Post image for …About The Roles of Moms AND Dads in Caring for Kids

…About The Roles of Moms AND Dads in Caring for Kids

by The Momma on February 10, 2012

The Daddy: Fathers as Childcare According to the Census Bureau-WTF? or Seriously, WTF???!?!??

The Momma: These are the kinds of things that make my head explode. Because OH MY GOD IT IS 2012 WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING LIKE FATHERS ARE BABYSITTING WHEN THEY TAKE CARE OF THEIR KIDS?
M:
Sorry. I clearly get worked up about this.

D: No, I’m totally with you, but then I don’t have the added rage of being a woman in a “modern” day where they’re still expected to be some Little House on the Prairie housewife type of stereotypical bullshit thing. Isn’t this 2012? Who’s making these decisions?

M: Well, it’s twofold for me. Yes, I get SUPREMELY agitated and pissed at the idea that ONLY women are able to parent. It’s part of what leads to discrimination against moms in the workplace (where dads don’t face the same thing), societal misogyny, and probably helps the mommy wars thrive. But it also bothers me because I think it both lets men off the hook and completely ignores their capabilities as parents. As much as I want to be recognized for the work I’m able at doing outside the home (and, by the way, that I’m damn good at), I want men to be recognized for the work they are able to do in the home (like you, who, by the way, is damn good at it).

D: That’s the aggravating part on my sex’s front: it also seems a little degrading to men in the implication that: Fathers who stay at home to take care of their kids are these poor helpless creatures for whom the job is “even more work” than for a woman, who is naturally designed to pump out babies and be a mommy, and serve her husband a martini when he walks in the door. Just as I think what I do is important, and the situation that defines our life, if the roles were reversed, I wouldn’t hold you to this standard that you’re “expected” to be a housemommy, with all the baggage and trappings that go along. Parents parent their children. It’s a two part deal. If it’s two dads, two moms, or a mom and a dad, there are obligations on both sides. Neither side is “more important” either, just different.

M: That’s the crux of it. Parent’s parent, or should. Why are we making these distinctions? WHYYYYYY?

D: I feel like over the past few years we’ve taken a step back in terms of women’s equality. That’s probably a whole ‘nother topic, but this whole census issue just seems so strange. I guess my biggest issue goes back to the implication that men and women each have a specific “place” in society, which in 2012, just seems bananas. Granted, I’m an art guy, who’s not the typical “manly man” in all that entails, but frankly, I think that’s a good thing. Too many problems arise in life when these labels and expectations are wrapped around people, because they simply don’t account for the real world. Not every woman wants to (or can) just stay home and be a mommy and not every man wants to watch sports and leave the parenting to Mommy. People are too unique to have to face up to these expectations, and I think it’s where a lot of strife comes in marriages and with family.

M: Well, and it goes beyond the individual marriages and family. Think about it–if this is how a government institution is looking at the roles of parenting, is it any wonder we don’t have better maternity leaves, or support for nursing/pumping moms, or family friendly companies? Because if the government is focusing on this disparity, why would there be any governmental support for policies and programs that help working moms?

D: Well you know, working moms are the anomaly. If they REALLY cared about their families, they’d be at home raising their children. Of course I’m kidding. I don’t understand this continued war against women. It’s 2012 and so many of this country’s policies and attitudes seem firmly grounded in the 1920s. The fact that women earn less, have fewer individual rights and this new disparity are all a little terrifying for the state of a woman, and I’m a dude! I can’t imagine the constant frustration you and your feminine ilk must face every freaking day.

M: I think that’s part of why this bothers me so much. I’m sure a lot of people are going to say, “what? It’s just a terminology thing, it’s just a phrase.” But the thing is, words and the attitudes behind them have power. By basically saying dads are babysitters, the government is just perpetrating the stereotypes that in 2012, just don’t make any sense to me.

D: See, but it ISN’T just terminology. Because there shouldn’t be a separate term. If a mom stays home to raise her kid, or a dad does it, there should be no difference. I think some of the danger comes from ironically, the discussion by some moms that “being a mom” is one of the most magical things on earth, and what they really mean is “being a stay-at-home mom.” Because I think these same moms, if the roles were reversed, wouldn’t be too keen on the idea of going to work while Dad stays home to raise the child, and you have to wonder how that factors into play. What about dads who want nothing better than to stay home and raise the kid they themselves love so much? Do they not get the same wish for that magical experience? In this way, some moms take on the same idiosyncratic stereotypes that are the ammunition for the other side of the argument. Is the argument then made that “well, it’s different because I’m his/her mom”? If it’s a “mom’s place” to be home with her child, because as a woman she’s naturally “more suited” to the experience than men, why would legislation that says the same be a problem? That opens up a whole new Pandora’s Box that will have to be addressed if people REALLY want to examine all sides of this. (For the record, I obviously don’t agree with this viewpoint, let it be clear that I’m offering a devil’s advocate argument.)

M: That IS quite the Pandora’s Box, and perhaps best addressed another time. But at the crux of what you said, and what we’ve been getting at–it DOES matter. The terminology matters, because the reality is that parenting is parenting is parenting no matter which partner is doing. Calling it something different for one of us than the other creates a whole host of issues that it’s really long past time for us to have moved on from.

D: Hear, hear!

M: What do you think, readers? Do you have an opinion on the matter, one way or the other? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

TechyDad February 10, 2012 at 10:47 am

Stuff like this really gets me mad. When I take care of the kids, I’m parenting. When my wife does it, she’s parenting. Sometimes we even parent together. She’s not the “primary parent” with me as some sort of “backup parent in case Mommy needs a break.” (The pinch runner of parenting?) Someone really needs to tell the Census Bureau to get out of the 1950′s and enter the 21st century.

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Lisa February 10, 2012 at 10:47 am

Oh, this is a tough one. One weekend, before we moved, I went down to the other house to work and my dad asked, “Where is James? Home babysitting?” I kind of internally gasped thinking that internets would have fits if they heard him use the b-word. Then I realized that it didn’t really bother me that much. If it had been me at home, I’m sure he would have said the same thing to James. We view it quite literally, someone is actually sitting with the baby. She can’t stay by herself so someone has to stay/sit with her.

Now, the “designated parent” thing I have a problem with, and it goes beyond the census and child care. The family court system seems to agree that mom is the “designated parent” based on the positive bias toward moms in custody situations. This Daddy as the #2 parent stuff needs to end.

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Sheila February 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Oh, that makes me angry too. I’m a SAHM and my husband works … but when he’s home, we both “do parenting.” And when I have someplace to be and he’s not working … he “does parenting” by himself. Not childcare. Parenting.

Like you, I cannot freaking believe we’re still having this discussion. Didn’t we work out that men and women were equal a long time ago?

But that point of view is NOT dead, and it’s NOT just language. I happened to mention on my blog, off-hand, that if my husband didn’t love his job and if I found a good opportunity outside the home, we’d be willing to switch places. And oh, I made one commenter upset. Did I think we were just INTERCHANGEABLE? Don’t I realize that a baby needs his MOTHER because she’s his MOTHER? (Yes, that was the exact reasoning.) I granted that it’s much more convenient for me to stay home, being the one with the boobs and all, but that did not satisfy this (single, non-parent) woman. I had to admit that a child NEEDS his mother and does not need his father in the same way … and I simply will.not.admit that. Sometimes we’ve got to make the sacrifice of not being with Daddy when we’d like to be … but you’d better believe the kid has just as big a meltdown when Daddy walks out the door as when I do. He loves us both, he needs us both, and we both have the responsibility to be his parents. Duh.

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