Last week, the NY Times Motherlode blog reported that the US Census Bureau doesn’t consider what dads do with kids actual parenting. Instead it’s a child care arrangement.
According to the new census report “Who’s Minding The Kids?,” the Census Bureau assumes the mother is the “designated parent” and any time she is not caring for the children, there is a “child care arrangement” in play, even when it’s a father doing the child caring.
Huh? Does that mean I should be paying my husband the same hourly rate I’d pay a nanny when he takes our son to his sports class on weekends? And how do I it break to him that the father-son bonding they do over Kinect football is actually daycare?
This regressive designation of the mother as the parent who provides “work support” for the father as the only paradigm for families fails to acknowledges single fathers, families where dads stay home while mom works, and two-dad families. It slides right into an outdated view that moms are the “real” parent and their work takes a backseat to the kids and the spouse. And when Daddy steps up to hang with the kids, it’s quaint and special but not real parenting.
It pisses me right off.
Sure, I’m a stay-at-home-mom these days but I’m not my son’s only parent. My husband may act primarily as relief pitcher but he’s still on the team. He’s not a free-agent doing a tryout at camp. He’s a fully functioning player here on Team Kuschmider and his role as dad is no less a parenting role than mine is as mom.
Not only is this model of thinking insulting to dads everywhere, it diminishes the role of women in the workplace. This assumption that men need, and get, “work support” from a spouse but women do not reinforces a message that women’s professional work is less valuable than men’s. In an economy where two incomes are often necessary just to keep the lights on, this is not a safe line of thinking. Women’s non-home jobs need to be given as much respect as men’s because they are just as critical as men’s for family financial support.
It’s time for the Census Bureau to put all parents and all workers on equal footing. Gender is not a measure of an employee or a parent.