Daddy Day Care

What makes a man stronger?

Showing that he cares.

This is the message of the new #RealStrength campaign by Dove, which promotes the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives. It has become more common for fathers to play a prominent role in children’s lives, which is a huge step in the right direction towards gender equality. In the past, parenthood was strictly the mother’s domain, and the father’s connection to his family was mainly economic, as he was the sole breadwinner for the family. As times are changing, so are family dynamics.

If you haven’t seen the inspirational commercial, I encourage you to do so:

Joel Graham, a stay at home dad on the show Parenthood, depicts this shift in gender roles perfectly. Joel’s wife Julia is a successful lawyer, and Joel manages life at home with their two young children, Sydney and Victor. It is fantastic that a popular show such as Parenthood depicts the changing dynamics of parenting in the 21st century.

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While cultural norms may be changing, it does not seem as though the US Government is on board with this shift. Surprisingly, the 2010 US Census deemed fathers who stay home with their children as “care.” (In 2010, fathers stayed home 32% of the time). Thus, stay at home dads are categorized with childcare institutions such as as daycare or childcare centers. What is it called when the mother stays home with the child? Well, that’s just what a mother does.

A post to the Motherlode blog in the New York Times, The Census Bureau Counts Fathers as “Child Care” explains this phenomenon further. If a mother goes to work every morning and the father stays home with the child, according to the US government, that is a “child care arrangement.” If the opposite occurs, it is not.

This categorization furthers the idea that caring for the home is the mother’s responsibility, and the father is a helper, rather than an equal. Have you ever heard a mother tell her children that daddy is going to babysit today while mommy runs some errands? The US census reflects this mentality about the gendering of household responsibilities.

In an article by The Huffington Post, Counting Fathers as Babysitters: Why It Matters, a father recalls taking care of his two daughters while his wife was out of town. Many of his friends asked him how the baby-sitting was going. Would this occur for a mother? I’m not so sure about that.

This categorization by the US government has serious implications on our daily lives. How can we expect to break down gender roles if our own government does not demonstrate equality in their language and categorization of our citizens? In order to alter our behaviors and believe in the involvement of fathers, we must change our mentality about fatherhood and motherhood. The language used by the US census seems to be prohibiting this shift.

What do you think about the role of fathers? How can we overcome this huge setback to promoting the involvement of fathers? Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “Daddy Day Care

  1. I ALWAYS think of Joel from Parenthood when it comes to gender equality in home vs. work life!

    “Dadvertising” (like the Dove Real Strength commercial) is all the rage now, and while it is a step in the right direction, it still frustrates me to see men being praised for what women do all the time. Why should a dad who cares about and shows emotion towards his children be praised for having strength when women are constantly doing this? I understand that it’s breaking traditional gender stereotypes (which is awesome!) but I find it somewhat similar to “Glass Escalator” mentality: men getting praised and rewarded for doing “women’s work” such as taking care of children.


    1. Thank you for your comment! I completely agree with you. What do you think would be a solution though? I think this advertisement is a good starting point because it is showing men that it is okay to be nurturing (which goes against much of what men are told about what it means to be masculine in our culture). Whereas otherwise the ad space might have been filled with a commercial showing beef jurkey or beer and how masculine that is. I think we need to start somewhere, and this is a subtle way to break down gender stereotypes/norms/roles. Do you think it should be done in a different way?


      1. I definitely agree that we need to start somewhere, but we can’t just remain complacent in our advertising. I agree that this is breaking gender norms, but saying that it’s different than the normally sexist ads isn’t good enough. We have to keep pushing boundaries and continue to ask more of advertisers. I would love to see a partnership commercial, where both parents share nurturing duties.


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