Babysitter parents

The invitation makes a ‘PING’ sound as it hits my phone. Sounds like fun. A friend whom I don’t know too well is having a party, and I’m invited. Not being too great at maintaining friendships, I’d love the chance to get to know them better, so I check my calendar. Nope. I have the children that night. I’m parenting, I’ll tell my friend. Not babysitting; parenting.

As with many co-parents, single parents or even married parents I have chosen to arrange my social life around my children. When they’re with me, I don’t generally go to the parties and social events. I think I’ve only ever had a babysitter three times in the past three years.

Sorry, friends!

I’ve missed friends’ birthdays (and dropped off many invitation lists as a result), launches, cheese and wine evenings, day trips, shows, events and fabulous parties. And I don’t regret it. You see, if it’s something my kids can’t join in, then I’ll spend time with them at home.

I do socialise on the days my children are with their mom, so it’s not as though I’m stuck at home, and I have braais and so on when my kids are with me, so we do get to have a bit of variety in our days.

What I find strange is when I ask what a friend is doing on a Friday night, and he’ll say that he’s babysitting. Not someone else’s kids, but ‘babysitting’ his own kids. As if at the end of his time he’ll add up the hours and pay himself. There seems to be a little resentment in the term, too.

Socially creative

Some couples take turns in going out- one week is mom’s chance to see her friends, the next, it’s dad’s turn. Some have a special date night where they can go out together. Some people just don’t go out at all.

The point is, staying in to be with your children is not babysitting. It’s parenting! Yes, you may miss out on some party-of-the-year or world’s best goodie bag, and your list of friends who still want to see you may dwindle, but who cares?

If you see your role as a parent as just one of being around because, well, someone has to, then you’ll be missing out on actually spending some great moments together.

Of course, because babysitters can make anything from R50 an hour, you’ll be incredibly wealthy by the time they’re grown up...

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