Did you know that according to the Census Bureau fathers are just “child care”?
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.”
I mean… what?
My father woke up at 4 am every morning so he could be home from work in time to pick me and my sister up from school; he made us dinner, helped us with our homework, put us to bed. My mother, although a lovely woman, is constitutionally unable of working less than fifty hours a week. However, according to the Census bureau, my mother is the primary caregiver because… it says “F” on her driver’s license? I guess?
Man. I didn’t realize that being called “he” is enough to transform your dedication to your children into a mere child care arrangement.
So this is a personal issue for me, of course. But not just for me. For every person who was raised by their father. For every stay-at-home dad and every working father who sacrificed to help take care of his kids. For every man who wants to watch his children grow up. For everyone who knows a great person who was primarily raised by their dad.
I mean, seriously, Census Bureau? How hard is it to have a “designated parent” question? “Which parent is the designated/primary parent (i.e. the parent that provides the majority of child care)?” That is literally one question, Census Bureau. I am sure you can ask one more fucking question in order not to erase men who provide the primary care for their children, and not to paint fathers as glorified babysitters.
Don’t give me this “we’re just reflecting the realities of society” bullshit. You know what causes the realities of society? Shit like this that devalues fathers’ contributions to raising children and ignores the millions of loving men who take care of their children and prioritize being involved in their children’s lives. How are we supposed to have a society that changes and becomes better if shit like this is holding us back?
And society is getting better (nearly a third of the time, in heterosexual couples, when Mom isn’t taking care of the kids, Dad is– up from only a quarter of the time five years ago). It’s about time the Census reflected it.