For almost six months, Coach Selby and I have lived with mild tension about our sons' music lessons. The oldest boy began violin two years ago, and while he won't be playing Carnegie any time soon, he's good. The twins are a different story. It took almost four months for them to learn to hold their bows, and they still haven't mastered the art of not dropping delicate musical instruments. Coach wants to pull them out, while I want to keep at it, acknowledging they will work at their own pace.
Finally, I said to him, "I am the 'designated parent;' you are merely 'childcare arrangement.' My opinion trumps all."
Okay, no, I didn't really say this. But if I had, the United States Census Bureau would have backed me up. According to the "Who's Minding the Kids?" report, when both parents are present, the mother is the "designated parent." Hence, when father goes to work, it's assumed that mother is watching the kids.
The study, first released in 2006, sought to discover what happened to the children now that "maternal employment has become the norm rather than the exception."
In 2010 fathers were the primary "child care provider" 32 percent of the time. How often is mother the "child care provider" when father works? Well, since she is the "designated parent," and therefore the one responsible for the kids, we apparently need not worry about that.
This is a dangerous picture of family life in America. Studies like this send the message that when Father does the work of parenting, it's a job—"childcare." But when Mother does it, she doesn't "work," but rather "stays home" with the kids (a belief reflected in the common question, "Do you stay home, or do you work?").
It's not just the Census Bureau either. I am a work-at-home freelance ...1
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