Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Calling All Dads

"There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.”~ Sue Atkins

There has been a considerable amount of outrage lately throughout the dad community, particularly the dad blogging community, over a label. In its “Who’s Minding the Kids?” report, the U.S. Census Bureau refers to stay-at-home dads as “child care,” even though those dads are obviously the primary care providers in the family. Essentially, babysitters. The report also lists moms as the “designated parent” if both a mom and dad exist in the household, or in single-parent homes. But dads, stay-at-home dads in particular, are not happy.

Of course, moms have been the traditional primary caregiver pretty much since the beginning of time. Over the past decade or so, a small shift has occurred and more dads are staying home with the kids. Still, we dads have a long way to go before we catch up in the child-care street-cred department.

Just be the best parent you can be.
But that’s not stopping involved dads from circulating a petition to put us on equal footing with moms when dads are the “designated parent.”  I signed the petition in solidarity with the dads I know and admire. Dads who stay at home and take care of the family. Or Dads who, like me, work but are active participants in the lives of their children.

I do, however, have news for all of these irritated dads, myself included: we are not the problem. In fact, I think we may be in the minority. The truth is, a lot of dads are fine with being called the babysitter. They call themselves that. And if their wives or girlfriends or whomever happen to need them to watch the brood for a finite amount of time, they roll their eyes, sigh deeply and grin and bear it. Again, THEY call it babysitting.

I recently took a day off from work to get our house in order – literally – after we returned from a Disney vacation. I performed the normal duties a stay-at-home parent might tackle any day. Meal preparation, school drop-off, food shopping, laundry, house cleaning. And it made me realize: I’d be damned if I’m the babysitter today. I shared my feelings with my Facebook community and was surprised that a lot of the moms who commented said I was the exception, not the rule. That not all dads are active and involved. That the men in their office constantly refer to spending time with their kids, without their wife, as “babysitting.” Some moms even said they don’t trust the dads with more than the basics, and for good reason.

A light bulb went on inside my head. Let’s face it: there are tons of guys out there who still pull the old ball-and-chain routine when referring to their significant others. There are too many guys out there who don’t cook, do laundry or give the kids a bath. There are even guys out there who would rather have a guys’ night out instead of a family movie night.

And those are the guys the Census report reflects. And no petition will change things until these guys get out of the dark ages, throw on an apron every now and then, roll up their sleeves and get some Play-Doh under their fingernails.

I am fortunate. I see involved dads every day in my life. Family members and friends. At work. At my daughter’s school. At dance class. But until the vocal minority becomes the majority of dads, until those other guys recognize being a father and being a dad are two totally different things, we will all be considered the babysitter. And you know what? Big deal.

Let’s drop the righteous indignation. Let’s realize who we’re really talking about. Let’s stop demanding respect from a government bureaucracy who decided on a silly label based on a survey of a measly 35,000 households. The only people I need respect from is my family. My wife and my little girl. And as long as they call me husband and dad, everyone else can call me whatever the hell they want.

This post originally appeared on Dad Revolution in March. I wrote about a two-day stint I had as a stay-at-home, and how I'm not cut out for it, HERE.

9 comments:

  1. I'm with you, for the most part. I think the problem begins with the population of men who perceive themselves to be somehow above caring for their own kids and look down their nose at the thought of sharing parenting responsibilities with their wives and partners.

    I do find some of the rhetoric a bit off-putting though, and occasionally feel left out because I'm a divorced dad. I'm not single any longer, but when I was, I was still a dad, and with 50/50 custody I resent the fact the court still considers my ex-wife to be the "custodial-parent." We share 50/50 physical & legal custody, so why does that designation have to be so?

    I also had to stop reading Parenting magazine. Maybe I was being petty, but 99.9% of everything in that publication is geared toward mothers, and it really should be called Mothering, instead of Parenting.

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    1. I can't say I don't get annoyed at some of the "rhetoric" and all of the things that are geared towards moms myself. But I don't just think dads like you and me are better off just being dads like you and me. With whom are we fighting when we 'rage' against these perceived injustices? If our kids see an engaged, involved dad, then that's the only survey I care about.

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  2. Okay..as a mom who split with my children's dad I have to speak up on this one. My kids had previously lived with me and he had full open access..during the week, weekends school activities nothing to do with the kids was off limits..heck I had him over to my place for supper and vice versa, hung out with his new girlfriend. Then I decided I wanted to go back to work I couldn't afford sitters or daycare and he could..so we switched, kids were used to mixing the houses without issue, they now live primarily with him. Frankly I get insulted on his behalf now, many are shocked and appalled I could "give up my kids" Didn't give them up, they live mostly with a kind, caring, involved father. I have the same deal he had at my house, we have no agreement between us. We were adult enough to keep the kids first. Which is my main point...who cares what the rest of society thinks you should be doing, what their opinion of what you are doing is...if you can look into your child's face and see a happy, well adjusted little person..congratulations..you are doing fine. I don't even read the "parenting" magazines. Everytime I opened one I felt like the worst mother in the world. I can't bake, or do crafts...but at five and three, my two little nuggets know how to apply drywall compound and paint a room :)) Screw the "normal" outlook. Make your own and wear it proudly :))

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    1. "Normal is a setting on the dryer". And good for you!

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    3. Exactly. Thanks for sharing your story and reading mine.

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  3. I have noticed my husband helping with household chores more and more lately. I have not remarked. Just enjoyed. He will empty the dishwasher or wash a roasting pan unasked. This morning he mentioned he was playing with his new computer and hadn't done any housework yet. He is 75.

    Every year is a New one. Have a wonderful one.

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  4. I agree with you, for the most part, but I also believe in the power of change through redefinition. When our culture doesn't expect very much of fathers, it's easy for dead-beat dads to slack off and not take responsibility for their kids. When we start to redefine fatherhood in a positive way (and when women start expecting more from their men!) we can start to see real change. This mostly comes into play in marketing, but I would say that the US Government changing the definition of their Census would go a long way with me, at least.

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  5. I'm a stay at home dad. I even wrote a book about raising 5 kids and 3 cats in this social media pop culture world we live in called "Daddy Tales". It was released yesterday.

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