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 writer, and, for now, we do not employ childcare. Hence, my husband regularly cares for our boys while I write. Almost every single time (two to three times a week) he comes home fuming about someone commenting on his "babysitting," "giving Mom a break," or "boys' day out."

"I am their Dad," he says to them. "This isn't babysitting. It's parenting." (Yes, he says that to complete strangers.)

Over the years, Coach has also cared for our children while I traveled to Central Asia and Africa, to conferences and retreats, and regularly at those aforementioned violin lessons. Does he do this because he's "helping" me, giving me a break from my non-job of parenting to work on my "real" job of writing? Of course not. He does it because he's their father, and it's about time fathers began to take a serious part in their children's lives.

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The good news from the Census Bureau study is that, apparently, they are. Over five years, the bureau tracked a 6 percent increase in the number of fathers that cared for their children while mom worked, growing from 26 percent in 2005 to 32 percent in 2010. My husband is not alone in his role as an involved dad. In fact, in an informal poll of my writers guild, almost every member worked in partnership with her husband, providing income and childcare.

So, why is it so surprising? We still seem to have the image of the working father and the stay-at-home mother of the 1950s. (For the record, I have yet to wear heels and pearls to vacuum.) Yet in this Facebook generation, where college dropouts start multibillion-dollar companies in their dorm rooms, we are hardly earning money the same ways.

Moms and dads are both beginning to work at home more. Companies better understand the benefits of flex time and telecommuting for both parents. Plenty of people are eschewing corporate life altogether and working for themselves out of their home. This creates a different dynamic in the home on a daily basis. Whatever the reason—recession, postmodernism, feminism—the culture of the dual parent home is beginning to more often include the father.

That is only good news for the kids, and not just so they can attempt to play one parent off the other. Studies show that children with involved fathers are more patient and ready for school in kindergarten, and they are more emotionally secure than children without involved fathers. Adolescents also benefit from active dads, exhibiting increased verbal skills and intellectual functioning.

Thankfully, it seems that many 20- and 30-somethings are onto this. While a new generation of parents may be having fewer kids, husbands and wives seemingly both take seriously the task of raising them.

Fathers matter for a child's faith, too. A 2006 Crosswalk article cites a Swiss study on children's faith, based on participation by each parent. While the faith of both parents affected church activity in children, the variance of the father mattered significantly more. Those children with faithful fathers were always more likely to continue church attendance as adults.

Of course church attendance is not always a measure of faith in God, but this small study indicates something we all know deep-down: We care about what our dads think. A faithful father, active in his children's lives, will help his kids take steps of faith they may not otherwise.

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My point is not about who should stay home and who should "win the bread." It's not about "dad-moms" or other nonsensical labels. It's about the changing times and new normals. In this economy, and with the ability for people of either gender to receive education and opportunities, it should matter more that families survive in any way they can. It's a bonus that this survival means both parents are more involved in child-rearing.

Dads are parents, not babysitters. It's good news that more families realize this than in the past and are living it out. For once, a cultural trend that is good for everyone: mothers, fathers, children, and an entire society.

Monica Selby is a freelance writer and member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She has written for Her.meneutics about antidepressants. Connect with her at her blog (, on Facebook, or on Twitter.