I just read on the New York Times' parenting blog, Motherlode
(we will discuss this title later...), that the U.S. Census Bureau considers the time that fathers spend at home caring for children while mom works "child care," but does not do the same for the time when mom is home with the kids and dad works. This is because the Census Bureau considers moms the "designated parent." So mom's time caring for kids while dad is away is "parenting" and dad's time is... something else.
The Times does not agree with this assessment. Nor do we. But should we really be surprised?
I mentioned we would discuss the title of the New York Times' own parenting
blog. It is called Mother
lode. Isn't that an assumption, in and of itself, that mothers are to be considered the primary parent? The tagline of Parenting
magazine was, until very recently, "What Matters to Moms." Parenting books are written for moms. The tagline of the book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
is, "This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs." This was a married mother with the father living in the same home, but he is apparently a lower life form than the two dogs. Most brands in their advertising pretend that dad does not make any family purchasing decisions (although a few notable exceptions, like Tide
are cropping up). The list goes on.
In other words, our culture surrounds us with messages - some intentional, some not - that moms are still the more important parent. So, we should not be terribly surprised by how the Census Bureau views this issue. After all, the government typically reflects cultural values and is not usually on the cutting edge of changing them.
But back to what the Census reporting is doing... Motherlode aptly points out that mothers are just as much a victim of this mentality. As their post says, mothers are "on the hook every time" when it comes to taking care of kids. In that sense, moms are the victims of their own success - they fought to achieve the status of being able to raise families in any situation, but now there is an expectation that they always will, and dad is off the hook.
This is not empowering to dads, moms, and, most importantly, to children who deserve to have both moms and dads responsibly and equally involved in their lives.