‘Who’s Taking Care of the Kids?’ Is Finally a Question for Dads on the Trail, Too

Being an involved parent can be a political asset for a male politician, making him appear more compassionate and understanding, but it is simply another expectation for a female politician.

You can be a good dad without knowing your kids have to be at school a half an hour early every Thursday,” Ms. Lockman said. “You can’t be a good mom without knowing that. Men don’t realize fully what the burdens of family life are even when they are good fathers,” she added. “They’re blind to what their wives do.”

In previous presidential races, fathers have taken steps to manage the emotional impact of the presidential campaign on family life, like moving their families to Iowa during the campaign or setting aside at least one day a week to be home with family, though perhaps not much of the actual domestic workload. During his first campaign for president, Barack Obama did a decent amount of parenting over the phone, which had its limitations.

“Michelle won’t keep them up just to talk to their father,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president and a family friend, told The New York Times in 2007. “Bedtime is part of their normalcy. It isn’t going to be interrupted because he’s at a fund-raiser.”

Rarely, though, did anyone discuss the details of their babysitting, feeding or bath schedules with the candidate. And whether the father-turned-candidate was playing a big enough role back home was simply not a question that anyone at a New Hampshire town hall or a meet-and-greet at an Iowa City brewery ever piped up to ask.

Now, it is. Sometimes, at least.

“It’s come up a couple of times,” said Mr. Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who said people at campaign events occasionally asked where his kids were and who was watching them. He is planning to bring his children, who are 10 and 4, to the first presidential debate at the end of the month.

Of course, in a historically crowded primary field, at least one candidate has a plan for dealing with those kinds of uniquely electoral parenting challenges.

“We should pool together for child care,” Mr. Swalwell joked. “Whoever comes up with the child-care option for the debate nights in Miami, we would pay anything to have that problem solved.”

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