Early Ed Watch

A Blog from New America's Early Education Initiative

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Child Care, Preschool, and American Families

Published:  June 28, 2013
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Photo Courtesy of Conor Williams. All rights reserved.

The last few news cycles have confirmed what researchers already knew: American families, conceptions of marriage, and views on gender are changing fast. In 1975, nearly half of American households followed the traditional “dad-at-work, mom-at-home” model. Less than one-third of families use that model today. Twice as many dads stay home with their children now as did a decade ago. And today, over 40 percent of mothers are the “sole or primary providers” in their households today.

As advocates of better public support for early childhood education know, the pace of political response to such changes is generally sluggish at best. Despite encouraging proposals to make preschool universally accessible and reauthorize No Child Left Behind and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, all have relatively dim prospects for becoming law.

Among other things, this means that parents of young children will be stuck navigating a fast changing social and economic world with an education system designed to meet challenges from the past. As the primary caretaker for my own two children, I can confirm that parents are still deciphering these new pressures and family models. In an article published today at the Daily Beast, I write:

Even in my liberal Beltway enclave, dads like me face pretty constant, emasculating ridicule for putting fatherhood above career. Most definitions of masculinity can accommodate shirts soaked with sweat, blood, or ambiguous grime...but not applesauce. Very few of history’s notable men counted competent diaper changes amongst their primary talents...Is this as it should be? No. That’s why I think of myself as a “new” man, as someone whose version of masculinity includes shouldering the bulk of our family’s child care. My son weighs more than most cannonballs, and he moves nearly as quickly—it takes a real man to shelter the house (and his sister) from these artillery-grade payload specs.

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