For The Last Time, Dads Don’t Babysit
I am addicted to thanking. I am also addicted to apologizing. I will apologize over and over for something, and then when someone tells me to stop apologizing, I will apologize for that too. As far as gushing displays of gratitude, they extend to everything; a grocery checker bagging my items? “Oh wow Mister! Thanks!” A police officer writing a ticket? “Golly, officer, thank you!” And yes, even my husband, after he stays home with our daughter while I go out with friends, “Wow hon, thanks so much!”
I asked some of the other Mommyish writers if they thanked their husbands for watching the kids if they had to go out, and I got a unanimous consensus from my scientifically sound group of three: “no way” (Bethany), “fuck no” (Valerie), and “I only thank my husband for making me coffee and buying me prizes.”(Eve). Now I’m starting to wonder if I have to give my feminist card back or if Gloria Steinem just shows up at your house to revoke it.
To be clear, my husband is not the type of man who considers watching his own daughter to be a form of “babysitting” nor is he the type of person to bask in the glow of my ceaseless stream of aggressive gratitude. It usually goes something like this.
Me: “Thanks for watching Duckie!”
Me: “I mean it! Thanks a lot.”
Him: “Really not a problem.”
Me: “I just feel like I should say thanks.”
Him: “You don’t.”
Him: “No, don’t be sorry.”
Me: “OH GOD I’M SO SORRY.”
I don’t know why it’s so ingrained for a lot of moms to be so thankful for these minor acts of basic parenting, but I know that this is becoming less normal as we move away from the idea that any time dad stays at home with their own kid, it is “extra”.
I was first introduced to this concept by my husband and his family, who, in welcoming me as one of their own told me to stop saying thank you so much or they would be forced to trade me in for a new daughter-in-law. To them, the idea is that you don’t do “favors” for your family and therefore there isn’t any need to break your neck kowtowing if the grandparents take the kid for a day or if your husband makes dinner.
I can appreciate this, but I still think it’s going to take me awhile to break my thanking habit. First, I like to acknowledge people for doing nice things, even if those things are expected. Second, I also like to be acknowledged, so I consider it leading by example, I guess. I think at the end of the day, I say thank you to my husband because I am grateful for what he does as a father, as he is grateful for what I do as a mother, but I also see that that message could get lost in the never ending stream of thanks. It’s a lot like looking at the word “carburetor”; after a while it doesn’t even look real anymore.
Next time I have to go out I will force myself to say, “later betch,” instead of “thank you!” and see if the world comes crashing down around me. I’m betting it won’t.