While we may get used to solo parenting and think of ourselves as our child’s primary parent—at least many of us single parents do—if there is another parent involved in co-parenting our children, it can be easy to think of them as a “substitute” or a babysitter. For our children, however, it is better if we acknowledge the other parent as an equal and do not treat him or her like a secondary figure.
I confess that in my mind, I think of my children as “living” with me and “visiting” their dad’s house. I know my kids do not think of things this way, however, so it would be unfair and unfun of me to use that terminology with them. I also know that the “babysitting” parent is not just a single parent or divorced family issue as I have heard plenty of partnered parents refer to leaving the kids with the other parent as a “babysitter.” The other parents parents or co parents, they really are not just babysitters. Even if it seems like they are not stepping up as a full parent with full authority and responsibility, we can refrain from using the terminology that will imply that their relationship with the children is “less than” that of a full parent.
Additionally, we need to remember that the other parent is “in charge” when the children are with them. Unless there are extenuating circumstances or your divorce or court agreements say otherwise, the custodial parent has the authority and the responsibility. In many cases, if we encourage and allow this, it will give our children more of a sense of security and confidence. They need to be able to trust whichever parent they are with. I realize that not every situation is optimal and there are those “other” parents who are not trustworthy and do not have equal custody—but referring to them as babysitters, probably does not help matters.