Calling All Dads

There has been a considerable amount of outrage lately throughout the dad community, particularly the dad blogging community, over a label. In its “Who’s Minding the Kids?” report, the U.S. Census Bureau refers to stay-at-home dads as “child care,” even though those dads are obviously the primary care providers in the family. Essentially, babysitters. The report also lists moms as the “designated parent” if both a mom and dad exist in the household, or in single-parent homes. But dads, stay-at-home dads in particular, are not happy.

Of course, moms have been the traditional primary caregiver pretty much since the beginning of time. Over the past decade or so, a small shift has occurred and more dads are staying home with the kids. Still, we dads have a long way to go before we catch up in the child-care street-cred department.

But that’s not stopping involved dads from circulating a petition to put us on equal footing with moms when dads are the “designated parent.”  I signed the petition in solidarity with the dads I know and admire. Dads who stay at home and take care of the family. Or Dads who, like me, work but are active participants in the lives of their children.

I do, however, have news for all of these irritated dads, myself included: we are not the problem. In fact, I think we may be in the minority. The truth is, a lot of dads are fine with being called the babysitter. They call themselves that. And if their wives or girlfriends or whomever happen to need them to watch the brood for a finite amount of time, they roll their eyes, sigh deeply and grin and bear it. Again, THEY call it babysitting.

I recently took a day off from work to get our house in order – literally – after we returned from a Disney vacation. I performed the normal duties a stay-at-home parent might tackle any day. Meal preparation, school drop-off, food shopping, laundry, house cleaning. And it made me realize: I’d be damned if I’m the babysitter today. I shared my feelings with my Facebook community and was surprised that a lot of the moms who commented said I was the exception, not the rule. That not all dads are active and involved. That the men in their office constantly refer to spending time with their kids, without their wife, as “babysitting.” Some moms even said they don’t trust the dads with more than the basics, and for good reason.

A light bulb went on inside my head. Let’s face it: there are tons of guys out there who still pull the old ball-and-chain routine when referring to their significant others. There are too many guys out there who don’t cook, do laundry or give the kids a bath. There are even guys out there who would rather have a guys’ night out instead of a family movie night.

And those are the guys the Census report reflects. And no petition will change things until these guys get out of the dark ages, throw on an apron every now and then, roll up their sleeves and get some Play-Doh under their fingernails.

I am fortunate. I see involved dads every day in my life. Family members and friends. At work. At my daughter’s school. At dance class. But until the vocal minority becomes the majority, until these guys recognize being a father and being a dad are two totally different things, we will all be considered the babysitter. And you know what? Big deal.

Let’s drop the righteous indignation. Let’s realize who we’re really talking about. Let’s stop demanding respect from a government bureaucracy who decided on a silly label based on a survey of a measly 35,000 households. The only people I need respect from is my family. My wife and my little girl. And as long as they call me husband and dad, everyone else can call me whatever the hell they want.

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I am a television news producer at a national financial network based in NYC. I have also produced, with the help of my lovely wife, one amazing little girl. I refer to my wife as My Director and my daughter as Peanut. We live in NJ with our dog, Luna. I blog about all of our shenanigans. I am passionate, blunt, and opinionated. I like to make you laugh, cry and think. Sometimes but not necessarily all at once. And as my blog header says, I am often wrong. Yet never in doubt.

18 thoughts on “Calling All Dads”

  1. While I agree that the whining is unbecoming I think the bigger issue I want to address is holding men to a higher standard as fathers. Instead of complaining about a survey that reports what people are thinking I want to go after that thinking that lead to the survey. When told by a mom picking up her kid at school that her husband would never do all the things I do for my family I told her that said more about him than it did about me. 

    1. My point exactly! I should have had you copy edit my post. You could have boiled it down a lot quicker than I did. Hahaha.

  2. I think there are women out there just picking the wrong guys. My husband spends time with our boys and doesn’t think of it as “babysitting”. I’m a stay at home mom and most of the time I have the house work done, as it is my job since I’m home, but he will gladly step in and do that too if I need it. Good for you for being a great dad. =)

  3. Yes, you can go after the individual thinking, but some people will also just live up to any label they can use as an excuse.  If we can get the label changed, that speaks to something on a subconscious level.  If the government says your role is “babysitter” then the bare minimum is to live up to that label, and the rest of us are overachievers.  It’s the same reason I speak up against negative stereotypes of dads in the media – if we can change the stereotype, there will be one less excuse for dads to not be involved.  Yes, I wish I could speak to every father face to face and tell him to man up, but I can’t.  And the fact is, those type of guys are probably not going to read our blogs.  But if we do band together to get some of the larger institutions to change their perceptions of dad and reflect that in their survey (or advertising or whatever) then that reaches nearly every household.  This is a both and situation.  Let’s BOTH set the example AND call others to do the same in whatever way that we are able.  

  4. The entire issue is so periphery to the bigger things all parents, male or female, face. These men need to stop trying to prove to the world they are good parents and just shut up and be one. 

    Personally speaking every one of themwho signed that petition embarrassed themselves.  

  5. Very nice. Good job leading the charge. You’re right, though. Many MANY men need to wake the hell up.

  6. Right on…I was inspired by my friend Ted Rubin to STOP playing the “Dad victim.” We’re doing JUST fine. Society is starting to “get” us just as society finally got women working and staying home. Now, it’s the reverse. Give it time and it’ll be just fine!

    1. Bruce, I respect what you’re saying, but I have to disagree with you here. There are those of us that choose to take an active role in engaging in conversation with brands about their advertising.  It’s not that we’re whining to be included or respected, but we’re asking that they reflect the changing modern family and promote positive, involved fatherhood. Of course whether they choose to do so is on them.  With the advent of social media and the internet, we now have the power to speak directly to a brand.  Generations before us have not had this power before, and yes, to wait for the brands to catch up to the culture was the (sorry) old way of doing things.

      I, for one, don’t want to wait for all of them to “get it” when we have the power to speed up the process.  I think even Ted would agree that if a company wants to engage in a “relationship” with its customers for the opportunity of a “return” on their investment, the conversation has to be a two way street.  They don’t have to change, of course, but why should we not use the tools available to move the conversation FORWARD into a new territory of embracing involved fatherhood?  If we can stop the media stereotypes, perhaps we can begin to change thinking on a broader scale and possibly speed up the process of making the involved dad the new stereotype (which would be awesome!).  I am thrilled to be a part of that conversation, and I hope there are other dads that join us. 

      1. Good response Matt…I am very GLAD for dad bloggers like YOU that do this! I’ll more or less say I stand corrected! Whining is one thing. Standing up and speaking out – like a MAN/Dad is another and YOU are doing that, for which I’m grateful…maybe that’s all I’m saying…

  7. Great post! We are definitely in the minority, but it is truly our family that can be the judge as to what kind of husband/dad/man we are. I agree we should stop worrying about what the other bloggers, companies, and gov’t organizations say about us. It’s just hard pill to swallow sometimes when we are lumped in with all of the men who do consider themselves “babysitters”, meanwhile we are working our asses off to be the best dads we can. 

  8. A stay at home dad is still looked at as secondary…like a father cuoldn’t be a stay at home dad that is the primary care giver while a mother works.  Especially in these economic times and with women earning the same or more than men in many areas.  Sometimes shifting the old family dynamic makes sense. Time for the gov to catchup.

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