Friday, April 25, 2003

I'll be brief today (family in town), but wanted to point out a couple of links. The Contra Costa Times has a nice piece on the economics of going from two incomes to one. For obvious reasons (numbers), they focus on moms, but they do throw in this line: "While there are fewer statistics on stay-at-home dads, more men are making choices too. Better pay for women has resulted in more two-parent families where the mom is the sole breadwinner." It's always nice when those sorts of social trends are noted ...

Let's see ... Michael Douglas says he wants to be an at-home dad and let Catherine bring home the bucks. And I need to note this quote from a take-your-kids-to-work-day story: "I have a good friend who works in a law firm and whose husband is a stay-at-home dad," added the CEO. [Cinda Hallman of Spherion Corp.] "That's less an anomaly than it used to be." The story, on the whole, is a happy one: the idea that sons as well as daughters should be introduced to the idea of work/family balance.

Monday, April 21, 2003

I've calmed down a bit over the weekend, and there should be a tad less ranting today. First, to the mailbag: an alert Rebel Dad reader took issue with my positively positive take on researchers Andrea Doucet who is trying to establish that men can mother. The writer makes the valid point that we guys *don't* mother: "Men are not capable of mothering! We father ... And when I go to the bathroom to pee I still do it with the toilet seat up." I'm convinced.

As opening night for "Daddy Day Care" draws nearer (Rebel Dad has secured sneak preview tix and will let you all know how it ends ...), we're getting some consensus on at-home dad reaction ("not impressed and disgusted" seems to be the majority viewpoint). I'm kind of looking forward to it. It's an Eddie Murphy movie -- I don't expect my sensitivities to be pandered to -- and I rather hope that the moral of the story is that dads parent differently, but just as well, as moms.

And I heard back from the author of Denver Post story on at-home dads, who I asked about the 2 million at-home dad stat. She claims it came from Julia Shields' "How to Avoid the Mommy Trap," so off to Barnes and Noble I go to double-check it ...

And in the media, we have a posthumous entry (Terry Leonhardy) into the Rebel Dad Hall of Fame. In at-home dad profiles, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania did a superb job of following the local dads group. Not only does the piece capture dads in action, it gets the stats right (two million of us, according to 1997 Census Bureau stats) and, what's more, actually analyzes long-form census questionnaires to get something of a snapshot of the local picture. As for Rebel Dad expertwatch, Bob Frank reappears, along with Alan Hawkins, a BYU prof.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Below is a letter I just sent along to the editor in chief of Parenting on my reaction to the mag's May issue.

Dear Janet,

I just put down the new issue of Parenting -- the first issue of the redesign -- and I wanted to let you know that it looks great. I only wish it read as well. It wasn't that the articles were poorly researched or written sloppily. They were just aimed at mothers, not at me.

I'm a stay-at-home father. I take the parenting role seriously. I believe firmly that all fathers -- working dads or home dads -- should be equal partners in the child rearing, and I despair when I see the idea of fathers as caregivers dismissed, whether in seriousness or in good fun.

So I felt a little sick to my stomach when I reached the new section, ominously titled "the mom exchange," and saw a little box suggesting that dads are impatient diaper avoiders. That's a stereotype I can do without. And though my peers are probably vaguely flattered at being dubbed "cute dads at dropoff," I'm not sure we want our presence at school distilled to that of a "charmingly muddled" "passel of babes," either.

I kept turning the pages, hoping that you'd make it up to dads and throw us a bone. The cover story -- "Work? Stay Home? How to be happy with your choice" -- was a piece about the mommy wars, not about the choices that modern fathers, increasingly are also forced to make. By the time I reached "the truth about fatherhood," I was spent. Here was journalism ostensibly about XY chromosome guys -- but not written by or for us.

I've never before begrudged the mom-centric slant of Parenting, and I have slogged through the Beauty section for months with nary a word of protest. I have no doubt that your write to your primarily female subscription demographic. But in writing for that crowd -- pointedly so in May -- the magazine marginalizes half of the country's parents. At a time when more people than ever are advocating the idea of the involved father, from Yale prof Kyle Pruett's Fatherneed to James Levine's Fatherhood Project, Parenting has us pegged as "sweetly confused," diaper-ducking dads. I know it's all in good fun, but aren't those low blows nowadays?

I wish you the best of luck in the months to come, and, above bluster aside, I appreciate the magazine's effort to better meet the needs of parents. Best of luck in that endeavor.

Rebel Dad

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Things you can expect in the coming days (maybe even today!) from the quiet folks at Rebel Dad: details on the numbers in the nice Denver Post story I mentioned last weekend. And details on a disappointing redesign/refocus of Parenting magazine that makes it read like it was called "Mothering" magazine. A few highlights: a story about how new dads feel, written by women for women! ("what to tell your husband" was the thrust); a piece on how guys who drop their kids off at school are fantasy objects; and new items called "the mom exchange" and "mom-tested tips." And that's only a sampling. I can't argue that the demographic of the mag is mostly female, but it's been a long time since I felt so purposefully excluded by a general-circulation magazine.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Another Wild Saturday Night at Rebel Dad Central, lest you doubt my credentials. We have a nice stab at the usual at-home dad profile in the Denver Post. Nice bits on dads getting the cold shoulder from moms (a phenomenon I initially doubted -- I'm lucky enough not to get that myself. It's a bit like tornado victims saying the funnel cloud sounded like a train -- it pops up so often it's hard to dismiss). As far as the Rebel Dad statwatch goes, the article says that the 2000 Census found 2 million at-home dads. I have absolutely zero idea where that number comes from (mid-1990s census publications suggest similar numbers, but I've never seen a formal 2000 census number). I may have to ask the author ... and the expertwatch sees one at-home dad "expert" cited: Julie Shields, who wrote "How to Avoid the Mommy Trap.

The U.S. continues to lag behind Canada in figuring out the whole at-home dad thing, with the Ottawa Citizen profiling Andrea Doucet, who has been researching mothering fathers for a book called "Do Men Matter." None of the conclusions mentioned in the article are earth-shaking, but there's something nice about knowing that someone is interested in the question of what dadcare is like for dads and kids alike (especially given Canada's glorious experiment with paid paternity leave). Doucet is probably running a bit behind Kyle Pruitt (who did a nice job with Fatherneed), but the more the merrier for this conversation ...

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Life is slowly approaching order, so here's another post. There's a nice MSN piece on surviving unemployment which focuses on a nice family that now has an at-home dad. It seems a lot of the at-home dad press is directed at people who made the choice willingly, but the stats seem to suggest that there are plenty of people who didn't have that luxury.

And I'll put Patrick Price in the Rebel Dad hall of fame. We can only hope Price's daughter's repaired heart is a big as his is.

I've completely missed the new TV show "Lost at Home," but the New York Post suggests I'm not missing anything. It's an at-home dad show ... with a dopey dad! Shocking. If anyone else has caught this, please let me know how big a step backwards this is for dad-dom.

And ... last question ... the New York Times reports this: "...Columbia, however, decided to continue with the premiere party for the coming "Daddy Day Care," starring Eddie Murphy, because it is a benefit." Any idea what kind of benefit? Anyone?

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Another stretch of silence comes to an end ... I think the war effort has realy dried up the pool of dad stories. That's perfectly understandable -- I'd rather get the latest war and foreign policy updates than slog through endless features, too.

But the pool isn't gone entirely. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has this piece on split-shift families. Sadly, it's low on stats and facts and heavy on the anecdote, but it's a generally neglected topic, and shift-working Rebel Dads are a big part of our silent corps.

I was at the At-Home Dad National Convention last year and met an at-home dad who brought along his father for the second year. Both were wonderful guys, and I asked the elder dad if he, too, had been an at-home dad. He kind of shrugged and told me that he'd worked the night shift and was around home a lot. As far as I was concerned, that made him a card-carrying Rebel Dad. But I can see why those dads, who play both the worker role and the caretaker role, have a hard time identifying themselves first and foremost as a parent. The culture just doesn't signal that job one is dad.

Heck, even the Census Bureau perpetuates this workers-not-caregivers mythic: last year, the agency told Time Magazine that at-home dadism was skyrocketing. That was the good news. The bad news was that they measured the number of at-home dads by looking at men who were outside of the workforce (i.e. not employed or technically unemployed) for family reasons. In short, shift-working dads and sort-of employed dads (like me!) didn't meet the criteria, which explains why the number was so ludicrously low (I believe they estimated 100,000. Please correct me if I'm wrong).

Part of the reason I'm sure the number is higher? I ran into two Rebel Dads in a 15-minute span at the playground on Thursday. Not bad, I thought to myself. Not bad.