US Census Bureau to Dads: You're No More than a Babysitter

BlogHer Original Post

The US Census Bureau has decided that fathers watching their children is “child care” but when moms watch their kids, it’s parenting. No, really. All of that “it’s not babysitting, it’s parenting” when daddy “watches” the kids has apparently been tossed out the window and set us back decades. And by us, I am not just referring to the women who are somehow deemed the “designated parent” when both parents are present in a household, but the men as well. Apparently they don’t matter.

I’d like the US Census Bureau genius who came up with this idea to show up at my house for a three-day period.

On a typical day in my household, I rise with my perennial 7:00am waking child. I get breakfast on the table, grab my cup of coffee and get to work. My husband then takes over, makes sure that teeth are brushed and gets the kids to school. After preschool, he makes lunch for our younger son and normally plays a game of Yahtzee! or whatever the four-year-old so desires. He reads a book. He answers a billion questions. He kisses boo-boos. He reminds our youngest son to let me work eight billion times. He helps with the tasks of reading, computer usage and coloring. He gets our other son from school and proceeds to break up the sibling arguments that begin as soon as they’re both in the door. He makes a healthy snack. He asks about days. He helps with homework. He chases them down the hallway like a big monster. He gives me a big hug when I finish my work day about an hour after our oldest son comes home, and then he helps me in the kitchen.

Of course, every third day, he goes to work for 24 hours as a professional firefighter, and I’m left to hold down the fort in his keenly felt absence.

But according to the US Census Bureau, I’m the “designated parent.” And he’s doing nothing more than providing temporary care.

Oh.

This Is Not Parenting

And here I thought we were finding a balance for what works for our family, both providing the parenting care that our children need in our own ways. I can’t chase them like a monster, but I can tickle them until they squeal so loudly glass breaks. I didn’t realize that I was the designated parent just because I have a vagina. I thought, as we are both present and equally awesome, that we were the designated parents. Plural. Together. A team. The two of us making sense of the parenting world -- which rarely makes sense as it is. If we’re not a team, I’m screwed and so are the kids, because I’m going to mess this up on my own.

I just don’t understand how vaginas make a parent and penises make a babysitter.

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