There are certain stereotypes about parenting that persist despite the fact that the world has changed. One of them is the concept that dads are not able to take care of their own children. One dad has gotten so fed-up about being called a “babysitter” that he has created a t-shirt designed to crush that stereotype.
Al Ferguson is a British writer who is the founder of the Dad Network. It is a blog dedicated to the art of modern fatherhood. It is an online hub and support network for dads. You might be familiar with “mommy blogs” – but when was the last time you came across a blog specifically geared for fathers?
There have been many changes in society since the days when a wife was expected to stay home, cook, clean, and do all of the child minding. Today, many couples split the work of parenting between them. There are many stay-at-home dads whose primary focus is taking care of the children. (Some might work from home as well). There are plenty of dads who are perfectly capable of taking care of their own children without the assistance of the children’s mother.
Sadly, the stereotype of the “bumbling father”, who is too incompetent to be allowed to care for his own children by himself for more than a few minutes, persists. It isn’t unheard of for a dad, who is out at the park with his kids, to be complimented for “babysitting” (or for “giving his wife a break”). Mom’s don’t usually get called a “babysitter” when they are out with their children.
Al Ferguson strongly dislikes this stereotype. He started the #DadsDontBabySit campaign, complete with a t-shirt that reads “DAD’S DON’T BABYSIT. (IT’S CALLED “PARENTING”)”
Proceeds from t-shirt sales go toward the National At-Home Dad Network (NAHDN) Scholarship Fund, which helps cover the cost for lower-income dads to attend the Annual At-Home Dads Convention. (The t-shirts come in both men’s and women’s sizes).
The purpose of the #DadsDontBabySit campaign is to make people recognize that society is still holding outdated gender norms when it comes to parenting. It is rude to assume that a dad is “babysitting” when he may very well be the primary caregiver in his family. Al Ferguson posted a photo of the t-shirt on Reddit, and it sparked a big conversation about fathers and parenting.
The stereotype of the incompetent father harms everyone. It causes moms to shoulder the majority of childcare (often while working and doing the majority of housework) because she has been pressured to accept that this is her “job”. It causes dads to hesitate to actively parent their children because they have been sent the message that they aren’t as capable of doing so as a mom would be.
This is one of those situations where a snarky t-shirt could spark a much needed conversation about parenting, gender norms, and equality. It could help people shift from an outdated, stereotypical, belief about a dad’s parenting capability, to a view that more accurately reflects the wonderful parenting that many dads do every day.
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