Government Disses Parents by Classifying Dads as Babysitters

dad in playgroundYou want to hear something crazy -- something that, if you're anything like me, will get you hopping mad? In a report about childcare in two-parent households, the U.S. Census Bureau considers mothers who care for their children -- while the fathers are working or, well, whenever -- as a child's "designated parent." Fathers who care for their children while the mother is working or attending school, however, are considered to be part of a "child care arrangement." In other words, as KJ Dell'Antonia points out in The New York Times' Motherlode blog, as far as the Census Bureau is concerned, mothers who care for their kids are parents, and dads who care for their kids (as a rapidly increasing percentage of them do) are, essentially, babysitters.


In her blog, Dell'Antonia rightly expresses outrage about this ridiculously retrograde classification, which a Census Bureau spokesperson told her was based on "gender norms." (I know, it just gets worse and worse, doesn't it?) "Mothers -- just call us 'designated parents' -- are on the hook every time," she writes.

But there may be an even bigger loser than moms in this "gender norm," "designated parent," "child care arrangement" debate, which goes way beyond semantics: fathers. The idea that fathers, when they care for their children, are essentially hired hands or second-class citizens or anything other than parents, caring for their children out of love and dedication, is just unbelievably insulting.

As I write this, sitting in front of my computer, trying to make a buck and support my family in my chosen field, who is -- right at this moment -- picking up my (our!) children at school and taking them to the playground for a little afterschool air and sunshine, laughing with them, playing with them, giving them a snack, and comforting them if they skin a knee? Their father, who is every bit a "designated parent" as I. To differentiate his care for them from mine is to deny him his rightful status -- and to deny our kids the understanding that they have two parents who are equally able to love and care for them. The U.S. Census Bureau ought to be ashamed! And I don't need a survey to back that up.

What do you think of the U.S. Census Bureau's classification of mothers as "designated parents" and fathers as providers of "child care"?


Image via Cha già José/Flickr

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