How do you define providing for your family?

A family of five sat on a sofa.

Perceptions of parenting roles have changed significantly in recent years. The cultural shift towards recognising dads as capable parents can only be a good thing.

However, there are some attitudes that still need to catch up with 21st century life. With that in mind, the people at WaterWipes are on a mission to redefine and recognise what the term ‘to provide’ means.

Known as ‘Parent’s Pact’, it aims to celebrate the contribution that both parents make to the changing dynamic of modern families.

As part of the campaign, WaterWipes conducted a survey of 1,000 parents. One of the key findings was that over two thirds (68.8%) refer to themselves or their partners as ‘babysitting’ when looking after their own children.

I’m disappointed by this statistic. I’d go as far as saying I’m saddened by it, in fact. It’s rather high and at odds with where I thought people stood. As far as I’m concerned, parenting isn’t a job. It’s a privilege. Yes, there can be days in which it feels like a thankless task, but the same can be said of a lot of things.

To refer to parenting as babysitting is, to my mind, defining it as a transactional entity. It also hints that children are seen as a hindrance.

People may argue that I’m quibbling over semantics, but I think the language we choose says a lot about who we are and what we believe. And this suggests a need for further changes in thinking.

As a dad of three, I’ve been asked by strangers whether I’m babysitting or if it’s ‘Mum’s day off’ several times. I know that most don’t mean anything by it. It’s ingrained in our culture. But it doesn’t do either gender any favours so there’s no reason to accept it.

I politely put people straight when I’m asked these questions. I think I’ve offended a few, but make no apology for it. Parenting is a shared responsibility. It’s time that more people recognised that.

As for the question of what ‘providing’ means, the survey delivered another statistic I was surprised by. A whopping 78.1% believed that the main provider in their family was the parent who took responsibility for financial support.

Only 16.6% believed that both parents should be considered the main provider. I’m firmly with the minority here. Although money is a necessary evil in this world, I can’t see how it can be a defining factor in family units. There are other things that are just as important.

For example, I’m the family’s only earner. As I’m my own boss, I’m able to spend more time with my family than I used to. Meanwhile, Kate is the kids’ main carer and looks after most of the domestic side of things. Does this make either of us the main provider in our own right? No.

I view our roles as interdependent. While we wouldn’t be able to bring up our children without the money I bring in, I wouldn’t be able to earn any without Kate running everything else. It’s impossible to give more weighting to either role. So the main provider – if such a thing can, indeed, exist in a two-parent family – is both of us.

The bottom line is that we operate as a team. No constituent part is bigger than the whole. So to answer what I understand as ‘providing’, I believe that it’s all about being a team player.

How do you define providing?

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post.


  1. John Adams

    Well said Tom. In this day and age, parenting roles are interdependent. In fact, I think they always have been, simply the language we’ve used has been incorrect. Well done WaterWipes or highlighting this issue.

  2. Anoup

    I am totally with you on this, the attitudes towards parenting have shifted so little across three generations but have become totally blurred… On the one hand the expectation is for Dad’s to totally support Mum then on the otherhand when I don’t pop out for a beer I’m on lock-down or Dadding.

    It’s a trap especially when Mum is clamouring me to take the kids one minute and then saying it’s fine go out (riddling me with guilt if I take up the offer).

    I consider myself a full time Dad and that means 50/50 share of all workload and spending time with the children when they’re in our hands, even if I can get under Mum’s feet. I have seen some friendships drift and don’t have time for the football but that’s what parenting requires and I’m happy to.

    What really gets on my wick is the sidelining of Dad over Mum, despite stepping up and the 50/50 interdependent parenting, people still go to Mum for the lowdown as I simply couldn’t contribute value…

  3. Edana

    You have took the words right out of my mouth. I believe that providing for your family is a team effort. It’s like a table with all of its legs attached. If one is removed, the table will be unstable. Both parents “provide” for the family in my opinion. Providing does not single out on who is the bread winner among the two or who brings in the most earnings. It is more than that. It is a mutual act by both parents whose duties and responsibilities are shared and reciprocated by each other.

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