I know our arrangement at home isn’t considered “typical” in most situations. Mom goes to work and dad stays home. It’s nothing that’s unheard of, but it’s not very common either. I accept that. I accept the comments from strangers at the grocery store when they assume I’m “giving mommy a break.” My inexperience and insecurities really ate at me and made me feel alone and isolated early on, but after some time, and with some gained confidence, it doesn’t really bother me too much anymore. I have a good network of people around me that have been nothing but supportive of what I do and how I do it. And because of that, I feel a lot of my insecurities about how my role is being perceived by the public are mostly in my head than they are actually true.
But recently I learned that the U.S. Census Bureau counts fathers as a form of child care for mothers. Huh? I’m just a babysitter?
According to the Census Bureau, the mother is considered the “designated parent.” And if that designated parent works while doofus dad stays at home, she’s still the designated parent and that doofus dad is her child care arrangement. I’m just a babysitter? Really? That doesn’t seem fair or accurate to either of us.
I’ve seen a lot of articles and bloggers posting about this recently and I get why fathers, not just stay-at-home dads would be offended by this. Whether dad stays at home or goes to work, it’s clear the government doesn’t think we are capable of such responsibility. Do they consider raising children “women’s work?” Is the year 1951?
While I agreed with the other dad bloggers, I didn’t let it bother me too much. Based on my own experience I didn’t believe this was how people perceived me and my role. You know, as a babysitter. So instead of getting upset, I just figured I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. If dads out there have a bad rap, I can help change that perception by example, right? But recently I was confronted by this whole babysitter issue personally. In an unlikely place too; sewing class.
I was at my sewing class I go to, SEWING class, with a bunch of older experienced moms who talk about Dr. Oz, baby showers, how to hem pants, and elastic. It really wasn’t my crowd, but for a dude like me I thought it was a safe zone. A safe place. I didn’t have to worry about dropping athlete names and teams to fit in. If anybody understood what I did, it would be these people, right? But when I mentioned I would be going to the fabric store after my daughter’s naptime, I got the response, “Oh, so you’re the babysitter!?” Ouch.
I instantly remembered all of those articles I just read about the census and fathers being upset about being called babysitters, etc. This is part of what they were talking about it. I don’t like to make a scene, or a big stink about anything. I’m a pretty quiet guy and can be awkward at times. My signature move is to avoid eye contact with my shifty eyes when I’m uncomfortable. It’s a reflex. But I looked directly at her and said, “No, I’m her father. I take care of her. I don’t babysit. There’s a big difference.” It felt a little awkward for a second, then she agreed with me and we went back to talking about pink toole. Babysitter? Eh, I’m not the babysitter.
It just got me thinking about this whole “designated parent” thing. The way I see it is that my wife and I are both parents. She has a career and supports the family financially. I manage the house, make dinner, and take care of our daughter all day long. But we are both equal parents. When I’m not home and my wife is with our daughter, she’s not babysitting. She’s parenting. I don’t have a list of phone numbers on the fridge, a bag of popcorn on the counter waiting to be popped, and an envelope with 20 bucks in it (or whatever the going rate is).
It’s one thing to have the government make assumptions while collecting data, but it was disappointing to see that there are people out there that have these same skewed assumptions too. All dads aren’tbuffoons, and it’s not babysitting when it’s your own kid. At least it shouldn’t be.