The fathers saying 'Dads don't babysit'

Man in t-shirt which bears a slogan: "Dads don't babysit. It's called parenting." Image copyright facebook.com/TheDadNetwork
Image caption The image that got people talking on Reddit about parenting stereotypes

"Aww, it's so nice of you to babysit and give mom a break."

"I guess you got stuck with the kids today."

"You've got a good helper here!"

These are just some of the things that have been said to dads who have been looking after their children, according to testimonies on Reddit, where the topic has sparked a flurry of conversation.

It began when a user shared an image of a t-shirt bearing the slogan: "Dads don't babysit, it's called parenting."

The man in the picture modelling the t-shirt is Al Ferguson from The Dad Network.

He posted a picture of himself online a while ago wearing the t-shirt, but the image has resurfaced on Reddit, and it's got people talking about parenting stereotypes.

"I've had people ask me 'Are you looking after the kids today?' Or 'I can tell you've dressed the baby today,'" he told BBC Trending.

"It's just out of date. The modern dad is more active in their family life than they were historically. It's out of date to assume the mum is the primary caregiver."

Although the number of dads who choose to stay at home and care for their children is on the rise, a 2014 study by the Pew Research Centre showed that only 16% of primary caregivers are men.

Image copyright Al Ferguson, The Dad Network
Image caption Al Ferguson with his son, documents his life as a dad on his blog The Dad Network.

Over 3,000 people have responded to the suggestion that dads are only "babysitting" when they are - of course - parenting.

Some dads shared their own experiences on Reddit.

"It hurt really bad when I was a new stay-at-home dad and people would ask about me babysitting… It really made me almost cry sometimes because it was like they couldn't see me as a caretaker," one user wrote.

Others broadened the conversation to talk more generally about the sexism that dads experience.

"Reminds me of all those ridiculous commercials where they make it seem like dads don't know how to take care of their kids while mom is away," said another Redditor. "They make a mess, kids go crazy, they don't know how to cook, clean, change a diaper...where's all the outrage?"

Another user wrote "Single dad here. It's even worse when my seven year old wants to have a sleepover… I call the parents. I explain she wants to have a sleepover and your kid is invited. Then the awkward question, will mom be there? And when you explain, no mom here - sorry, there's that long pause. Sad to say to this day she still hasn't had a sleepover."


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Others disagreed that it was sexist. "It goes the other way too. My husband will occasionally say that 'You owe me for babysitting last Saturday'… You are their father, you were parenting!" one user posted.

Al Ferguson says it's not just the language that contributes to the gendered stereotypes, there are other barriers to equality that they're fighting, such as baby changing facilities typically being in the ladies toilets.

"Now there are more working mums and more stay at home dads. There's been a cultural shift. I think that people need to move with the times."

Blog by Emma Wilson.

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