13 Apr 2008, Comments Off on Babysitter?


Author: Helen

From the AGE, “Heckler” section, Sunday, April 6.

Babysittin’ Man

…There were shades of one of [Damon] Runyon’s classic stories – Butch minds the baby – at Collingwood Football Club HQ the other day when Mr President Eddie McGuire recognised a large, earless, tattooed man with a small boy.

Eddit tossed babysitter Chopper Read a bag of Magpie merchandise to keep Read junior occupied…

(For the benefit of un-australians, Mark “Chopper” Read is a local bad boy who has attained some notoriety as a crime writer and entertainer. )

The AGE has been reporting regularly – in its news and opinion pages – on the push for parental, maternity, and paternity leave. My recommendation, for what it’s worth: get rid of ‘maternity’ and ‘paternity’ and use ‘parental’ in all documentation and legislation to do with leave to care for babies, and let the parents work it our for themselves. But clearly, some of the paper’s staff hacks (there is no name attached to the piece) are still living in the good old days of Harry the Horse and speakeasies.

Has anyone else heard people using the word “babysitting” to describe a father looking after his own children lately?

Comments (0)

  • Bernice says:

    Nicely noted. We now have parental payments, so indeed why not parental leave? Or even better, carer leave? For many of us have or will end up caring for our children, our parents, siblings, partners or friends at different stages of our lives.
    And as much as it may tempt some to wish it the sole province of the girls, let’s get with the programme shall we? Though I’m not quite sure about the notion of Chopper as pin-up boy for anything other than the House of Sawn-Off Shotguns.
    And the babysitting tag? Often used in reference to men with their kids on custody visits….

  • Tim says:

    Has anyone else heard people using the word “babysitting” to describe a father looking after his own children lately?


  • Helen says:

    Ye gods.

    Bernice, it could be written into the IR legislation that “parent” for this purpose includes an adult designated by the department of community services or some other authority.? I do feel for these grandmas who suddenly have to start the childrearing process all over again.

    The downside of that is that if the bureaucracy drags its feet it will have a severe impact on those people. It would have to take a day or so to turn around the application, not weeks.

  • kate says:

    My own bloody mother who definitely knows better told a shop owner that my partner was babysitting my son when we went shopping last week. I nearly came out of the changeroom half naked to correct her.

    There’s a suggestion in a parenting book I was given (I suppose it’s ten years old, but still, that’s not really that old) that the reader (who obviously is presumed female) could “get your husband to babysit while you do the grocery shopping”. I preferred it when my partner took the kid and went to the market while I had a sleep in. But I also prefer to have a partner who’s a responsible grown up. That’s apparently quite rare.

  • Anthony says:

    Yes, I think if a mother is out, say, of an evening without child or partner her companions will often ask ‘who’s babysitting?’ even if they can pretty much guess it’s the dad. A father out of an evening without child and partner will rarely be asked, it will just be presumed and accepted as natural that the kid is home with its mum.

    As for the maternity/paternity/parental nomenclature, this is interesting because there’s increasing agitation for some form of paid parental leave scheme after the birth of a child. One problem with calling such a scheme ‘paid parental leave’ and letting ‘the parents work it out for themselves’ is we can probably guess how they’ll work it out: the mother will in the vast majority of cases take the leave (paid or otherwise) while the dad remains the full-time income earner. If we go down the path of parental leave, there’s a good argument to follow the example of some European countries and having a specific ‘daddy quota’ embedded in it, based on the father using-it-or-losing-it.

    Anyhow, grand as it would be to have generous system of paid parental leave that trumpets gender equity, most European countries only got there by instituting maternity leave and then extending it. The art of the possible might mean starting with a modest paid maternity leave scheme (a couple of months or something) that is defensible and absolutely necessary (and scandalous in its current absence) simply on mother-and-child health grounds.

  • Helen says:

    (re. parenting book) – No! Ten years old isn’t that old to me – considering my two are 16 and 11.

  • Saha says:

    I use it jokingly all the time!

  • Ariel says:

    Yes … and my co-parent is ‘so GOOD’ and ‘so devoted’ because he has custody of my son half the time. I pick up said son after school on his weeks to have him as well as my own and no one thinks I’m good. I’m ‘lucky’ because I get ‘the best of both worlds’ by having half custody. (Never mind that I’d prefer to have my son all the time.) Sigh. Also, F’s dad takes him to work meetings or to the office and it’s proof he’s a great dad. If I did such a thing it would be proof I can’t cope with working and being a parent.

    Parenting leave, yes. Well said.

    Sorry for that mini-rant on your blog … As you were …

  • Mindy says:

    I’m ashamed to say I said it myself the other day about my own husband. But interestingly today, when asked where the kids were I said one was at daycare and the other was spending the holidays at home with Dad. No mention of babysitting.

  • wilful says:

    It’s all a bit strange to me. I (yes, a father) have sole responsibility for our child about 1/3 the time, the missus for a third and we’re both around the rest. No one I know thinks this is in any way remotely unusual or worthy of comment. Work thought it was fine, everyone thinks it’s perfectly normal. I guess I would be insulted if someone inferred I was either incompetent to look after my child or a wimp to be doing so (actually I’d laugh heartily at the latter suggestion).

    We do have a few specialisations in our care, who does what, but not really much at all.

  • dysthymiac says:

    you are so sweet, Good thing you are not sitting at Melb Mag.
    to describe Mr Read as
    ‘a bad boy’ when in actual fact he
    IS a convicted sociopath criminal.

    Maybe he would have been something better if either of hius parents had minded him a bit more than they clearly did not.

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