The Trump campaign doesn’t care about dads

Why are fathers invisible?

Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka in 2010. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka in 2010. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Ivanka Trump has now followed up her policy role in her father’s presidential campaign with an ad touting the proposals she crafted for him.

“The most important job any woman can have is being a mother,” the ad starts out, before making promises that Donald Trump will enact tax benefits for child care and paid maternity leave.

There is no shortage of irony in Republicans declaring motherhood the most important role: the party has historically only agreed with that sentiment when the woman in question is well-off. When poor mothers were thought to be relying on welfare benefits to stay home with their children, they were called “welfare queens,” and legislation was enacted to push them into paid work. Some states still have policies in place meant to limit how many children lower-income women have.

But what the ad really demonstrates is just how little Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House cares about fathers.

Aside from Trump himself, Dads are almost invisible in Ivanka’s ad spot. Two men who may be parents appear briefly, but mostly it’s women she’s focused on. “My father will change outdated labor laws so they support women and American families,” she says, as if children only ever have one female parent.

Fathers are invisible in the Trump policy proposals, too. Last month he released a proposal to guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave for birth mothers, the first paid-leave plan ever put forward by a Republican presidential nominee. But fathers, as well as adoptive parents, would be completely left out. Men would still only be guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and only then if they’re in the 60 percent of Americans who actually qualify. Otherwise, they might get no time off work to spend with their infant child.

Similar themes crop up in his childcare plan, which would allow families that earn $500,000 or less to deduct the cost of childcare from their taxes. He clearly has women in mind, even though a parent of any gender could take advantage of the tax deduction. “Having employed and empowered thousands of women at every level throughout his entire career, Donald Trump understands the needs of the modern workforce,” the campaign said in a fact sheet outlining his proposal. In laying out the case for it, the campaign rattles off statistics about working mothers.

Ignoring fathers in policy design can actually hurt the women Ivanka says her father is trying to help. When generous benefits, such as long maternity leaves, are mandated for women and not men, studies have found that they hurt women’s employment and pay. Employers may see all women as potential mothers and therefore costly investments, but not worry about men if fathers aren’t also covered.

On the flip side, when men are offered paid leave, they are more likely to take time off when a new child arrives, which has been found to boost women’s employment and incomes.

Failing to include dads in a paid-leave plan also demeans the role of fatherhood and ignores the needs of today’s working men. In one study, two-thirds of fathers said they want to split child rearing equally with their partners. Yet it’s hard for them to pull it off: less than a third said that’s how things worked in reality. About 45 percent of today’s fathers say they spend too little time with their children — double the share of mothers who feel the same way.

Women are still doing the bulk of the work at home, taking time out of their careers at higher rates to care for family members and spending much more time every week doing those household tasks. But leaving men out of the conversation and ignoring the increasing role fathers want to play only makes the situation worse.