The other day, my husband called me up at work to rant about an article he had just read. It was not the article that had him offended, but rather, the content of the article.
This was the article: The Census Bureau Counts Fathers as ‘Child Care’.
The reason that he was offended was because he is a stay at home parent; yet, he is not considered the “designated parent”. I am, despite the fact that I am the one who goes to work every day and supports the family. Yes, my husband is a stay at home father. He is not a “child care arrangement”. He is a parent. And he is quite proud of this fact. When people ask him what he does, he announces that he is a homemaker proudly and without pause.
When I read this article, I found myself offended and angry; not only for myself but also for my husband. How the Census Bureau decides to enforce gender stereotypes is appalling. What it boils down to is this:
1. A Father is not worthy to be a ‘designated parent’.
2. A Mother is not worthy to be the ‘primary monetary provider’.
So, basically, the Census Bureau does not care to report on who the designated parent it. In a household with both a man and a woman, it is always the woman- even if the woman is the head of household (to use the IRS term). The woman is considered “work support” because a father is apparently always able to go to work to support his family. She is the one who is supposed to take care of the child 24 hours a day because that is what her gender role dictates.
This lessens both the contribution of the father to the family and the mother.
I won’t deny that a majority of the time, it is the male who is the “head of household”. But, as of 2010, 32% of fathers were the day time caregiver (because the census can’t just say that they were the “designated parent”). 32% is not a trivial number- and it is up from 26% in 2005. This is about 1/3 of fathers who are a stay at home parent. Even with this number on the rise, the Census Bureau has no plans to change how they collect their data and do their reporting.
It is because of statistics and reporting like this, by our government no less, that we as a society have trouble breaking gender stereotypes. Even though 1/3 of men are stay at home dads, society still tends to view them as lesser men when compared to dads who work.
Why? We have been teaching our children that women are just as capable as men, but do we remember to teach the other way around? Why do certain roles have to have a “gender” associated with them?
A father has just as much love and care to give a child. He can wipe runny noses, clean, feed and play with a child. He can see to their early education. He can make sure the kids don’t burn down the house just as well as a mother can. A father is not a lesser parent to be dusted and taken off the shelf only on weekends. A father has just as much to gain in his role as a parent as a mother does. He is just as able and responsible as a mother.
It is not a source of shame for a man to be a stay at home parent. Parenting is not something that comes hardwired in our brains. It is not an easy thing to learn. No one just ‘knows’ how to be a good parent. Women, just as much as men, have to learn how to do it.
We are responsible for showing our children what they can be and what people are capable of. Let’s show them that there is no role that belongs to a man or to a woman. Working is not gender specific and parenting certainly isn’t either.