While watching the last few minutes of a lopsided victory by the Green Bay Packers over the Minnesota Vikings I heard the announcers talking about the short break the players were going to have this coming weekend since their game was played on a Thursday instead of the usual Sunday or Monday. One of the guys, Phil Simms, a former quarterback for the New York Giants, mentioned that the Vikings’ QB, Christian Ponder, was going to be “babysitting” his daughter, Bowden, since his wife, Samantha Ponder, is a host for ESPN College Gameday every Saturday. The banter between Simms and his broadcast partner, Jim Nantz, continued as they enjoyed a little chuckle discussing Mr. Ponder babysitting his 12-week old daughter. Did you catch what they did there? While trying to sort of compliment him for caring for his own child they made a little bit of a dig at fathers, even if it wasn’t intentional or malicious. Dads and moms don’t babysit their own children. Never. What they do has a term already. Yeah, you guessed it. PARENTING!
Some of you more cynical types might be wondering why this is an issue to me. After all, who really cares? Glad you wondered. What Simms and Nantz basically did was further the stereotype that dads who care for their own children are nothing more than babysitters. It’s an insult for any parent to be called a babysitter when he or she is actually being a parent. I did enough babysitting in junior high and high school to know the difference. Based on the reactions I saw on Twitter after the game finished I wasn’t the only one who noticed the babysitting comment. Other people were quick to point out the poor word choice by Mr. Simms. On a personal level, this is important to me because for the last 14 years I have chosen to be a full-time Stay At Home Dad for my children. I’m not a babysitter. I’m their dad. I “retired” from my teaching career after six years to move into an even more challenging career as a SAHD. Yes, I said career. This isn’t some part-time gig I do to make extra money to go out with my friends. I don’t get paid. At least not in cash. This is what I do. What I choose to do. What I get to do. I parent. All day. Every day. 24/7/365. Even when I’m not physically with my family I still parent through the wonders of modern technology like texting and FaceTime. Yet, I continue to love my career choice and thank God every day for the opportunity I have to be at home with my children. It’s not a chore. It’s my choice and my passion.
Yet, I’m not offended by what they said. I’m a pretty laid back guy. This wasn’t offensive. Offensive is using derogatory terms that I’m not comfortable saying or typing. What I’m feeling is disappointed. I’m disappointed that these guys chose to use that term to describe something that is so near and dear to me. About the only good thing is that they stopped short of using that hilarious term “Mr. Mom”. When they had the opportunity to recognize and applaud Mr. Ponder for spending his upcoming days off with his infant daughter they instead diminished it with a single ignorant word. I’m not demanding or expecting an apology from those announcers. That would be ridiculous. But I am calling them out on their choice of words. Such ignorant comments are way beneath them. This is, however, an opportunity to educate them and everyone else about the difference between babysitting and parenting. Babysitting has an end point. The parents come home, you get paid, and then you go home. It’s not parenting. Parenting starts the moment you first realize that you’re going to become a parent and then it never ends. Once a parent, always a parent. To paraphrase my fellow SAHD, blogger and friend Doug French, We still have much work to do. We need to get the message out that being an active and involved parent is a good thing. It’s what should be the norm. It should be celebrated and not mocked. Being a parent is the most rewarding and frustrating and exhilarating and awesome and terrible and joyous experience all in one. Keep calm and Daddy on!