It’s Parenting Not Babysitting

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Fathers sometimes get undue praise for doing what mothers are expected to do.

dads diapers.jpg

Under the watchful eye of an American Red Cross nurse, these expectant fathers learn the “ins” and “outs” of the proper way to diaper a baby on November 21, 1947 in Brooklyn, New York. (Robert Wands/AP Images)

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When Kevin Kruse is spotted out with his children, people often ask if he is babysitting. Despite the frequency of the inquiry, it still makes the Princeton history professor bristle.

“No, ‘babysitting’ is what you do with other people’s kids,” Kruse said. “These are my own kids, so it’s called ‘parenting.'”

What Kruse described illuminates the ways in which men and women are attempting to negotiate a space that lacks a precedent. The act of a man sharing parental responsibilities is highly desirable to women, but still relatively infrequent, and therefore elicits laudatory reactions.

Without the proper vocabulary to do so, however, people may just be inadvertently reinforcing gender norms.