Dads don’t babysit

     Jeff and his girls. (Courtesy of Jeff Bogle)

    Jeff and his girls. (Courtesy of Jeff Bogle)

    Maybe you’ve said it or maybe you have had it said to you. If you’re a mom, the latter is probably extremely unlikely.

    “Are you babysitting today?”

    We dads hear that a lot. Moms? Not so much. Mom is never accused of babysitting her own kid because she’s the mom, of course.

    I’ve been the primary caretaker of my two daughters since my wife and I decided that I could leave my corporate gig for the at-home life more than eight years ago. Lots of people have oohed and aahed at this. Others have asked me if I’m babysitting.

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    That’s right, this obviously devoted dad (I left a $70K-per-year job to do this job, after all!) has been mistaken for a babysitter countless times while playing pretend with his kids at the Please Touch Museum, pushing his two girls on the swings at the local playground and even while they sit through a sad sack Phillies game on a muggy summer evening.

    “Did mom need a break today?”

    Actually, yes, now that you mention it, mom could use a break because the big project she’s been managing has been kicking her rear end, but actually, mom is at work right now providing for her family. I’m not giving my wife a break, I’m being a dad — the guy who changed the diapers during the day when the kids were little, ran the warm baths every mid-day, read book upon book at naptime, packs healthy school lunches every single day, and takes the kids on outings only to be mistaken, innocently or not, for a goddamn babysitter.

    Here’s the thing about confusing an actively involved dad for a babysitter: babysitters earn an hourly wage, spend too much time on their phone (OK, so maybe we have that in common) and punch out at the end of their shift. There’s no real end to my workday as a dad. If the youngest has a fever in the middle of the night, my inclination is to let my working wife stay in dreamland. If the oldest gets hurt at school, I’m the one who fields the phone call, makes the same-day appointment at the doctor’s office, provides comfort and a shoulder to cry on, and runs the shuttle between her classroom and medical attention.

    None of that is in the job description of a babysitting service, but it’s first paragraph stuff in the tirelessly rewarding work of a parent.

    More and more dads are finding themselves as parent-in-chief (the growing Philly Dads Group I co-founded is a testament to the trend). Even if the dad you spot out with his kiddos at the mall food court or coming out of the latest animated movie isn’t wearing a Dads Don’t Babysit t-shirt, you can help him out by not assuming he is doing anything other than being the best parent he can be for his kids.

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