A new U.S. Census report has been released which is making waves across the stay at home dad parenting community with regards to the wording of how stay at home dads are treated and classified in the Census.
The report, which can be read here, classifies fathers who stay home as “alternative child care” instead of what they really are – parents. The discord is in the wording and categorization. In a home where both parents are present, the mother is the designated parent.
In the rest of the study, the word parent is used to refer to the designated parent (mom). The problems really start to arise when they look at working moms. Apparently needing to have a phrase that sums up all types of care-giving for the children of working mothers, they use the phrase child care arrangement as the broadest category. From there, it breaks down into relative (family members) and non-relative (babysitters, neighbors, friends, and also the subcategories of family daycare providers and organized child care facilities (which is a funny statement in itself) that includes child care centers, preschools, Head Start, and even Kindergarten if the child is still under five years of age. So, a father that chooses to be an at-home parent while his spouse works is considered a relative child care arrangement. According to this New York Times blog, and a subsequent report by the Huffington Post, the same is not true of the opposite. That is, if a father is working, the mother is not a relative child care arrangement. That is apparently something else – parenting.
This wording seems to be in direct contradiction with what the U.S. Census Bureau states, “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.” However, under the current classification on the SIPP (Survey of Income and Program Participation) moms are a designated parent and dads are a childcare arrangement. To equate father-provided care with grandparent, or sibling provided care, as something functionally different from mother-provided care, does not accurately portray the arrangement, or the social, economic, and policy consequences of it.
Petitions have been drafted to try to change the wording, as the issue is more than just a gripe about the choice of words but how stay at home fathers are perceived on a fundamental basis.