Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Babysitting your own kids

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Whose turn is it to babysit tonight?
Whose turn is it to babysit tonight?

Last time I checked, a grand total of 395,837 people 'liked' the Facebook group: "It's not 'babysitting' if your wife left you at home with your OWN kids!" It's aimed squarely at the terminology some fathers use when asked to care for their own kids; the fact they call it 'babysitting' rankles more than a few women as evidenced by the many comments added.

Debbie wrote: "A friend of mine said that he was babysitting. We asked, 'Babysitting who?' He said, 'My kids.' Oh, we let him have it!" Amanda agreed: "I hate when people say that ... they are YOUR kids ... you don't BABYSIT them, you take care of them!" Christy said: "It's not called babysitting ... it's called PARENTING!! Some husbands need a good kick in the shin!!"

I understand the sentiment these women are expressing. It's the underlying assumption that childminding is women's work and the fact that some men give the impression that caring for their own children is almost beyond the call of duty that ruffles more than a few feathers.

Yet in our household both my husband and I are frequently called upon to 'babysit' our daughter - and neither of us find the terminology offensive.

I'll always remember trying to set up a dinner engagement with a female friend who had a young baby. We settled on a date and then she said: "I'll have to check that my partner can babysit that night." I recall being slightly discomforted by that remark and thinking: "Well, if he hasn't already booked you to babysit for him then, by default, he must be available to do the babysitting shift."

And it slowly dawned on me that not all couples adopt an egalitarian approach when it comes to caring for their children in the evenings and weekends. Clearly, my friend - presumably on account of her gender and role as primary caregiver - was expected to be the main babysitter in the evenings as well.

My husband and I have a completely different arrangement when it comes to caring for our daughter. I gracefully accept the role of primary caregiver on weekdays between the hours of 9am and 5pm. My husband's job is more important (read: more highly paid) than mine; it would be churlish of me to not support him in his efforts to provide for his family.

But all bets are off when five o'clock rolls around. If he expects free childcare services much past this hour then he must book me in to babysit. After all, I might have plans. Mind you, according to our system, if I did have plans I'd already have booked him in to babysit.

It's a simple yet effective scheme that's worked flawlessly for eight years. It means Kevin and I are both free to accept any out-of-hours social or work engagement without consulting the other. A fast email to the other party is all that's required. My message might read: "Pls bbsit from 6.30pm next Wednesday." His may say: "Pls bbsit Thursday night. In Wgtn."

The net effect is that, at various times, we're both involved in babysitting our own daughter, and it strikes me as a perfectly functional and valid arrangement. In fact, it's essential to the smooth running of our professional and personal lives. Sharing parental babysitting duties in this way gives us the freedom to organise our activities with virtually as much flexibility as childfree people. Debbie, Amanda, Christy and other disapproving Facebook members should consider that perhaps 'babysitting' is a perfectly fine word as long as both parents have equal rights to use it.

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Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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