The Semi-Detached Parent: Childcare Issues

29/06/2011 20:26 | Updated 22 May 2015

coupleWhat is the key to successfully sharing childcare responsibilities, post split?

I am resolute in my opinion that everything child-related should be a 50/50 divide – after all, children have two parents, and, in my case, two parents who claim they want equal access, and equal 'shares' in his life.

Yet this doesn't seem to quite follow suit when the issue of 'babysitting' is raised.

Fun time - day trips, holidays, spending lazy afternoons in the park, or going out for food and cinema, are all fine and are done by my former partner with good grace and out of a desire to spend time with his son, but when time together is enforced by me due to a need for 'babysitting' or 'child-minding' it all suddenly becomes a game of one-upmanship and a battle of wills.

I guess there's always a large element of not wanting an ex pulling your strings, telling you what to do, or having any control over your life. Which is understandable, and works both ways. But childcare (or lack of it) is an ongoing issue in my life. I have always been very firm about not palming my son off onto grandparents or friends, or hiring help. I have always believed that his childcare needs should be dealt with by his mum and dad, unless a genuine emergency dictates otherwise.

And I think it is the very terms 'babysitting' and 'childcare' that cause the problems; a friend of mine told me that her ex-husband said he would not look after the children because she had used the word 'babysitter'. He had told her he was not a babysitter, he was their father, and if she wanted a 'babysitter' to enable her to go out, she should hire one.

Another friend, Lucy, says she only ever asks her former partner to mind their daughter if it is work related time she needs cover for: 'There's too much scope for sarcasm and the potential for a row if I ask him to looked after Ellie so I can go out, because obviously then, he's sees it as me telling him what to do, and leaving him minding the baby whilst I'm having a whale of a time,' she says.

'That's obviously regardless of the fact I've spent the past year with my nipple welded to her mouth, and surviving on four hours sleep whilst he's lived the life of a bachelor! If I'm going to 'work' though - in other words, struggling a bit, not having fun - then he's fine with it!'

Weird how the use of one word can cause so many problems. I do not class looking after my son as babysitting – it is parenting – and if I were the non-resident parent, I would perhaps just accept it as a used phrase, and let it go, because getting time with my child would be more important than rowing over minor details like what the time together is labelled.

But I can see that it is a loaded word. It almost downgrades the other parent, taking away their mummy or daddy status and replacing it with a job-title usually given to a teenager or student.

But call it what you will, childcare, babysitting - it is nearly always a mum's problem to sort out, isn't it?

What do you think?

Do you and your ex fall out over childcare arrangements?

Do you agree that it does nearly always fall to mum to make provisions for babysitting?

Does your ex object to the word 'babysitter'?

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