Did the US Census Count Fathers As Babysitters – or Did Fathers?
Days ago, I came across this story on the “parenting” blog “The Motherlode” on the New York Times site. I won’t go into –
Okay, yes I will: as of right now, it’s completely unacceptable for a parenting blog that’s presented as a parenting blog to be called “the Motherlode.” We already did this song-and-dance with Lisa Belkin, who used to write for the NYT‘s “Motherlode” and ditched it for a more gender-neutral blog on The Huffington Post called “Parentry.” This leaves the NYT just hiring more women (and John O’Neil) to talk about parenting under the name “Motherlode.” Yes, we all love your awesome tongue-in-cheek wordplay. It’s incredible. Now get with the times.
Coincidentally, 8BitDad is immune to that gender-neutral rule because we’re up-front about being a site about “fatherly-opinions”. We’re not a parenting blog. We’re a really unfair watchdog that watches the watchdogs.
Okay, so now that we’re done with that, I sat on the story for a couple of days, because every time I started writing, I just kept talking about how the name “Motherlode” infuriated me. Yeah, I’m petty like that. Then tonight, I saw that the Huffington Post “Parents” section covered this, and the only offensive thing I could find was the purple “women” button, but I’m giving HuffPo credit because they used to have a completely pink header on the section if I remember correctly.
I still haven’t mentioned the story. This is going famously for me so far.
So, The United States Census Bureau recently released a report (found in our “Via” section. It’s Latin.) called “Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005/Summer 2006” where they wonder just that: who in the world is looking after those darn kids?
“Deciding which child care arrangement to use has become an increasingly important family issue as maternal employment has become the norm, rather than the exception,” says the study. And here’s where the fire got lit under the Motherlode, and consequently, HuffPoet Kristin Maschka. Both swoop in and immediately are offended by the report’s suggestion that fathers are merely a child care arrangement. But I don’t know if I ever saw that in the report. I mean, sure, the Census report is a little mom-centric, and doesn’t mention fathers until page 15, at which point they address fathers for approximately 2.5 pages of the 26-page report…but I don’t think I’m too outraged, and I’ll explain. But first…
Where both ladies are absolutely correct is that mothers shouldn’t be looked at as the only viable parenting option when fathers are perfectly capable of doing the same things moms are doing. And though it’s such a hot topic and internet-common thing to see fathers talking about raising kids, the US Census Bureau is clearly not seeing fathers as parents for some reason.
HuffPo‘s Maschka is right. “The government spends millions of dollars collecting and reporting economic data so that businesses can make decisions about where to build a factory or how many people to hire and what to pay them. Likewise the Census Bureau collects data on how people are spending their time and who is doing what in different segments of our population,” she says. Oh, and continues: “All this data is used by local, state, and national governments to determine how a piece of legislation will impact people and the economy and what types of services are needed by their communities. People use the data every day to make good, informed decisions that affect a lot of people. When communities and governments don’t have good data, we can get misguided solutions on a grand scale.”
So what happened? Clearly there are a lot of fathers out there, loud about being home with kids. Why does the Census actually show LOWER numbers for fathers providing primary care in 2005 than in 1988 (see page 17 of the report)?
Well, the devil’s in the details. The table in question is entitled “Fathers Providing Care for Children With Employed Mothers: Selected Years, 1988 to 2005” They also explain below that it’s “limited to married fathers with employed wives.” Then, in a footnote, they also explain, “Beginning in 1997, primary arrangements are derived from the number of hours each arrangement is used each week rather than a direct question asking for the primary arrangement as used in prior surveys. Also prior to 1997, information on father care was only collected if mentioned as being the primary or secondary care arrangement.”
There are so many details, caveats and side-talks here that I’m not really sure what these numbers represent anymore. But the point is that they’re low for the amount of ruckus us fathers are putting out there on the internet. Are fathers not talking to Census people? Or are we still the “lesser” parent and care-giver, as Maschka and what’s-her-name at Motherlode are taking offense to? Clearly, the Census is shows that primary-caregiver fathers are disappearing – or did all of their conditions ruin the stats?
BTW, thanks to the Huffington Post‘s Kristin Maschka and what’s-her-face at the Motherlode (I’m not going back there to check, it was JK Starbeamer or something) for standing up for fathers. We’ve hit a point in time where dads are, in some arenas, an underdog, and it’s good to have allies. Plus, like we at 8BitDad always say, we need each other – mothers need fathers’ help to be able to go to work, and fathers need mothers’ help in order to stay home with the kids. So, we appreciate it. Even you, KO Streetfighter.
So again – how did fathers tank their own numbers? I don’t know. But again, Maschka’s right: “What we measure and how we measure it matter.”