Monday, February 13, 2012

An Open Letter to the U.S. Census Bureau

Dear Census People,

The folks at BlogHer picked this up, and I just saw it today.  

In a study of childcare arrangements done by the census, childcare provided by mothers is counted as parenting, but childcare provided by fathers is counted as babysitting.  

And the report isn’t subtle about it.  In the words of the report, on the first page:

In households where both parents are present, the mother is counted as the designated parent.

That’s bad enough, but it gets worse just one sentence later:

If the mother is not available for an interview, the father can give proxy responses for her.

Proxy responses.  You know, if you can’t find the real parent.

The survey only asked about child care provided by the father for the time the designated parent was working.

Wow.  By that logic, since TW stays home, I don’t do any parenting at all!

This comes as news to me.  I would have thought that the hours I spent lying on my back, with my arm outstretched upward, holding little TB’s hand through the crib slats until he stopped crying and went to sleep, counted as parenting.  Apparently not.  Or maybe the week that I spent shuttling between home and the NICU, where I held my newborn daughter gently, so as not to disturb the IV stitched into her head.  No?

Sorry, my bad.

All those books read aloud, diapers changed, baths given, meals made, sleep lost, dishes done, soccer games, t-ball games, baseball games, soccer games, basketball games, parent-teacher conferences, emotional crises, family trips, skipped evening events, training wheels,  heart-to-heart talks, tickle fights, board games, unwatchable kids’ movies, sledding, skiing, hiking, holding...nothing?

No.  Apparently, that pesky Y chromosome invalidates it all.

This is madness.

You don’t encourage men to step up as parents by dismissing our efforts as babysitting.  

Census people, I have endured idiotic charges of “patriarchalism” from critics who assume from my pseudonym that I’m some kind of Archie Bunker character.  And I’ve endured charges of aloofness from coworkers who don’t understand why I go straight home every night after work.

I will say this one time.

I am a parent.  A devoted, sleep-deprived, frustrated, proud, consumed, active, worried, imperfect, unapologetic, parent.  As are millions of other men just like me.  I am not a babysitter, a stand-in, a substitute, or a proxy.  I am a father, and a damned good one.  

My seven-year-old knows that.  That man taking her to the Daddy-Daughter dance this week isn’t a babysitter.  He’s the man who has been there from the beginning, walking the walk, talking with her before she had words to respond, and who’s still here.

We’re done with this.  


Dean Dad