P is for Peeved Parent

*to take care of someone’s baby or child while that person is out, usually by going to their home
*a person engaged to care for one or more children in the temporary absence of parents or guardians

I was reading the May 2011 Parenting: School Years magazine that had been abandoned in the common lunchroom, when I came across this advertisement.

Now I’ve been a parent for a while now. And, at least since the latter part of the 20th Century, I’ve noticed that there has been a concerted effort, at least in the United States, for fathers to be treated like parents too. Just this semester, there was an event in Albany, NY for fathers to walk their children to school, and in some schools, to stay for breakfast. This was also a message that had been spread in the Daughter’s preschool.

So messages like the one above, in my opinion, undercut the message. I’ve also been peevish with General Mills for quite a while, with their tag for KIX cereal – “Kid tested, Mother approved,” which you can see in this commercial and this one, among many others. And in these examples, not an adult, of either gender, in sight.
How about “kid tested, parent approved”? Doesn’t even change the scansion.

In that same magazine, an article naming moms in the title, but in the actual article, visits from either or both parents are cited.

Early on in this blog, I noted another pet peeve: when I took off from work to watch my daughter, someone said, “Oh, you’re going to babysit Lydia.” Can you babysit your own child? It didn’t resonate correctly with me. To the dictionaries to look up babysitting/babysitter:

to take care of someone’s baby or child while that person is out, usually by going to their home
a person engaged to care for one or more children in the temporary absence of parents or guardians
*a person who cares for or watches over someone or something that needs attention or guidance
OK, so there’s some wiggle room in the third definition.

But I asked my wife “Has ANYONE EVER said to you, ‘Oh, you need to babysit Lydia [because she’s sick, etc.]?” And the answer, as I suspected, was “No.” SHE watches, SHE tends to, SHE cares for. And I babysit? Nah, I watch, I tend to, I care for. I really believe the linguistic distinction matters. When she’s ready to be in a relationship and have children HUNDREDS of years now, I want her to have a partner who is a caregiver, not a babysitter.

Finally, a song: Be Kind To Your Parents. I had a different recording of this song, on pink vinyl. My sister Leslie and I used to sing it, though we changed the lyrics somewhat…
Be kind to your parents. You know they deserve it. Remember that grownup’s a difficult stage of life… They’re apt to be nervous and overexcited, confused from the daily storm and strife. Just keep in mind, though it sounds odd I know, most parents once were children long ago. INCREDIBLE!!! So treat them with patience and sweet understanding in spite of the foolish things they do. Someday you may wake and find YOU’RE A PARENT, TOO!
[So is THAT how it happens…]

ABC Wednesday – Round 9

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

48 thoughts on “P is for Peeved Parent”

  1. The advertising industry likes to think that it is adept at instilling change, but the truth is that it always falls back on stereotypes. “Mother knows best” is engrained in the psyche, unless it’s to do with selling insurance or pensions, then it’s “your father would approve.”

    And that sums up the industry’s attitude towards parents. Mothers are the carers who look after us, even when we don’t know it, while fathers are a distant authority figure whose approval we seek.

    But there is a theory that we are all hard-wired this way, as evidenced in language. The words for mother – mom, mum, ma, maman, mutti etc – are possessive sounding, something close to us, whereas for father we have dad, da, papa, vatti and so on, as if we are pointing to someone more distant, over there.

    I can’t say I’ve explored this theory in depth, but it seems to hold true for the languages that I’m familiar with.

  2. Parrots is correct. It’s an advertising tactic that is designed to conjure up an emotional response. While not entirely accurate anymore with today’s parenting models, the message is aimed at a generation that relates to Mom as the primary caregiver. And that’s what adverting is all about…uncovering the emotions behind the purchase. While I wouldn’t take it as a slap in the face, I understand the irritation it presents for every father who is engaged in their child’s life as a caregiver.

  3. Interesting remark by Anthony, sad too.
    I think society as a whole is constantly degraded.
    Kids are encouraged to be sassy and unkind all for a laugh.
    In my era it seems that Moms were the care-giver and most didn’t work. Dads went to work all day and came home and crashed.

    I feel fortunate that I had 2 parents that nurtured and cared for me.
    Good thought provoking post Roger.

  4. Wait until your father comes home – that’s one of my pet peeves and it takes the same line as the advertisement and the “babysit” thing.

    I’ve always loved Alfie Atkins, but I only realised as an adult how uncommon those books really are: Alfie’s mother doesn’t play any role at all, wherever she may be. The first was written in the 70s and I think it took a long time for other authors to portray fathers in something other than the “usual” way, as (at best) kind but distant figures.

  5. I liked your version of the song and the lyrics were well modified. I’m sure my daughter will love to sing it for me!! 😀 Especially this line as a refrain 😀 LOL!!
    “Remember that grownups’s a difficult stage of life.. They’re apt to be nervous and over excited, confused from the daily storm and strife.” 😀

  6. I had to think for a moment why you were concerned about that first ad, but that’s just my “old-fashioned” notion of motherhood, I guess. But then I realized that my own son-in-law is the (shall I say) “main” caregiver in their family. My daughter is the only breadwinner with a wonderful career and my SIL has MS which means work is difficult if not impossible for him to handle. He is a Mr. Mom, walks the boy to school with the girl, picks up another little boy and brings him home to care for and be a playmate for the girl, cares for and feeds the two little ones, walks (oh I forgot he takes the dog along both ways, too) back to pick up the boy and his friend and takes care of the lot until dinnertime. He is also active on the school’s parent committee and does volunteer work there a lot. He doesn’t “babysit.” He is the parent. It took me a while to understand (and accept) all this because I guess I’m the last generation to have had or been a stereotypical “Dad goes out to bring home the bacon and Mom stays home with kids and does volunteer work in between looking after the household” type of life. I do agree with your premise that Dads do NOT babsit their own kids…they parent them! Great post, Roger!

  7. My reaction to your article was interesting; in the abstract, I completely agree with your analysis regarding the advertising and the cultural assumptions. However, I don’t find myself in the least annoyed, I think because of Ego – I’m a DANGED good parent, and know it. Other opinions are irrelevant to me!

  8. Parenting is no more easy. With so much advancements, kids are exposed to far more than what they should be knowing at their age.

  9. Roger, I can tell you are very serious about this subject because you made spelling mistakes/and/or typos, which is unlike you. I won’t point them out, but you might want to look for them yourself. I’m particularly fond of the first one. It is wrong, even if apt nevertheless. LOL
    I agree, fathers don’t babysit their own children, and fathers need equal billing. Like Leslie, however, I’m from that left-over-thinking generation. Nevertheless, I remember a time when my sister was an infant and my dad temporarily unemployed. Mom worked evening shift at the hospital as a nurse’s aide and Dad, with his unorthodox methods, took care of the three of us. On Mom’s nights off, the baby wouldn’t go to sleep at night because Mom wrapped her up loosely, while Dad rolled her up like a sausage roll. I was only six, but I’ve never forgotten that.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  10. I guess being a woman I never gave it much thought, but I see where you’re coming from. And I agree about the babysitting pet peeve, I was not my children’s babysitter, I had to pay the babysitters, I did it for free.

  11. I have a copy of the Weavers singing be kind to your parents. I’m with you about more equality in terms of the message directed at parents VS just at Moms. It even used to annoy me when the grandparents made a huge deal about how great my husband was with our daughter as if that was something unusual. I mean duh, he is the father, shouldn’t he be expected to be as good with the baby as I was, as the Mom. In some ways Bill was better than me in terms of patience. I guess we both had our strengths when our daughter was growing up and good they were different, complementary ones. Since our daughter was left handed like her dad and I was right handed, I wanted Bill to start early on showing her things that I was afraid she’d be confused by if I showed her.

  12. Wonderful post, Roger, I guess many of us are still caught between what used to be and what actually is. I’m pretty sure that anyone who thinks about it would agree the word “parent” is accurate and ought to be used. However, marketing companies don’t often use “wrong words” so there must be a reason why they still use the word mom. Perhaps moms are still doing most of the shopping? Dunno.

  13. Whereas I have been know to boycott products whose ads annoy me, including Kix. You don’t want my money, big G, fine.

  14. What great an entry !

    Ever since me son is home, four years now already, it has been me who took care of him during the night, starting with feeding every three hours during the first months, teeth, fever, etc. – leaving me wife to sleep her ‘eight hours’.
    Many times I fell asleep during the day while having lessons, fun for the students; yet, have to admit, the most beautiful time of my life.
    Please have a good new month ahead.

  15. I so agree with you! I’ve been saying this for years. And, aside from that, I’m frustrated with Pharma selling a pill for everything when sometimes the pill is worse than the problem. I DO appreciate good medicine but the indiscriminate marketing galls me. Wow, I did a rant, right here on your wonderful post. Sorry. 🙂

  16. I hate the “Mr Mom” title.
    I also have a problem with single parents saying they have to “be both mom and dad” to their kids. no, you don’t. you can’t. and that is okay.

    p.s. and I’m glad you loved the Lovin Spoonful – if anyone got that reference I just knew it would be you!

  17. I’m certainly with you Roger, – there are fathers, – and then there are FATHERS, and I definitely think the latter need a lot of recognition for their tending and caring and the loving responsiblity that is such a big part of their role in the family. It irks me no end to see men depicted as uncaring and somewhat simple bozos….

  18. Nope, I wouldn’t want my husband to be a babysitter. “have children hundreds of years now” made me smile. But you’ll walk her down the aisle first before she’s having children 🙂

  19. Glad you pointed out the slight against 1/2 of parents! Undermining fathers is not to be tolerated.
    And 1000 thanks for the song… I just wish I heard about earlier, but it will still be a good reminder for my almost 17 yr-old son.

  20. Advertising is a reflection of the society we live in, and if it stereotypes is because much of the population uses them and has made, which helps to sell.

  21. Here, kids will get upset if you say babysitting. They rather you say child bearing.

    Life is like that, so often they portray Mum as a bimbo.

  22. I fully agree with you ! Fathers and mothers should be on the same level. My husband changed nappies, bottlefed, played etc with our son already in 1973 where it was quiet unusual and I think he was the only father around me who did get up during the night and bottlefed his baby, while mom slept (lol) My son is the same, he gave the first bath to his son when he just was born and he assisted to the birth even though it was a cesaerian. He and his wife take care of the baby on the same level and so should it be. Except of course when mom stays home and dad works outside the whole day, then it’s normal that the mother does more for the kids than the father. That’s just a time question.
    ABC Team

  23. And if you read some books in the bible specially Sirach it emphasize more the respect and love of the father. Which I even wonder why the father that I grow up hearing and reading all these “mom’s stuff”. Your post is awesome thanks for sharing this thought. Happy Wednesday!


  24. Words matter. So do images. I’ve been on this soap box since my teens. Men don’t “help” with the dishes. Women aren’t “bitches” as bosses. Both sexes get a raw deal in media and in language. I can’t say much has changed since the 60s. I still hear “man” and “girl” in one sentence (referring to adults). These days I rant less but I still talk with my money. Perfect P Post, Roger.

  25. I think more and more these days ‘Mothering’ has been substituted by ‘parenting’ but then, I’m not on the dad’s side in this and, I’m in Canada too which may or may not make a difference in the equality stakes too, as we’ve been equal rights for all for over 10 years now. But, I can see why as a responsible parent, fathering is not given equal attention as good mothering is. But then, it’s always been until the 60’s mother’s stayed at home and fathers went and earned the wages. I do see your point though 😉

  26. Meow!!

    As a spinster-cat, I have nothing to add to your post, Roger.

    But it was enlightening to read.

    I have accidentally bacome a kind of a parent or baby-sitter for my four siblings, since our mother stayed behind on the farm, refusing to get into the transport-carrier. So I am saddled with four half-grown kitten-sibs that I have to baby-sit. They are my brothers and sisters, not my own children!! I keep telling Anna that, but she does not listen to me!

    Thank you, Roger, for visiting and commenting on my blog post about peridot gemstones and jewellery with peridot gemstones.

    You are probably one of my few friends in this world.

    Please take care.

    Sara Cat

  27. I feel a bit sickly now you led me to a gorge out of kix adverts, those kids are too damn sweet. Apart from not mentioning Dads they don’t mention salt content, I’d wonder why on both counts.

  28. Roy – Your lyrics are the ones *I* remember. It IS a subversive song, and that’s the way my sister and I sang it.
    Love the pink hair! (Not yours.)

  29. I agree. And while we’re at it, why is it women always cleaning and endorsing cleaning products? Today for the first time I saw a dad endorsing Tide laundry detergent. Let’s here it for political/social correctness and equal parenting rights and responsibilities!!!

  30. I agree with Meryl, I saw the laundry detergent commercial too. Love that second photo. Sorry for my late visit but I appreciate your comments in my blogs Roger. Thanks a again.

  31. Hello.
    I don’t have children, but I hear you on the commercials. Dads are never given enough credit…understandably there are a lot of absent dads, but full credit should be given to the ones who sometimes do even more than the moms. The babysitting one got me!
    Fun video clip too.

    Thanks for sharing & for your kind comments. Much appreciated.

    Probing Into Your Thoughts

  32. Lots of good points in there, Roger. Partially advertisers use that language because women still do most of the shopping for kids’ stuff. That doesn’t make it ok, but they think it makes identifying with the ad easier for the most number of people. Definitely not buying their products is the best way to make a difference.

  33. “Choosy mothers choose JIF,” was a commercial that ran on “Father Knows Best.” Yet, as time has gone on, there has been a huge diminishment of the importance of fathers. I believe, from a sociological standpoint, it was two-fold: In the white community, fathers used to leave the house, make money, come home, read the paper, and spend time with kids on the weekends. In the black community of the 60s, fathers were not allowed to be truly involved with their own children because if the Welfare People came around and found out he was living there, they lost their rent money. That Democratic program served to dissolve black society in a big way (and yes, I’m a Dem. But then, the Republicans had no plan at ALL to get the black community out of poverty…)

    From either perspective, today it seems to be fashionable to make any father figure look like a boob and the mom to know it all. If we buy into the BS we see on TV, that is! Fathers are much more involved with their kids nowadays, especially with telecommuting and (sigh) high unemployment. Let’s hear it for moms AND dads, who are doing the best they can in a world that belongs to the One Percent. Amy

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