Friday, May 30, 2003

I have better things to be doing, but I thought I'd throw up a couple links, starting with this one about a DC-area playgroup in a DC-area free paper for parents.

Secondly -- and I am remiss for not doing this reading earlier in the week -- here's the Supreme Court Family and Medical Leave Act decision, which seemed to shock the heck out of court-watchers. It certainly surprised me, as someone who assumes that the Supreme Court ain't going to put family leave above state's rights. Leaving the legal mumbo-jumbo aside, there's something heartening about William Rehnquist standing up for the idea of gender equality.

A selection: "Stereotypes about women's domestic roles are reinforced by parallel stereotypes presuming a lack of domestic responsibilities for men. Because employers continued to regard the family as the woman's domain, they often denied men similar accommodations or discouraged them from taking leave. These mutually reinforcing stereotypes created a self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination that forced women to continue to assume the role of primary family caregiver, and fostered employers' stereotypical views about women's commitment to work and their value as employees."

Damn right.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Good news... of sorts. My copy of Parenting arrived this week, and having read through the issue, I don't have much to rant about. (Unlike last month, which, as Rebel Dad readers may remember, spawned a somewhat ill-tempered letter to the editor). Sure, it's still more mommy-centric than it needs to be, but there wasn't much male-bashing or articles that worked overtime to make sure the audience was strictly female. Thank goodness. I'll take whatever small blessings I can get.

Since my beer-for-at-home-dad-statistics ploy has largely been a failure, I'd like to offer readers another challenge: find (or found) an active at-home dad blog. Again, the finders fee will be paid in beer. I've scoured the web and haven't had much success finding a nice, first-person, consistantly updated at-home dad blog. So drop me a message with the URL and the drinks are on me next time you're in town. Deal?

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Back from Memorial Day, far less rested than I began. So apologies in advance for brevity and spelling errors today. Two items on the docket: a Montreal Gazette article about shifting economic roles and how much more common it is becoming to see males in the role of primary caregiver. It deftly mixes the two types of at-home dads: those who were forced into and those who chose it, noting that a lot of men who turned to at-home dadism for economic reasons are loving the new gig.

Coincidently, the story also says that men are more and more willing to look for workplace flexibility. Why a coincidence? Take a look at this morning's Dilbert in which evil HR director Catbert says "Let's offer employees unpaid vacation time, as long as their managers approve it. Then we'll downsize any work group that uses it, because it proves they're overstaffed." Screwing workers out of family-friendly opportunities remains true enough that the comics page can riff on it. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad one.

Friday, May 23, 2003

I have to ask: am I missing anything by avoiding daytime television? I saw that Dr. Phil had a stay-at-home dad on yesterday, which I missed. Should I be thankful? Here's the synopsis: "Mr. Mom
For five years, Al has been a stay-at-home dad, an experience he now calls "the hardest job." With his patience running thin, Al wonders if he can stay on the job without losing his manhood.
" Not exactly inspiring of confidence.

It looks like Libby Gill (author of Stay-at-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating the New Family) may have also been on, and there's this nice Q&A on the Dr. Phil site about how to make Rebel Dadism work. So perhaps the show wasn't all about the prospect of whether one could lose his manhood by doing laundry or making grilled cheese. Can anyone fill me in?

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Dredging up old news today that I hadn't seen. Some of these links may expire, so click 'em while you have the chance. Let's start with this Allentown newspaper column on Daddy Day Care. It makes the elegant point that Eddie Murphy ain't some self-hating Michael Keaton from Mr. Mom before the column spinning off to a bizarre ending that sounds only half-sarcastic.

On the same subject this piece in the San Jose Mercury News also gives Daddy Day Care props for the way the characters "actually try to get into kids' squirrelly little brains and figure out how to stimulate them." All press may be good press for Rebel Dads, but this is *really* good press.

A final note: I mentioned two days ago that O mag had nailed a mini-scoop, revealing that the Census Bureau was getting ready to tabulate the number of at-home dads in the U.S. Rebel Dad called today and found that though there was some optimism around the time the O reporter spoke to the Census folks, the project is now -- again -- on hold. As regulars know, I'm somewhat obsessed with the numbers of at-home fathers in this country and quite perturbed that there's no one officially interested in answering the question.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

We always have a friend in Oprah. Oprah, the motivational speaker for people still on the couch, is celebrating men this month. And what better way to do that than by talking about ... at-home dads.

There are two pieces (neither, sadly, appear to be linked online. Beers to anyone who can find 'em) in the issue, which official hit newsstands today. The longer is a first-person account of a laid-off journo and his laid-off brother, who are learning to make do as at-home dads. It's a wonderfully written, nice piece. The author is the kind of dad who probably should have told his story to Newsweek -- someone who was forced into at-home daddydom but doesn't resent it.

In a brief sidebar that accompanies the story, the mag does the densest overview of the Rebel Dad landscape I've ever seen, managing to cram Peter Baylies, Libby Gill, a DC MetroDad AND a New York at-home dad into a relative short piece. And O scores a scoop: the Census Bureau plans to release at-home dad numbers by the end of the summer. The nice folks at Census will be getting a Rebel Dad call this week -- I'll let you know what I find.

Monday, May 19, 2003

I don't use the word "Playboy" very often, which makes this a very special edition of Rebel Dad. Buzz McClain, a columnist for Playboy, had a must-read piece in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram over the weekend, arguing that Daddy Day Care deserves a "timeout." Like Hogan Hilling's opinion piece last week, the word "stereotype" makes it into the headline. Buzz's bottom line: we ain't bumbling Mr. Moms.

I'll forgive Buzz's trashing of Daddy Day Care (as I've mentioned before, it didn't offend my sensibilities and was nearly empowering) -- Buzz has been way ahead of the curve on this one. He first mentioned the movie to me at a Christmas cocktail party, and he was ready to be upset. Buzz has waged an admirable one-man campaign to erase the term "Mr. Mom" from the collective unconscious, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Movie aside, Buzz makes an eloquent pitch for more at-home dads: "Ask an at-home dad if he would trade his lifestyle for his previous career-track one. I've yet to meet one who'd rather be in a gray cubicle than on a play date at the zoo." Not me.

The Star-Telegram, which helped launch Rebel Dad's pre-kid career, also has this story, which has everything Newsweek ignored. It also quotes one of my favorite sources on work/family/gender issues, American University School of Law prof Joan Williams, who lets loose with this comment: "A man who does stay home by choice is extremely secure in his own masculinity, his own sense of purpose and his own identity. I think they're men of steel." Go us!

And I keep claiming to be done with the Newsweek bit, but the paper has finally published letters to the editor. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of anger about the "She Works, He Doesn't" line. Also worth looking at: letters by Hogan Hilling and the founder of DC MetroDads, Peter Steinberg. And one truly asinine letter by a gentleman named Dan Rachelson, who is evidently not "extremely secure in his own masculinity, his own sense of purpose and his own identity," as Joan Williams would say. I hope Mr. Rachelson enjoys his high-paying life in the grey cubicle, and I'm glad I won't be bumping into him this afternoon on the playground (it's great playground weather today ...).

Friday, May 16, 2003

One thing we don't get very often in the at-home dad literature is heavy-handed socio-political analyses. So thanks to Jeff Taylor at Reason magazine, the staunch free-marketeers, who hits at an interesting point in the above-linked piece.

Here's the money graf: " Much more interesting than keeping score in the blame and pain game would seem to be the fact that at-home dads represent a challenge to the existing orthodoxies about family life. In fact, maybe it is at-home dads' dual threat to left and right that keeps both sides from much talking to them."

He argues that the lefties are made uncomfortable because the very existance of at-home dads dulls complaints about the "patriarchy." If men are suffering under the yoke of child-rearing, Taylor reasons, it's harder to argue that society is full of knuckle-dragging sexists. I'm not sure that holds a lot of water, but it does make me wonder if that's part of the reason we don't hear more about Rebel Dads. And Taylor says the right wing can't use the kids-are-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket-because-mom's-at-work line when dad could just as easily provide that at-home stability.

I can't say I agree with everything Taylor -- a Rebel Dad himself -- argues, but it's hard to take serious issue with a guy who concludes with this: "Throwing another possible division of labor into the mix has to be a net good for families even if it doesn't fit into a neat category on the left-right continuum or editorial templates."

Let me repeat that: at-home dadism "has to be a net good for familes." That's our mantra around here. Always glad to have it trumpeted.

And -- let it also be pointed out -- he takes some shots at Newsweek, too.

Finally (click it before the link expires!), there's a nice letter to the editor in the Christian Science Monitor, showing that us dads have a sense of humor and a thick skin ...

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Still trying to keep the energy level up after last week's deluge. Let me start with another Mother's Day piece, this one from the Raleigh News and Observer. It's a heck of a comprehensive look at the effort of M.O.T.H.E.R. and others to stand up for (and create some) mother's rights. And it gives voice to opponents, which explains a bit about the forces keeping primary caregivers from being taken seriously in any policy debate.

While we're on the subject of mothers (and, by extension, Ann Crittenden), check out the final question in this piece. You can make it work on one income. (Even -- and this should be kept in mind -- if that one income happens to be hers.

(And as an aside, Daddy Day Care finished a respectable number two at the box office. Everything I've read suggests this means that Eddie Murphy hot again, not that dads taking care of kids is hot. But we will persevere.)

Sunday, May 11, 2003


As we shift ever so subtly from Newsweek to Daddy Day Care, it's worth pointing out an LA Times story that talks to (and about) male child care workers. It's a nice bit, I think, giving the movie credit where credit is due while giving the day care folks room for their point of view.

Among the highlights: "What sets "Daddy Day Care" apart from its predecessors, according to film critic Leonard Maltin, is that Murphy hatches the idea himself and embraces it. 'Ultimately, he realizes this is not a last resort,' Maltin said. 'It's a good idea to get closer to his son. That's a totally new spin on all of this.'"

"For another, role reversal is still funny because the perception of gender roles has remained more rigid than the reality, [script author] Berenson said."

The movie launched this look at at-home dadism, talking to Peter Baylies, one of the great Rebel Dads of our times, and flagging two new books by at-home dads that I've yet to read.

Other things on the radar (there's lots of news -- bookmark this page if you need to come back. I don't expect you to read all of these links. There will be no quiz): for starters, an at-home dad talks about Mother's Day. Sweet column.

Big props to the New Jersey Star-Ledger for covering what became a "virtual" Mother's Day march by M.O.T.H.E.R.. The march became a letter-writing campaign to Congress focusing on the need to give caregivers a Social Security credit. Great coverage of a great issue.

And I'll include almost without comment a USA Today piece on Gen-X moms. The little bit of comment? I read lots about how free today's young women are to make work/family balance work for them, on their terms. Why don't Gen-X guys have the same freedom (trust me, we don't. If we did, I wouldn't have to call myself Rebel Dad)?

An interesting study of military folks found that men are far more attuned to work/family balance than they're usually given credit for.

Old story -- but useful -- on the financial math behind becoming an at-home parent.

I swore off Newsweek comments, but I'll simply link to exerpts from letters the mag received on this week's cover story. A sample comment? "[The story was] 'the worst researched, predetermined-hypothesis driven piece of drivel I’ve read in a long time.'" Ouch.

And I should note this Newsweek-inspired op-ed in Newsday last week. The argument: Rebel Dads are no match for a continue macho-ization of the country.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Enough is enough. Though there's probably more to say about the Newsweek story, which has received the dead-horse treatment here over the past week, I'll hold my tongue for now. Suffice it to say that the more people I talked to this week, the more clear I became that the story did not sketch a picture of happiness for anyone. That, of course, is a load of what Eddie Murphy, nowadays, would call poop.

And speaking of Mr. Murphy, Daddy Day Care opened today to generally sour reviews. The two big complaints: 1) the comedy is as sfe and sickly sweet as can be (true) and 2) Eddie has completely lost the edge that made him such a fun guy to watch in the 1980s (also true). At least two reviews suggested that he was becoming Bill Cosby, a target of Eddie in his younger days. This was not meant as a compliment. I still enjoyed the 90 minutes (as did newly minted Pultizer-prize-winning critic Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post. The only other Pulitzer-prize-winning film critic, Robert Ebert, hated it), but the film won't be remembered at Oscar time. It may not be remembered a month from now, when it'll be out on video ...

Daddy Day Care did give a springboard to at least one dad: Hogan Hilling penned an editorial for his hometown paper suggesting that some stereotypes about dads worth doing away with were instead being given the Eddie Murphy treatment. I can't say that the movie offended my sensibilities in the same way (I'm pretty hard to offend, though), but Hogan came through with the line of the week: "The fact is that we as a society don't have much trust in men as caregivers for our children." All in favor of changing that, raise your hands ...

Thursday, May 08, 2003

There's clearly a need that went unmet in the Newsweek story that has taken up so much space here. I read through the transcript of an online chat with the woman who wrote the story, and it seems like there are an awful lot of people remaining out there who don't know about resources for at-home dad (or, for that matter, working moms).

The orginial story was clearly aimed at educating everyone else about us weirdos on the fringe, but it left out a good bit about why people make the choice to become rebel daddies or rebel mommies and hardly touched on how to thrive in those society-threatening roles. In the chat, those were the questions people wanted answered. "We just want to find some people that can be our friends - others who can relate to our lifestyle on a personal basis. I know there are websites and chat boards out there, but we need people close to us!," one woman wrote. "The couples in this article sound so great - I would just love to talk to them in person!"

The answer to that question -- the central one for a lot of people in this situation -- shouldn't be a stumper (The Newsweek author's reply "Hopefully, the Newsweek story will get people talking, and connecting." Some service that provides ...). Really want to connect? Put down the magazine. Go surf the websites, check out the chat rooms. You'll find some of us live nearby. And we check the bulletin board at the coffeeshop. We're out there on the playground with the kids.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Reaction continues to roll in to the Newsweek cover story titled "She Works, He Doesn't." While some has been positive, I can safely report that working moms are pretty ticked. And one of Rebel Dad's most famous readers weighed in with this: "I'm thinking about rustling up a posse, grabbing the bullhorn and heading over to that there Newsweek corporate office to set them damn Yankees straight about this whole SAHD thing." And that was the mild part.

The next project? Reading through an online chat with the author of the piece. The chat happened today, and we haven't had a chance to examine it over here at RD central. If you can read quicker than I, please send along your thoughts. I'm curious as hell, because the author, Peg Tyre, seemed awfully nice on the phone ...

Monday, May 05, 2003

Instant analysis comes to Rebel Dad. Isn't that the nifty part of being a blogger? I can tell you that reaction to this week's Newsweek story from both the Rebel Dad and Rebel Mom communities has been mixed, trending negative, for two reasons.

Reason one: the cover tag. "She Works, He Doesn't" isn't exactly true. We sure as hell work. Our pay is just a lot worse. Rebel Dad was prepared to let this slide, but my dearest Rebel Mom made sure it was known that it raised her hackles.

Reason two: the focus was on unhappy people forced into the position. The vocal at-home dad community is, generally, happy with their lot in life. I have no idea how many at-home dads are part of the unhappy and silent group. I would guess it's not insignificant, but I'd also guess that it's not a majority.

Finally, Slate, in a feature it calls "In Other Magazines," sums the Newsweek piece up thusly: "Younger couples who consciously chose this division of labor seem thrilled; older couples who adjusted after the husband was laid off report resentment and scuffles over domestic duties."

I guess that makes Rebel Dad a young guy. Good news.
First Fortune's 'Trophy Husbands' ... now this: Newsweek has Rebel Dads (and Moms) on its cover this week. (Full disclosure: Rebel Dad was contacted for this story, so I may be biased toward the nice folks who put it together.)

Whenever a magazine with circulation figures in the multi-millions decides to promote your social trend, it's an unambigiously good thing. So I'm upbeat, even if the lead anecdote ends with at-home-dad-(not-by-choice) Jonathan Earp declaring "I hate it all." Ouch.

Still everyone else seems pretty happy with the deal, even if life doesn't always treat them fair. A nice touch: there a nice-sized focus on the women in the story, who don't usually get mention in at-home dad stories. It ain't easy to buck society and be a househusband, but women who leave everyone else at home have their own battles to fight with society. The story certainly makes that point.

And as for Rebel Dad StatWatch, the Newsweek team provides some good ones: 30.7 percent of married women outearn their husband (Libby Gill has pegged the number at about 40 percent, also without attribution). And the mag says about 11 percent are Alpha Earners, women who make a lot more than their hubbies. (University of Maryland demographer Suzanne Bianchi.)

There's not an effort to count at-home dads -- which has generally been a fools game -- instead mentioning the percentage of mom-working, dad-at-home families and then dismissing the number as meaningless. No objection there -- it's better than plucking an old or questionable number just for impact's sake.

And Newsweek did some polling, too, showing that the Rebel Dad lifestyle is indeed seen by millions of people as rebellious: "In the NEWSWEEK Poll, 41 percent of Americans agreed that 'it is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.' One in four said it was 'generally not acceptable' for a woman to be the major wage earner in a marriage."

Gasp. Forty-one percent. You say you want a revolution?

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Holy Cow ... Daddy Day Care is an empowering tribute to the importance of gender equality in child care. Seriously.

I attended a pre-screening (which alone was rather nice -- at-home dads don't usually get perks) and found the movie was cute, nice and generally respectful of the idea of dads as, well, dads. There was a scene in which mothers who turned up their noses at the idea of male (gasp) day-care guys were put in their place and there was plenty of the usual putting-your-children-first stuff that would be easy to deride as cliche if it didn't match my particular worldview.

Was there some assorted dad doofusness? Sure. But the movie concentrated more on exagerating the zanyness of the kids rather than the clueness of the fathers. And it was an Eddie Murphy movie, so even the end-of-the-rope dad lines played well. ("We need some more structure," Murphy says to co-star Jeff Garlin at one point. "No," quips Garlin. "We need Ritalin and leashes.")

At the end of the day, there are really only two Rebel Dad criteria to meet: one, was the film enjoyable (yes) and two, does it make it easier, rather than harder, for dads to accept the caregiving role? The answer to that last question, I think, is yes. Let's face it -- it seems like there have been zillions of movies made about women who give it all up for the happiness of being the at-home parent. We deserve one about guys who do the same thing. Even if that guy is Eddie Murphy.

(As an aside, there has been more Rebel Dad news in the last couple days, and I'll be sure to link out to those stories in the next day or two.)

Thursday, May 01, 2003

So I have not been very busy when it comes to blogging, but Joe Mozian has been super-busy. I have been lamenting what little Rebel Dad news there has been (hence the long stretches of no posts) when all of a sudden, Rebel Dad gets zillions of hits from people trying to find out more about Joe.

As it turns out (and Joe warned me about this ... but I received his e-mail too late), Joe was on Oprah yesterday, telling the story of how he ended up with a new gig.

So congrats to Joe, about whom I have evidently said "coolio" things in the past. May he continue to live large in his own little gangster paradise. (And watch for him next year in My Life is a Sitcom ...)