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February 10, 2012

When Dad Isn't a Real Parent

Too funny. Apparently the U.S. Census Bureau endorses outdated gender stereotypes:

It’s not baby-sitting when Daddy does it. Who wouldn’t agree with that? The U.S. Census Bureau, apparently. When both parents are present in the household, the Census Bureau assumes for the purposes of its “Who’s Minding the Kids?” report, that the mother is the “designated parent.” And when the designated parent is working or at school, the bureau would like to know who’s providing child care.

If the answer is Daddy, as it was 26 percent of the time when these numbers were last released, in 2005, and 32 percent of the time in 2010, the Census Bureau calls that “care.” But if Mom is caring for a child while Dad’s at work, that’s not a “child care arrangement,” but something else. Parenting, presumably.

“Regardless of how much families have changed over the last 50 years women are still primarily responsible for work in the home,” said Lynda Laughlin of the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch. “We try to look at child care as more of a form of work support.” A mother, said Ms. Laughlin, is “not only caring for the child only while Dad works. She’s probably caring for the child 24 hours and so Dad is able to go to work regardless.”

That bears repeating. If, every morning, I go off to work and my husband stays home with a child, that’s a “child care arrangement” in the eyes of this governmental institution. If the reverse is true, it’s not. I asked Ms. Laughlin if the Census Bureau collected data on the hours mothers spend offering “work support” to their husbands. “No,” she said. “We don’t report it in that direction.”

Though the author seems (with good reason) to feel the Census Bureau's position is sexist with respect to women, I would argue that once we get to the point where between 1/4 and 1/3 of children are being cared for by their fathers, we've gone beyond assuming the mother is the designated parent. What does that make Dad - chopped liver?

What do they do if the father is the custodial parent?

I don't care much for politically correct policies, but in this case the government needs to wake up and smell the coffee... even if it's being made by a stay at home father instead of June Cleaver.

One of the joys of being a grandma to two very active little boys has been watching the close relationship they have to their father. My son is a police officer and his wife works from home. They really do share parenting responsibilities, and I'm immensely proud of my son's involvement in his children's lives. There's nothing unmanly about his parenting style: men do most things differently when caring for children and their perspective on parenting is usually a net positive.

This kind of hands on parenting was difficult if not possible in the world I grew up in. I can't help thinking that the day to day involvement of Dads in their children's lives is one of the few success stories the women's movement can legitimately brag about.

Now if we could just work on some of those drawbacks.

Posted by Cassandra at February 10, 2012 07:24 AM

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So, when Momma Grizzly goes to work, does that make Poppa Grizzly a "care bear?"

Posted by: spd rdr - chapped liver at February 10, 2012 09:26 AM

All snark aside, that isn't what I've seen happen most of the time.

Most 2 career couples I know have some kind of nanny or use a home day care provider.

I was surprised the number of Dads staying home with the kids was that high, frankly. I was also surprised to see the usually uber-PC government openly embracing what the feminist crowd like to call 'outdated gender norms'.

The story just struck me as kind of weird.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 10, 2012 10:02 AM

It appears that "outdated gender norms" can make for strange bed-fellows. Or is that an "outdated gender norm" as well?

Posted by: spd rdr - outdated genderist at February 10, 2012 11:10 AM

To be fair, the few feminists I've read online have generally objected to sexism directed at men, too.

It's kind of interesting to me that here the government, which is usually far too worried about offending women and probably not worried enough about offending men managed to produce a policy that is kind of objectionable no matter who you are.

I don't tend to get to irate about this sort of thing, but since why is caring for your own children viewed as "work support" (i.e., something fob off on other so you can go do something more important) rather than a job that's valuable in and of itself?

Posted by: Cassandra at February 10, 2012 05:42 PM

Drawbacks? We don't need no stinking drawbacks! ;)

Posted by: JihadGene at February 11, 2012 12:12 PM

On the other hand, this does provide the father with a handy comeback.

Wife: "We both work full time, but at home I feel like I do more of the housework than you!"

Husband: "Well maybe you do, but the Census bureau says that I work a second job!"

Posted by: Grim at February 11, 2012 09:41 PM

When my father became a widower, he had three of us to look after. You know, I'm not actually sure how he did it. I wasn't yet in school; someone must have looked after us, but I can't for the life of me think who it could have been. (It's not as though we could afford a governess!) I know he didn't stay home with us. In the 1950's it wouldn't even have occurred to him, I'm sure -- just not an option. Would a modern father try it? Would a modern, widowed mother go back to work with three children at home under the age of ten? I suppose she'd find some kind of daycare, or leave the kids with relatives.

My father's solution was more traditional: he remarried as soon as he could. Not that she stayed home with us, either. Homemaking mothers always have struck me as exotic and luxurious, perhaps even a little alarming, a la Huck Finn.

Posted by: Texan99 at February 12, 2012 09:31 AM