Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005/Summer 2006 and its classification of fathers who stay home as "alternative child care" instead of what they really are - parents. The discord is in the wording and categorization. In a home where both parents are present, the mother is the designated parent. Everything kind of goes downhill from there.
In the rest of the study, the word parent is used to refer to the designated parent (mom). The problems really start to arise when they look at working moms. Apparently needing to have a phrase that sums up all types of care-giving for the children of working mothers, they use the phrase child care arrangement as the broadest category. From there, it breaks down into relative (family members) and non-relative (babysitters, neighbors, friends, and also the subcategories of family daycare providers and organized child care facilities (which is a funny statement in itself) that includes child care centers, preschools, Head Start, and even Kindergarten if the child is still under five years of age. So, a father that chooses to be an at-home parent while his spouse works is considered a relative child care arrangement. According to this New York Times blog, and a subsequent report by the Huffington Post, the same is not true of the opposite. That is, if a father is working, the mother is not a relative child care arrangement. That is apparently something else - parenting, I guess. Do you think some of us might take issue with that wording?
I am not bringing all of this up just to gripe and complain. That's only part of it. I am bringing it up because there is a solution. Dads can demand better categorization. If we don't continue to drive the conversation forward, then we will be stuck with these archaic definitions of "parent" and "child care" that are used to make sweeping generalities about our nation as a whole. If we want to help people understand that children are better off when BOTH parents are involved, we must first be the parents, then we must demand that others begin to refer to us in that way. We have changed our behavior (by being present and engaged with our families) to something that is not "normal" to society anymore, and we must therefore change the language in order to change minds about what is "normal" in America. This type of change is what any minority must go through in order to be accepted into the "norm" of society, and it doesn't come without hard work and determination.
So, what can you do? You can start by signing this petition that was started by DaddysHome.org to let the Census Bureau know that dads are parents, and we would like to be addressed in that way. Yes, this might force our federal government to have to adjust their categories, but it would more accurately reflect the reality that we live in. Dads are parents, and a lot of us want to be great at it. It's time that our society gets on board with that idea, especially for the sake of our children.