Friday, 13 September 2013

NO BABYSITTING HERE

‘If he throws his food on the floor, I want to be able to rub his nose in it. And I don’t want to have to feel bad about that.’ (Too far?)

‘You know, I’m as sure as shit not going to get paid for any of this, am I?’

‘You’d be filthy if I called you the live-in wet nurse.’

When my wife announced to her friends that “Dan can babysit” as she planned a dinner out, I took offence. Sure, it was a throw-away line she meant no malice by, but it set me back a few decades.

Heckling is not my forte. That’s why all I could comeback with was the insipid: ‘I’m not the babysitter, I’m his father.’ Oh to be quick-witted.


I was annoyed at how calmly Anna so willingly dropped my responsibility down a few pegs. I sensed my role being belittled. But I also feared how friends and family listening to the conversation might assume how our roles are divided ‘behind closed doors’.


Of all people, she should be the last one to view my role as being limited; to listening out for the odd cry, rescuing the baby, feeding him a pre-prepared bottle that had been left in the fridge on a note that read: ‘don’t forget to heat up, but not too hot! Room temp.’
Should I have been so sensitive about it? Did I really feel a throw-away line from my wife, innocent or not, degraded my role as a parent?

Mothers should want to change the image of the “babysitting” father; societal norms reflect a shift in focus, and this must especially happen in the home. A babysitter is a person who attends to the needs of a child, watches out for the child’s welfare for finite blocks of time, is reminded of what the child needs (usually by the mother), and who occasionally receives some sort of recompense for their troubles.


It’s an unfortunate, yet classic, misnomer. Grandparents, aunts and uncles all feel it. They’re not babysitters, they’re family. Fathers feel it most.


At the moment, with a newborn that is entirely reliant on his mother’s milk for food and her comfort for reassurance, the occasional observer may view my input as babysitterish.


Admittedly my fatherly advice will need to stay bottled for a couple more months, but here’s how I know I’m more than just a babysitter.
  • I helped nurture the mother-baby bond – For hours every day, in between our son’s sleeps, I was helping him breastfeed. I was keeping my son’s tiny hands free from his mouth so he could latch freely onto his mother’s breast. I was helping my wife ride the emotions of having a son who wouldn’t take food unless it came form a plastic source. I made sure that there was enough rest being had from those who needed it most.
  • I was a protector (though at times an ineffective one) – so seriously did I take the mother-baby bond I tried to use my new found animalistic territorial instincts to good measure.
  • I have made sure my son knows my voice – Every morning I read to him. Every night I sing. He knows my voice. He will stop breastfeeding and smile when he hears me announcing myself as I approach a room. He arches his back and turns his head to look at me when I’m talking on the phone.
  • Every day, I’m one of two people he sees first. If it’s not too early I race my wife into his room to see him wake up. Looking up out of his cot, he recognises me. His smile confirms it.
While biology and anatomy dictates that I am the parent he needs to rely on less at the moment, I don’t feel like a babysitter and nor should I. I am responsible for him now and forever more. I am his father.

4 comments :

  1. The image of you racing your wife into your little one's room in the morning is wonderful. What a lucky baby.

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    1. We used to run in, inspired by besotting love. Now we're just paranoid he's pulled his sheets over his head. In all seriousness, his smiles are beautiful to wake up to and honestly help get us out of bed each day.

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  2. The image of you racing your wife into your little one's room in the morning is wonderful. What a lucky baby.

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    Replies
    1. Janelle, feel free to share with people, but thank you for reading.

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