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.
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!