Poker and Babysitting?
August 23, 2005 9:57 AM   Subscribe

BabySitterFilter: My wife and I are currently arguing about whether its safe and/or appropriate to have some friends over playing cards while babysitting an active 13 month kid.

The deal was that my wife was going out on Saturday and I was going to stay home with the kid and babysit him. A friend suggested playing some poker at my house so we could hang out, my boy could be safe and everyone would be happy.

But my wife swears up and down that there's no way he could be safe with six guys playing cards in the house even though this has already happened and not only was the boy fine, he had a great time playing with everyone and may have even learned some poker tricks.

We've spoken to friends and the inclination is towards that this was fine and that she's overreacting but she's asked other people and they've said that it was inappropriate. So I'm coming to the Great AskMeFi for answers.

I don't think I'm crazy in saying that this is not a big deal at all. My son was in the living room and kitchen with us the whole time or on my lap or a pal's lap. He got his snack and his dinner and got to bed on time.

So, the question is, after all of that: Would you be upset with your SO if they had friends over to play cards during a night when they are taking care of the baby knowing that all the people coming over know about the boy and are totally fine with sitting out hands as needed and helping out in keeping an eye on him?
posted by fenriq to Human Relations (37 answers total)
No. Your wife is being unreasonable.
posted by footnote at 10:04 AM on August 23, 2005

Ditto footnote. (Unless y'all were smoking and drinking copiously.)
posted by Specklet at 10:07 AM on August 23, 2005

Does playing cards mean "smoking cigars and getting drunk", or just playing cards? I assume (I'd hope) you'd be staying sober but it might be tough dealing with five other drunk people as well as a kid.

If you're not planning on getting drunk, why is six guys playing cards any different than three couples coming over for dinner? I bet she wouldn't have a problem with that.
posted by bondcliff at 10:07 AM on August 23, 2005

No. If you're being responsible and keeping an eye on junior while still spending time with your friends then there should be no problem.
posted by bshort at 10:08 AM on August 23, 2005

She is overreacting.

However, the fact that you refer to staying at home with your son as babysitting makes me wonder a bit about how much you share parenting responsibilities with her.
posted by missmerrymack at 10:09 AM on August 23, 2005

I second that hearing you refer to keeping your own kid as "babysitting" as sounding a bit weird.

With that said, it sounds like you haven't been married very long. If your wife is uncomfortable with you having your friends over for cards while you are taking care of your youngling, then just don't do it. Polling the electorate and arguing incessantly can't possibly be worth the agony, can it?
posted by glenwood at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2005

What does your wife (and her friends) mean by "inappropriate"? If (as you say) this same situation has happened before, what is different about this new situation? I would ask her what made her uncomfortable about the previous situation.

Does your son require any special attention? How attentive are you while playing cards or otherwise engaged? Does he have a stable sleep time? Does she think it disrupts your son's sleep pattern, or the level of noise may disturb him? Is it perhaps some member of your group of friends she has a problem with?

We have friends who talk in whispers when their kids are asleep, two floors above. My wife and I have friends over playing cards, watching movies, and chatting normally in the room right next door to my son (who's now about 28 months). Guess which kid has slept through the night from about 4 months, and which ones will wake up crying if you cough? If she's worried the noise will bother him, reassure her that young children are more content when there's some noise in the house - if they wake from sleep, they don't feel alone.

But to answer your question, I would not have a problem with that situation, nor would my wife. Your wife, however, definitely does seem to have a problem with it, so I'd try to find out the cause of her disquiet.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:17 AM on August 23, 2005

Egads, I misread your question at first to be about a thirteen YEAR old kid. Whew.

The scenario you present, with your friends hanging out with the baby, is fine. Presumably the two of you have people over when you're both there a difference?

Perhaps she's nervous that having six of you playing cards amounts to a small party? Is she worried that with the poker will come the drinking of much beer? (Is that a legit worry?) The key word is "safe."

Is there something else going on -- like she feels that this is a chance for you to have time to focus on your son but instead you're dragging friends into it? Do you disagree on other ideas about his safety/parenting style?
posted by desuetude at 10:28 AM on August 23, 2005

Hey! I'm a custodial parent, and I still say "babysitting", and that's what I do pretty much every night. It gets the point across with fewer words than "staying home tonight with my kiddo."

Otherwise, GitM nailed the other points I was going to make.
posted by Eamon at 10:34 AM on August 23, 2005

Is it your wife's child from another marage or something? If not, it's not "babysitting".

Aaanyway, I really have no idea why your wife would have a problem with this, it's just bizzare. If you were smoking cigars, obviously there's a problem there. I guess if you were drinking that could be dangerous. (like if someone fell on the kid!) But other then that... just playing cards ins't a big deal.
posted by delmoi at 10:37 AM on August 23, 2005

Maybe by asking both your parents what they think, you will find the correct answer. Seriously, this will set further percussions down the road for your home.
As first she has brought outside parties into your home for making the rules under its roof. Second, you have now done the same.
Good luck with your future marriage counseling sessions. I say that, because that will be whom you ask next if you don't find the right solution here by you two alone.

Then again, I'm single, life is easier.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:40 AM on August 23, 2005

Funny, thought that included pay or was a chore (sibling), otherwise it's being a parent. Also, who is more important in your home?
posted by thomcatspike at 10:44 AM on August 23, 2005

Yeah... the term "babysitting" makes it sound like she always takes care of the kid, and that it's really an unusual circumstance when you do it, so... if this is really the case, I can understand her being jumpy; I would be, too - card party or anything else.

If you are not accustomed to taking care of your kid on your own, she may be (rightly) worried that any significant distraction might enable a disastrous five seconds of kiddy mayhem, leading to an emergency room visit, or worse.
posted by taz at 11:03 AM on August 23, 2005

When I first started reading this, I thought you were babysitting someone else's kid. It's not 'til the 6th paragraph that I realized this is your son. Is your wife a stay-at-home mom, or does she otherwise bear the greater responsibility for your son's care? Could it be that what she really wants is to be able to go out with her girlfriends while you spend some quality time with your son, whom you refer to as "the kid"?

The other points still stand, about the drinking and the smoking, but if everyone stays sober and smoke-free and you don't leave your son sitting in the corner, it would seem that "safety" is really not the issue--but the quality of time you spend alone with your kid is.

We've spoken to friends and the inclination is towards that this was fine and that she's overreacting but she's asked other people and they've said that it was inappropriate.

Ultimately, this is not a question of who's right and who's wrong, this is a decision you and your wife must make together, as parents--not by consensus from the Internet.
posted by CiaoMela at 11:05 AM on August 23, 2005

"What does your wife (and her friends) mean by "inappropriate"? If (as you say) this same situation has happened before, what is different about this new situation?"
He bet the kid on an inside straight draw. But he made it!

I think your wife is being unreasonable. Tell her that strangers on the internet said it was fine. Did you ask her what, specifically, the deal was? Are you all a bunch of swearin', drinkin' assholes or what?
posted by klangklangston at 11:09 AM on August 23, 2005

ba·by-sit also ba·by·sit (bā'bē-sĭt')

v., -sat (-săt'), -sit·ting, -sits.


1. To take care of a child or children in the absence of a parent or guardian.
2. To take care of or watch over someone or something needing attention or guidance.

Part 2 of the definition seems to cover exactly what fenriq was saying. Give him a break and ease up on the facile (and etymologically incorrect) moralizing.
posted by googly at 11:11 AM on August 23, 2005

Some of you are making too much of this word choice. Among my friends there's a variety of terms used to describe watching the kid while the other goes out. Babysitting, kid duty, sanity hour, etc. Don't project your situation or assumptions onto it.

In answer to your question, no, I would have no issue with the kid-watching having people over and being social, particularly not from a safety standpoing. Presuming of course people are staying sober and not smoking/snorting/engaging in gunplay.

Perhaps your wife is couching her real concerns in safety or not making her real issue clear. Is she the primary caregiver and thinks you should be bonding directly with your kid during this time rather than hanging with friends? Does she have some issue with poker/gambling (though WE know poker isn't gambling, yes?) and doesn't want the kid exposed to it? Are your friends all dangerous fucktards on the run from The Man?

Get to the bottom of this not because you shouldn't humor your wife in little ideosyncracies but because you should know if this is a bigger thing. Is ANY socializing with friends around the kid every acceptable? Is this a very generalized problem with Other Men or Strangers or something specific about cards? You should know, even if it's just to shrug and say ha-ha-that-kooky-wife-of-mine and avoid the conflict in the future.
posted by phearlez at 11:14 AM on August 23, 2005

Is she the primary caregiver and thinks you should be bonding directly with your kid during this time rather than hanging with friends?

I was going to ask this exact question. Any reason you can't just spend this time with your son?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:16 AM on August 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

If there's no smoking or drinking, the kid's not in any danger, but my Mom Vision sees dad all wrapped up in his game, occasionally talking to junior when he wanders by, but the child mostly left to entertain himself. *That's* what I'd object to if I were in your wife's place, not the actual poker-and-friends per se, but what they mean as regards the amount of attention your son is going to get.
posted by headspace at 11:36 AM on August 23, 2005

Is she the primary caregiver and thinks you should be bonding directly with your kid during this time rather than hanging with friends?

I think that's it, too. Mom is actually ticked that you feel like you have to have buddies around "so everyone could be happy" while you "babysit", instead of taking the opportunity to have some good ol' quality bonding time with your son.
posted by LadyBonita at 11:53 AM on August 23, 2005

Wife is way out of line.

As long as you're not drinking, I see no reason why you cannot proceed.

And re: "babysitting". That's what I call it too. Don't let these ninnies get after you.
posted by unixrat at 11:59 AM on August 23, 2005

I think there are two dimensions to this question: (1) the act, (2) the person committing the act.

Evaluating the act on its own merits, I would say that the act might indeed have been inappropriate if the agreement with your wife was that you would be committing your Saturday to take care of the 13 month kid. Think of it this way: if you hired an outside babysitter to take care of the kid that day, and then learned that he/she invited friends over to play poker while taking care of the kid, wouldn't you be furious? I think almost all parents would be furious, regardless of whether or not everyone coming in knew about the baby and were fine with taking care of the baby, and did not drink, did not smoke, etc. There is no guarantee that the babysitter would his/her full attention on the kid at all times (particularly during exciting hands); there is no guarantee that the other people coming in may be as good caregivers as the person that was contracted to do the job; and the fact is that even the smallest distraction due to poker could have led to the baby being hurt somehow. The fact that it didn't happen doesn't mean anything, you could have just been lucky...

However, looking at the second dimension complicates things. You simply said "the kid". When I read your description above, it might as well have been the neighbor's kid, there is NO indication that this is in fact "your kid". However, if we were to assume that this is indeed your kid, then it could be argued that since it is you doing the babysitting, you would have had a more inherent interest in the well-being of the kid, and as such would not have allowed the "poker" game to distract you from the main task. However, obviously if there is a reason for your wife to suspect that this would not be the case (i.e., you have prior history of not noticing the cake in the oven burning and filling the house with smoke because you're too involved in the TV show you're watching), then her distrust in your multi-tasking capabilities may still make it inappropriate. However, if you have shown in the past that you can perfectly multi-task, and have a good history in terms of attending to the need of "your" kid, then the act would not be that inappropriate.

Of course, if it was someone else's kid, I think it was inappropriate, period, unless you told the parent this would take place before they agreed to leave "the kid" with you.
posted by tuxster at 11:59 AM on August 23, 2005

I'm going to restate my earlier post. If my wife strongly objects to something and it's not a big deal either way, then I will defer to her judgement, just as I'd expect her to do out of respect for me if the tables were turned.

Your wife probably just wants you to spend some QT with your kid. Read between the lines dude.
posted by glenwood at 12:16 PM on August 23, 2005

Thanks for the thoughts, everyone.

To be clear, I do my part to take care of our son. I would say that my wife probably does more of his actual care but I do feed him, bathe him, put him to bed, change him and everything else as well. I also just hang out with him quite a bit, playing in his room, dancing around with him and enjoying his company because he is an incredibly wonderful little guy who makes me laugh so hard I cry.

As for the choice of using the word babysit and "the kid", I'm sorry if they threw some of you for a loop. My little boy is the light and joy in my life, truly. I love him more than life itself and would do anything for him (I guess no one's seen my Flickr kid stream recently, here's a sample). If I had been home alone then I wouldn't have thought of it as babysitting, just being home with my little boy. But with the addition of some friends, I consider it babysitting more because I will have to more active in keeping an eye on him.

Though there were beers being imbibed and some of the players were smokers though they went outside to smoke and I was quite sure to not drink very much so as to impair my judgment.

tuxster, if anything, I have a greater fear of her inability to multi-task and maintain a safe environment for him. I work in PR, multi-tasking is pretty much part and parcel of what I do for a living, I have no trouble adjusting to changes and am well able to keep his well-being first and foremost and the cards second (which is why I lost money all night until he went to bed and then I started winning it all back).
posted by fenriq at 12:18 PM on August 23, 2005

This is anecdotal, but. We had a party at our house last weekend, and one couple brought their 6 week old baby to it. The couple wasn't drinking, but there were plenty of other people drinking. And while some people thought it was weird that they were there, the baby was FINE. More than fine - he was sleeping contentedly while everyone else was talking loudly and having a good time. I think it's good to take advantage of opportunities like this - you SHOULD try to retain your social life, because kids can often take that away.

And your kid is totally adorable, so of course he will get lots of good attention from your friends. :)
posted by jetskiaccidents at 12:37 PM on August 23, 2005

Sounds like both you and your wife have made up your minds to be opposed to each other. That, I can't help with, and it sounds like it's the real problem here.

I wouldn't object to my 13 month old kid rotating through the laps of 6 poker-playing men, as long as the environment was tobacco and alcohol free. But I'm so far from being your wife that it's practically intergalactic.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2005

Gotta say, judging by your characterization of the situation, you two are arguing about something else. She's anxious about something.
posted by desuetude at 12:40 PM on August 23, 2005

Something is up. Sit down with her, find out what is really going on.

I don't understand why you posted this at all. So what if we all think she's wrong? She's your wife; you promised to love and honor her, and you should respect her more than to try to get public opinion on your side to win some silly fight that's obviously covering for something bigger.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:51 PM on August 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

Yes, she is anxious about alot of things and we argue about things but I was more than ready to let this issue drop after it had happened and everything was fine.

But she is refusing to let it go in spite of the result. So I wanted to poll some more or less objective minds for their thoughts.

TPS, yes, I promised to love and honor her, so did she. And I felt like she was insulting my ability to take care of my son so I sought some outside input on it. Is it part of a larger problem? Yes and we're working on that as well but I wanted to be able to demonstrate to her that she's over-reacting. Which this thread has done quite capably.

And no, I don't plan to beat her over the head with this thread. But I do appreciate getting other people's thoughts on this, all of them, including the ones telling me to drop it and figure out what the real issue is, I'm working on that.
posted by fenriq at 1:35 PM on August 23, 2005

I'd negotiate for rotating care from the players depending on the child's willingness to be with any given person. The rotating lap is a good idea in theory, but a 13 month old can be pretty grabby and you don't want the child to grab and attempt to ingest whatever is in reach. I wouldn't trust other people to have the instinct of what my daughter's reach is, so I'd do parallel play nearby.
posted by plinth at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2005

fenriq, you can see that most of us are speculating here since we really don't know you, your wife, or your kid. So, it's quite difficult for us to reach a proper judgement without making assumptions.

Based on your clarifications (assuming you're being objective or that your wife would agree with your clarifications) I would say that she should not have thought that what you did was inappropriate. In that case, I am going to agree with desuetude and ThePinkSuperhero and say that there is something else going on. Perhaps she is not all that fond of one particular person you invited and doesn't want him to be around the kid? (There we go, I'm making another speculation)
posted by tuxster at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2005

ba·by-sit also ba·by·sit (bā'bē-sĭt')

v., -sat (-săt'), -sit·ting, -sits.


1. To take care of a child or children in the absence of a parent or guardian.
2. To take care of or watch over someone or something needing attention or guidance.

Mr. Definition... #1 explains why this does not apply.... absence of parent or guardian.

She's probably just jelous that on her night out, you get to have a good time too. When she stays home and watches the kid alone, she probably doesn't have friends over having a social event like this. Just a guess. As long as there is no booze or smoke, and they all watch their manners,, shouldn't be a problem.
posted by Mroz at 3:35 PM on August 23, 2005

Fenriq, did you tell her that you were going to have a poker game, or did she find out after the fact? From your last comment it sounds like the argument came up after the fact.

As far as the question, I guess like nearly everyon else I don't think that a bunch of guys drinking and some of them reeking of tobacco (I smoked for 16 years, I know the reek of tobacco, believe me) is a particularly healthy situation for a baby, despite anecdotal evidence provided above.

If you had this argument before the night out, you probably should have gone along with her, it's just one night after all. If this argument occurred after the fact, because she didn't know that you were going to have friends over (or you sprung it on her at the last second) that would be pretty lame.
posted by sic at 4:29 PM on August 23, 2005

Inappropriate? Are you playing strip poker?

You mentioned that "this had already happened." How did it go the first time? If it wasn't a problem the first time, why would it be a problem now? Did she know in advance both times?

Perhaps she is not all that fond of one particular person you invited and doesn't want him to be around the kid?

If that were true, she should say she's uncomfortable with having Person X around the kid, not that playing poker is inappropriate.

posted by kirkaracha at 5:11 PM on August 23, 2005

Maybe she's afraid you'll be dealt a really good hand, get into a heavy betting situation, and wager the infant unit.

Otherwise, she's nutso! You're having friends over, the unit is part of your family, you don't kick family out when friends are over, and you don't stop seeing your friends just because you reproduced.

Sorry, this really hit a nerve. My spousal unit has severe control issues too.
posted by Wet Spot at 7:32 PM on August 23, 2005

If it were my child, he wasn't exactly the sort of kid you could leave alone at 13 months while you played cards. About the only thing that would work would be to start people coming over just before his bedtime, excuse yourself briefly to put him to bed, and start the game. But all the people over would make it hard to sleep. It's not the noise, it's the break in routine.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:39 PM on August 23, 2005

Any update on this thread? fenriq?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:56 PM on August 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

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