The late ESPN broadcaster—and father of two girls—Stuart Scott, was once sitting in a restaurant with some friends and their respective children. Everyone was having fun, and it was one of those delightful scenes where you see parents bonding with their kids. The kids were behaving. The dads were present. All was well.
Until a mom walked by and, recognizing Scott, tried to pay him a compliment for “babysitting the kids.” She did not realize that this was an insult to Scott—and in fact to all fathers. Because dads don’t babysit. It’s impossible. Babysitting is something somebody else does for your children on your behalf. A babysitter is by definition a non-parent. These were Scott’s kids. He couldn’t babysit on his own behalf. It’d be like calling a homeowner a security guard every time you see them lock their house when they leave for work. They’re not protecting someone else’s property, they’re just being a responsible homeowner. They’re just doing their job.
Scott was doing his job. He was being a dad. No more, but certainly no less. As his friend would observe after Scott’s tragic death from cancer, “We didn’t see ourselves as an occasional parental figure who might take the kids off mom’s hands for a couple hours.”
See what you do as important. Because it is.
You’re not a babysitter. You’re not some lesser figure in your kids’ lives. When you are with them—and when you are not with them—you’re their father. That matters. It’s an important job, one that you should take seriously and never demean (and not let others demean, either). You’re doing it because you love it, because you get something out of it, and you know what kind of impact it has.
Not because you’re covering for someone else. Not because anyone can do it. They can’t.
You’re the only one who can. And that’s why it’s got a special name when you do it.