Nearly seven years ago, I started my tenure as an at-home dad. Early on, I felt fairly isolated, but was comforted knowing that I wasn’t alone when I found websites like Jeremy Adam Smith’s Daddy Dialectic, and Brian Reid‘s now defunct Rebeldad. I often sent Brian articles about dads that I found, and more often than not, a few days later he posted his unique take on the dad news of the day.
Lance and I are now very lucky to be in the position of having people send us the news that they are finding about dads, and we’ve never received more e-mails and social media pings than we did for the revelation by Motherlode blogger, KJ Dell’Antonia, that the Federal Census Bureau counts moms as the “designated parent”, and dads as a “child-care arrangement.”
I was hoping that it was merely an oversite that no one had bothered to change the labels to reflect the fact that families have changed since the 1950s, and recognize that dads are taking an increasingly active parenting role. Unfortunately, the laziness is not limited to a bureaucratic glitch, but rather the antiquated mindset of the bureaucrat in charge of the study. As KJ Dell-Antonia reports:
“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.” (emphasis mine)
and goes on to report:
Ms. Laughlin assured me that the Census Bureau is just trying to collect accurate data on how “designated parents” arrange care for their children while they’re at school or at work based on “gender norms.
As you can imagine, this has raised a few eyebrows from moms and dads that like to think that the parenting responsibility is held by moms AND dads. The good folks at Daddyshome, Inc., a non-profit advocacy group, has come up with a way to encourage the Census Bureau to update their report (and their mindset). As Al Watts, President of Daddyshome, said in an e-mail to dads around the country:
The Board of Daddyshome strongly disagrees with these assumptions and believes it is time for the Census to change them. Culturally, this assumption that dads are a “child care arrangement,” similar to babysitters, does not adequately define the dramatic increase in involved fatherhood in the 21st century. Methodologically, this assumption fails to provide an accurate picture of how families are navigating child care and financial responsibilities.
They have created an online petition that will be sent to the Census Bureau and Congress that allows moms and dads to voice their encouragement for change. We hope you will consider signing and sharing the petition found here: http://www.change.org/petitions/dads-dont-babysit
Don Unger says
I’m generally quick to take offense, but let’s turn this upside down. The Census Bureau is something between encouraging and forcing both men and women who have a stake in shared parenting of whatever variety to fight to be seen, heard, counted, and accurately represented. If this brings more people out, it’s a good thing.
I agree with this. You may want to pitch it as not just a SAHD issue, but an issue for any family that considers itself a two-parent family.
Also, I don’t think this is a new issue, but one that has lurked subconsciously for generations. The archetypal female status of primary parent (which offers both privilege and victimization) may be the root of most of the conflicts and problems in the world. In other words, this is not a new need for shared parenting that was discovered in the 1950s but one that has lurked subconsciously for generations, maybe ever since we evolved from primates. And many dads have been involved in previous generations, even if they had to be more discreet about it because of “masculinity policing”.
One typo in the third paragraph “oversight” instead of “oversite”.
Don’t children see themselves as having two parents (whether those parents follow through well on the job or not)? The biology, including the genetics, work that way I believe. 🙂
I don’t think this is just a change from the 1950s. I think this is something children have needed all along.
From what I understand, SIPP is a survey primarily about the economy and not a parenting survey. For a real understanding of the role of both mom and dad in the household, you really should be looking at the American Time Use Survey. Understanding the child care arrangements that working mothers select is also an important issue and it seems like we really need multiple surveys, studies to understand the changing nature of work and family.
Matt Schneider says
Interesting point . . . that is the Census Bureau’s response. Dr. Mike Bonner just posted a critique to that assertion on the Daddyshome website: “The critique by Motherlode, and here, is not about parenting definitions. It is a criticism of the statistical assumption that Mothers are “designated parents” and Fathers are “child care providers” for the purpose of understanding the family decisions regarding child care arrangements. To argue that changing this characterization is outside the scope of the survey’s intent is to entirely miss an opportunity to do exactly what the survey is supposed to: help our country (its citizens and policy makers) understand the dynamics of child care use in modern society.”
Read the rest of his post here: http://daddyshome.org/blog/?p=1661