time with our kids.
Wife, if you want your husband to be more involved in your kids’ upbringing, equip him to do so. My wife is so amazing at this and, at times, at great inconvenience to herself. Husband, if you want to be more of a father and less of a babysitter, carefully guard the quality of the time you spend with them and your wife. If your children don’t delight in being close to you, no matter how stern your discipline, they will learn to care less and less about the sin that separates them from you and, inevitably, from Jesus.
We would never say it like this, but the “babysitting” dads are usually the dads with children under 6. If they are like many men, the first time they ever spent time with babies or toddlers was when they became a father. The temptation is to wait until they grow up and they can better participate in hobbies you understand. Do not do this. Blow bubbles, paint horrible pictures, splash in kiddy pools, chase them around the yard for the hundredth time. They must know they are interesting to you and they must know it now.
If you are reading this post as a mother, I am giving you permission to have an equal standard for your husband as a parent. If you are a father, I challenge you to stop merely watching your kids grow up and start helping your kids grow up. Don’t be a babysitter. Be a father.
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