Daddy Is Not a Babysitter


By Hank Osborne,

I often hear dads say things like, “I have to babysit tonight.” Sometimes mom may even ask dad to babysit the kids while she goes out to a meeting or simply has a night away with friends. I get the concept in theory, but the general definition and the undertones that come with putting with words “dad” and “babysit” in the same sentence just don’t seem right.

First let’s start with the generally accepted definition of the word “babysit.” You can use your favorite search engine to verify, but in general the term babysit means to care for kids during the absence of the parents. Therefore that means that the person performing the duty is not a parent of the children being cared for. And based on a note from Merriam-Webster the term has only been around for about 60 years.

The reason I take issue with the term babysit to refer to the time that dads spend alone with their kids is that, in my opinion, this degrades and diminishes dad’s authority as an equal parent. I know that all dads are not as equally involved in parenting. Some dads are mostly uninvolved. I know guys who have multiple kids and they can count the number of diapers they have changed in their life on their fingers. Some of them even take pride in this, but I hope that is not the case in your home. Some dads may not be affected by being called a babysitter and may even use the term freely as very active dads. However others, like me, may take offense to it. So yes, it is a pet peeve for me. It may also be a pet peeve for the dad in you house. If you are a mom reading this, please check to make sure this term does not bother your husband if you are characterized by using it.

If you are a dad reading this, then you need to make sure you function more like a parent than a sitter. A good gauge of this is to observe how your kids act when you are home alone with them, as opposed to when you and your wife are both at home during the same time of the day. For instance, if your kids turn into different people as soon as mom leaves the house, then you are probably seen as more of a sitter than a fully engaged parent. You need to know enough about your kids’ routine to be able to take over and run things solo at a moment’s notice.

Even though there are a number of circumstances that can put you in a position as the primary care giver unexpectedly, I recommend that you do it on purpose once in a while. I’ve talked about it before when I reminded you that Dads Are Parents Too. This is Valentine’s Day and it is a good time to give mom a little note that says, “ONE FREE NIGHT (or weekend) OUT WITHOUT THE KIDS. Redeem at any time.” The note will go nice with those flowers! ;-)

Hank Osborne is a blogger/podcaster encouraging parents to rise above the level of mediocrity. He is the geek dad of 5 (one still snug in the womb). Hank and his wife coach parents on Internet safety and homeschooling.


  1. Thank you! It’s a pet peeve of mine too. If I’m out alone and someone asks if my husband is babysitting – I always point out to them that it’s not technically possible since he is their parent!

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