Fathers aren't just 'holding the fort', they're parenting

Fatherhood. Contributed

MY wife recently returned to work one or two days a week, and we have since been splitting the "stay-at-home" parent duties, with me doing three days a week at my office, and staying home with the children on days my wife is at work.

An interesting exchange today said a whole lot about attitudes towards men caring for their children, attitudes often coming from the men themselves.

It was pretty simple: my young children and I were out and about for some time this morning and my son, little helper that he is, was lending a hand to someone with a simple task they were performing (after being invited to).

Making conversation, this person asked me "are you babysitting today?".

Now, this person was simply making friendly conversation, and meant no offence by what was said

The comment did not offend me, but it did provide a reflection of an attitude that dads taking care of their children are "babysitting". Let's be clear, they are not babysitting, they are parenting.

An aunt, uncle, grandparent, trusted family friend, paid teenager etc, taking care of children on behalf of their parents is babysitting, but a father taking care of their own children, no matter what their mother is doing at the time, is doing his job by parenting his children.

It's entirely coincidental that this issue piques my interest on International Women's Day.

So much focus lately is, rightly, put on changing attitudes to recognise women's equal role in society, not just as mothers and housewives, yet while we perpetuate the view that a father taking responsibility is merely babysitting on his wife's behalf, we are being entirely counter-productive to that cause.

The role of parent is a job-share position. Men, when you are taking care of your children on your own, you are not babysitting, you are parenting. Women, when you encounter a man who is taking care of his children, he is NOT babysitting, he is parenting.

If we want more men in society to step up to the challenge of being equal partners in hands-on parenting, stop perpetuating the stereotype that a man doing so is just "holding the fort" for his wife and start recognising that he is actually playing his critical role as one of the children's two parents!

Topics:  fatherhood international women's day letter to the editor opinion parenting

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