Say, my wife has to run some errands in the morning, and I have to announce at my work that I will be missing for some time.

Are both correct?

  1. I have to babysit in the morning.
  2. I have to watch my kids in the morning.

It looks like Oxford Learner's Dictionary states that only 2 fits for the case. But a colleague of mine said that he often hears the first variant as well. Maybe because at work we have lots of people from all over the world, and it's a common mistake for non native English speakers?

  • 5
    It is probably grammatically okay, but there is a whole lot else wrong with it which may be defined as cultural.
    – Spagirl
    Jan 21, 2019 at 10:31
  • With possible newly accepted words and possible newly accepted meanings, it's always best to check in several respectable dictionaries. Obviously Collins addresses this more thoroughly, allowing for the now fairly common broadened meanings. Oct 19, 2019 at 16:06
  • Maybe it is just me, but as a 2-time stay/work at home dad, I would usually say "take care of" my kids, not "watch" or "babysit", both of which sound like it is some kind of unusual activity. Parenting should be 50-50. Oct 20, 2019 at 20:44

3 Answers 3


The verb to babysit is now extending its original meaning ("to take  charge of a child while the parents are temporarily away") and is often used in the wide sense of 'to take care of anybody: any (including one's own) children, aged and disabled people, pets'.

The following sentence from Collin's Dictionary (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/babysit?s=t):

''Even more annoying, have you heard of a guy say he has to " babysit "  his children  when  his wife  has something to do?'' shows it's OK to say: 'I have to babysit my kids'.

According to Collin's Dictionary (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/babysit?s=t) the meaning of the verb 'to babysit' is very wide:

to take watchful responsibility for; tend

: It will be necessary  for someone to baby-sit the machine  until it is running  properly.

  • It seems like the normal use of irony to me, to talk about "babysitting the cat" or "...the new central heating system".
    – WS2
    Jan 21, 2019 at 10:15
  • 1
    I don't see the phrase "I have to babysit my kids" anywhere on that website. What I do see is a quote from "Why I choose to be child free" of "Even more annoying, have you heard of a guy say he has to " babysit " his children when his wife has something to do?". Though that has the sense you're talking about, the language sounds so awful to my ears ("heard of a guy say") that I'm not sure I'd use it as a demonstration of what a native would say.
    – AndyT
    Jan 21, 2019 at 12:27

It depends on your role and attitude as a parent. If watching your kids isn't something you normally do, and/or you resent doing it, "babysit" would be appropriate. If it is something you do with some frequency, or even if it's not but you want to help her, then you would be "watching" your kids.


It is often used but it is wrong. It shows that these people think the children belong to the Mother and the Father is doing her a favour, helping out "the little woman" doing a job that isn't theirs.

You babysit helpless things (babies, pets, houses) that are not your responsibility.

Are these children yours or the neighbours?



Look after a child or children while the parents are out.

‘I babysit for my neighbour sometimes’ with object ‘she was babysitting Sophie’

oxford dictionaries

So option 2 is the only correct answer

Dads agreeing with me

  • Just to be clear, it is 'wrong' in the moral sense, not in the 'is it commonly used and accepted' semantic-word sense.
    – Mitch
    Jun 21, 2019 at 12:36
  • Yeah, this answer needs to be edited to clean up some of the grammar, but especially to remove the moralizing. This is the SE for English usage, not parenting advice.
    – lly
    Jun 21, 2019 at 13:48
  • Further, you think it wrong. Others may regard the child’s association primarily with the mother.
    – David
    Jun 21, 2019 at 17:51
  • 1
    @Mitch, it is also wrong semantically, if the speaker does not intend to convey the idea that the child is normally somebody else's responsibility (that the speaker has responsibility for the child on this particular occasion only because he has assumed it for that occasion).
    – jsw29
    Oct 19, 2019 at 20:10

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