Parenting Perceptions

Parenting Perceptions February 15, 2012

K.J. dell’ Antonia:

What does this say about our culture?

“It’s not baby-sitting when Daddy does it.”

It’s been seven years, but I’ve never forgotten those words. My neighbor across the street was heading out for work, tall, well-dressed and ready. Her child, a few years older than mine, had just wailed, “But I don’t want Daddy to baby-sit!” She squashed that plaint like a bug, and five minutes later (I was pushing my son on the swing in their front yard) I saw her car head down the driveway.

It’s not baby-sitting when Daddy does it. Who wouldn’t agree with that? The U.S. Census Bureau, apparently. When both parents are present in the household, the Census Bureau assumes for the purposes of its “Who’s Minding the Kids?” report, that the mother is the “designated parent.” And when the designated parent is working or at school, the bureau would like to know who’s providing child care.

If the answer is Daddy, as it was 26 percent of the time when these numbers were last released, in 2005, and 32 percent of the time in 2010, the Census Bureau calls that “care.” But if Mom is caring for a child while Dad’s at work, that’s not a “child care arrangement,” but something else. Parenting, presumably.


"Thanks for these 3 posts, Scot. May we never forget this great civil rights giant. ..."

The Dream Of The Letter
"This is truly beautiful, inspiring us to get into the presence of God so we ..."

Priests To One Another
"On church history, yes, in some ways."

Jesus According to…
"Loved that book. I was thinking the same thing."

Jesus According to…

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I had that exact conversation today! My response to the subject was, ‘He can’t babysit, he’s Dad. It’s called ‘parenting.”

    I got a few funny looks, but one or two people did see my point.

  • Jen

    It has always bothered me that when I go out alone at night or to a women’s retreat at church, people ask me who’s with my boys. And my answer that their dad is with them is always met with some surprise.
    I realize I am, as a stay at home parent, the “designated parent” when my husband is at work. But nights and weekends he is home and perfectly happy to parent his kids without me.

  • RJS

    Wow. And all these years I thought we sacrificed and arranged things carefully to avoid “child care.” Little did I know.

    (As a clarification however, external child care can be the best arrangement for some people and I am not making a blanket negative statement about this option.)

  • DRT

    The pinnacle of my parenting came one day when wifey was out for the evening leaving me with the three kids, all 5 or less. We had a great time.

    When Mommy came home she asked how it went, and my 5 year old said “We had fun! Daddy is a Daddy Mommy”. I loved it.

  • DRT

    ….or it was Mommy Daddy…I think…

  • Matt Edwards

    Nice! I “solo parent” 16 hours per week while my wife works. If she pays me, is it tax deductable?

  • Just think…all of these men taking care of their kids while their wives work; Driscoll’s church would remove you from membership.

  • Tim

    When our kids were young, my wife had to fly to a funeral and took our daughter with her while ur son stayed with me. When his sister returned, he took her aside and said, “Stay here with Daddy next time. We got to go out for ice cream and to the movies and miniature golfing!”


  • Kevin Glenn

    My wife and I are both in school, so we have a very scheduled parenting system. She’s the designated parent during the day, I take over in the evening (while she’s in class). We have two kids (15 and 10). The teamwork has made our family closer than ever, and I have to admit that I love the “night shift” with my kiddos!!

  • I don’t know if I’m madder at the people who stereotype in this way or the men who figure so prominently in the glorification of idiotic behavior that promotes the notion in the first place.

  • Barb

    I worked outside the home, my husband worked inside from before our daughter was born–so it was really the only choice for us. He, however, unfortunately feels that he judged negatively by society and especially by the church.

  • It’s stuff like this that angers me. We hear groups harp so much on how fathers aren’t taking their responsibility as dad seriously. Is it any wonder when we are surrounded by discourse that treats dads as “child care providers?”

    Another point made in the article, which is a good one, is that this kind of gender role stereotyping also places huge burdens and strains on low-income single-parent mothers. It’s OK to be a dead-beat dad because if he was in the picture, he’d simply be a caregiver, while the mom is the “designated parent.”

    It’s pretty interesting to take a look at the history of family and how our current paradigm of man as breadwinner and woman as caregiver came about. Bonne Thorten Dill in an essay entitled “Our Mothers’ Grief” and Stephanie Coontz in her book The Way We Never Were have some great analysis of this. What conservatives tend to think of “traditional family” hasn’t really existed for that long in the scope of history.

  • It is not quite the same (although I know a lot of Dads that are primary caregiver during the day), but I am a nanny for my two nieces. I have done it since they were born (now about 4.5 and 3 years). I started doing it because I was the only one working at home and my consulting work, since I had recently moved was not full time.

    I love being their nanny. I am all for stay at home parents of either gender. But it isn’t for everyone. My sister-in-law and her husband are good parents. But neither is temperamentally suited to full time stay at home parenting.

    Most often, my job choice is ignored or I am heaped some sort of accolade, which is always odd to me since so many parent stay at home with their kids, just like what I am doing.

    I am just glad my wife and I made some good financial decisions that mean I can do this, that my wife is ok being primary breadwinner (as she has been for all 15 years of our marriage) and that the girls are fairly tolerant when I have to take work phone calls.

    (by the way, I was very pleased the other day when my nieces were playing Mommy and Daddy when it was the Daddy that was primarily taking care of their baby. My girls will grow up with very different gender expectations than many other children.)