Thursday, July 31, 2003

Another sleepy week for at-home dad news, but there are at least a couple of morsels to consider. For starters, Armin Brott, a.k.a. Mr. Dad, takes on a question from an at-home dad in his weekly column. Is it a groundbreaking question? One that peels back the onion that is at-home fatherhood? Nope. And that, in itself, is a small victory. Mr. Dad, at the least, realizes that there's no real difference between moms and dads.

Secondly, Rebel Dads star in this story about budgeters. Not only is the story centered around an at-home dad, but there is talk of an at-home dad "posse" lower in the story and a good mention that quitting work and becoming an at-home dad actually can some cost savings associated with it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I've now gone back and re-listened to yesterday's Talk of the Nation on NPR, which was on the subject of at-home dads. A closer listen and it still leaves me warm. For starters, the main guest, a delightful and clearly patient guy named Bruce Stockler (claim to fame: wrote I Sleep at Red Lights). He walks the line between serious and loose well -- a natural spokesman for the cause. In response to questioning why at-home dads should be treated as a big deal when women have been doing this for years, he makes the graceful point that indeed, moms have played a huge role, but that having two parents very involved in the lives of children -- as is generally the case with at-home fathers -- is a genuine revolution in parenthood.

There's also a nice interview with Dan Mulhern, the first gentleman of Michigan. He's another great spokesman for the cause, and I'm most impressed with his willingness to go out and really stump for the idea of dads-as-caregivers. He threw a First Man's Forum right after his wife took the governorship. Obviously, by definition, it's tough for at-home dads to have the kind of public profile that attract attention -- we're too busy raising families to stump for the idea -- so having Dan aboard is noteworthy.

The program hits a lot of good topics -- isolation, family stresses, gender roles -- without implying that this is an economic phenomenon. Economics, as I look harder and harder at this topic, is actually an important point to avoid when talking about at-home dad as they fit into society. While I don't begrudge anyone who uses dads at home as a lens to view the recession, using the recession to explore at-home dads is misleading. The best way to minimize the role of at-home fathers in the American family is to suggest it's an anomoly caused by the recession, and that a rising macroeconomic tide will dent our numbers. And I don't think that's true.

But the program did expose one flaw in the at-home dad phenomenon: there doesn't appear to be anyone in academia studying us seriously. TOTN finds a prof named Natasha Cabrera to serve as an expert. But she seems to be focused on low-income men (she admits not having seen "Mr. Mom") and confesses there's not much data about what the effects of Rebel Dadism. (Was Kyle Pruett not available? I know he has some data.) But that really does expose a gap in social understanding of us: where are the experts?
The pans keep coming for the silly Newsweek cover story. This Alternet story mocks the Newsweek undercurrent that at-home fatherhood is weird, stressful and borderline unnatural.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Leave it to radio to get things right. Talk of the Nation's bit on at-home dads seems quite nice, sympathetic, honest. But you could almost here the desperation in the callers' voices -- "Thank you for bringing up this subject," they kept saying, celebrating the fact that because a national outlet was talking about the subject, at-home fatherhood become a teeny, tiny bit more socially normal.

I was only able to half-listen to the segment, and I'll throw up a link in the next day or two for those of you who also need to hear an encore presentation before opining.

I need to get to a blog roundup one of these days -- there have been a couple of thoughtful posts from the at-home dads (and sympathizers). But there's one story that my peers have already linked worth noting here. (Thanks to blogathoner Being Daddy and Full Time Father for the heads-up.) Time magazine ran this profile of director Robert Rodriguez that focuses largely on the fact that he's around his kids all the time. Heck, it might be worth seeing Spy Kids just to support this kind of behavior.
We're back in business. The Rebel Dad news filtering machine went nuts this morning when an AP story on the recession hit the wires and was picked up by just about every paper in the United States. The story was about a study assessing the struggles of those hit by the recession, and the story focused on a 48-year-old father of four who is now an at-home dad. The headline finding was that about one in five working-age adults have been laid off at some point in the last three years. And while that may swell the at-home dad ranks, it's not the kind of growth I'd wish for.

In the style of Monty Python -- and now for something completely different -- I'd like to highlight this Q&A published in something called Infoshop News (which bills itself as "anarchist, activist, and alternative news") with a mom who published a zine on parenthood. The questioner is an at-home dad. It's a different take on parenthood, and no matter what how bizarre the notion of anarchist parenting can get, it's a bit refreshing after getting the standard-issue parenting perspective from the mainstream magazines and books and TV shows and so on and so on.

Apologies for the slow week last week. I can feel things turning around, news-wise. There's supposed to be some at-home dad talk today on NPR. I'll let you know if I catch it.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

If only I watched more TV, I wouldn't have missed today's repeat of a John Walsh show on at-home dads.
My best explanation for the lull in at-home dad writings is that everyone is fixated on the Tour de France. (With Lance in one of his closest races ever, Jan playing the gentleman and Tyler showing what true grit is all about, I won't blame the media for any dropoff in non-cycling news.)

Still, there has been a story kicking around this week, reprinted a couple places including here. It focuses on the struggles of the newly laid off and details the transition of one dad into an at-home father. It's clear that the transition is not easy, for a number of reasons. I admire the family featured for tackling the struggle head-on, even as it causes tension. And how can you go wrong with story that ends with this quote: "'I call it the mixed blessing because I have loved nothing more than being home with my kids. Maybe 10 years from now I'll call it 'The Blessing.''"

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

It's a slow week; apologies on the lack of posting. If you have news that I'm missing, please let me know.

Monday, July 21, 2003

For starters, us at-home dads have a new best advocate: Dave Barry, who wrote a nice, funny piece over the weekend about the realities of being a houseparent. Would that I could write like that.

In the serious news department, the New York Post takes note of the men behind some of NY's high powered women. It reads like a watered-down version of last fall's Fortune cover story, but it's a good thing all the same to see us put in such a flattering light. And I was thrilled to learn that there were new stats -- the lede of the story notes that 20 percent of preschooler primary care comes from dads -- up three percent from six years ago.

What I'm not so thrilled about is the fact that those numbers appear to have been botched. For starters, the 20 percent number (actually 19.3 percent) comes from 1999 figures, not 2003 figures, as best as the Census folks could tell. And an apples-to-apples comparison with the 1997 figures suggest that that percentage dipped slightly (other orange-to-orange calculations suggest there may have been a slight rise. I'll call it a wash). (You can do the math yourself with the data listed here on the Census site. This chart also suggests a certain stagnation in at-home dad rates, through 1999).

Why is this important? It goes back to one of my basic concerns about the reliability of the numbers. I happen to think -- largely from anecdotal evidence -- that the number of Rebel Dads is on the rise. But the fact that such numbers are so hard to sort through makes it difficult to make that determination. The bigger and better-documented the number of at-home dads are, the better we'll be able to make the argument that this is not a fringe lifestyle.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

A surprising amount to cover today, especially given that I'll be away from blogging through the weekend. For starters, today's Washington Post has this op-ed by Rebel Dad favorite Joan Williams. Williams starts by laying out her oft-repeated dream scenario: a 30-hour a week job, with pro-rated benefits and advancement, that lets a worker be an actual parent at least part of the day.

But she veers off into our territory toward the end of the piece, noting that husbands of moms who stay home tend to become turbo-workers on the job and duds at home, effectively sapping the amount of parental attention kids get. (When both parents are working, parental attention seems to be given more liberally by dads, Williams argues).

But what about the flip side, when men stay home? Williams: "Studies suggest this may work better. Parental time with children may be less affected because employed mothers typically are less willing to consign all child care to the stay-at-home spouse. So children in families with stay-at-home fathers may well receive more parental attention than children in households with stay-at-home mothers." There's one heck of an argument for at-home fathering. As if we needed another one.

Let me take a brief break from the weighty sociological analysis to point out this article on a group of UK dads. It's nice that the Pregnancy and Birth study cited in this story has gotten such huge play on the other side of the pond, especially compared with the whisper in the U.S. generated by the survey that I've talked about here.

Finally, the world of child care is in uproar over the latest research on whether or not it's a bad thing. Some summaries of the report have largely been equivocal (Minneapolis Star Tribune) and some more negative (NYTimes).

But the really chilling piece is an op-ed in yesterday's WSJ (sub. required) by one of the better-known researchers involved in the effort, Jay Belsky. Belsky paints a less-than-rosy picture of child care centers and argues that there's a certain bias against knocking day care because it's the only option for so many. In short, he says that problems with day care are minimized, even by the people chronicling the effects. (Thanks to Full Time Father for the heads-up -- as well as his spot-on analysis. The Belsey column is posted on that blog, as well. Because of Rebel Dad's idiosyncratic obsession with intellectual property, it is not posted here.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Looks to be a great day to be a Rebel Dad: blue sky, not too hot. Another reminder that I have a wonderful job.

There continues to be a little bit of an at-home dad story drought ... but the last time I said that, an alert reader mentioned that I missed a Today show segment on Reel Moms, a nifty little service in which, once a week, a theater opens itself up to parents and their kids.

It should be mentioned that I've mentioned this story before, because Michael Zorek, a NYC at-home dad, was quoted in a widely used AP story last month. Now, Zorek is quoted in this CBS report from yesterday and in this Newsweek piece from this week's edition (which includes this gem -- "The brainchild of a new-father Loews Cineplex exec, the idea is to give moms—and dads, reminds participant Michael Zorek—an opportunity to get out, tykes in tow." Thanks, Mike!)

Finally, to dip into the mailbag, it looks as if I'm not alone in my Parenting Magazine frustration. One reader's nomination for the best dad-friendly magazine? Mothering. Go figure. Thanks to all who have used the comment system ... I was preparing to pull the plug, afraid that there just wasn't a need for reader communication. I'll keep it up a little longer.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Rebel Dad isn't the only person with label problems. Today, the Chicago Tribune published an opinion piece on at-home moms that suggests one of the biggest sources of frustration is the title: at-home mom. The author, Elizabeth Lyons (who wrote "Ready or Not ... Here We Come! The REAL Experts' Cannot-Live-Without Guide to the First Year with Twins," suggesting she knows of what she speaks) notes that the work of an at-home parent is devalued, and part of that comes from the perception that an at-home parent isn't working.

Clearly untrue, she says, proposing that "stay-at-home parents" be called "work-at-home parents." For obvious reasons, this effort probably confuses the issue of what the heck we should call ourselves ("work-at-home" is already defined, in my mind, as someone who works for pay from home). But anyone who shines a spotlight on the underlying problem of appreciation for the work that goes into being a primary caregiver -- especially shining that spotlight from the pages of such a huge newspaper -- should get kudos.

(And she gets extra kudos for acting as if at-home moms and at-home dads are pretty much interchangable when it comes to parenting. Which is, of course, as it should be.)

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Nothing in the way of news or analysis today, so let me just leave you with today's Rhymes with Orange comic strip.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I thought I was through with the sudden mom-and-mom-only approach at Parenting Magazine, having pledged to "just let go" on Tuesday. But then I was reading last month's issue of InStyle (the only thing in the bathroom, I must confess), when I stumbled onto an ad that pictured female legs in a shoe store with this printed in large type: "Where Moms get therapy." The ad continued: "So many shoes, so little time. So, an afternoon spent trying on everything in her size ... sometimes, that's exactly what a Mom needs to get her head in a better place." And then this: "We get Moms." And then there was a photo of the cover from the first "redesigned" Parenting (the one that send me into such a tizzy a couple of months ago).

Does Parenting "get Dads?" I guess not.

Leaving aside the bizarre decision to play off of the moms-as-shoe-crazy-shopaholic stereotype, that ad pretty much confirms everything I feared about who the mag is playing to. They "get moms." Especially InStyle-reading moms. Here's a question: Parenting and InStyle are both Time Inc. mags. Does anyone know of Parenting ads in men-centric Time Inc. pubs (Sports Illustrated, etc.)? Or have we been written out of the script completely.

But we should rejoice, for across the pond, a full third of dads-to-be would like to do the at-home thing, according to a Pregnancy and Birth magazine study discussed in this Independent article (and a bunch of other UK publications). This lines up with the study that came out last month, suggesting that there exists a relatively stable group of men who would love to give the Rebel Dad lifestyle a try. I'm sure there are tons of reasons why survey findings of 30 percent or 40 percent may be overstating interest, but the consistancy between studies is encouraging. So there's the challenge: how do we flip those guys from the "thinking-about-it" stage to the "doing-it" stage. All suggestions will be entertained.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

FYI: Archives are now functional and the transfer to is pretty much complete.
It's that time of month again ... Parenting Magazine has arrived at my door. And, as has been the case lately, I'm not too happy about it. The decision to redesign the magazine and at the same time make it more mom-centric seems to have stuck, and I've pledged to just let it go and accept that the fine glossy that appears on my doorstep early each month is simply a mislabeled copy of something called "Mothering" magazine.

I'm sure Parenting's marketing and ad people have their reasons, and far be it for me to say that they're destroying a magazine that was, last year, the recipient of the nation's most prestigious mag award. (It still reads well, and I still find it compelling. It's just clear that no one seems the least bit interested in capturing my point of view). I'm clearly still on the outside looking in (cover line: "When you say no and he says yes.") The fact that dads are ignored subtly reinforces a set of nasty stereotypes about men as caregivers. And that's the real shame.

Being Daddy links to this Miami Herald story on Father's Day. It has a whole bunch of experts explaining why Father's Day just isn't as big a deal as Mother's Day because let's face it -- the story reasons -- dad's just aren't as crucial to families as mom is. And the battle continues.

But let me leave you smiling: a St. Louis columnist got to answer this wonderful softball of a question: "Dear Ask Julia:

Recently we have been blessed with a new baby girl – she's just three weeks old now and we are totally in love with her. Before we knew she was coming to us so soon, we bought a house. The closing is upon us, and the move is underway – as is the unbelievable heat wave. I have an amazing husband who is coping beautifully with it all. He's the stay-at-home dad and the moving company all wrapped up in one. I need a creative, thoughtful way to say thanks and tell him how much I appreciate and love him. He's truly an incredible individual. Since you are so creative and thoughtful - not to mention witty and insightful - I thought I'd seek your advice. So, what do you think? How do I say thanks in a wonderful, meaningful way?

A proud mommy and very happy wife

Monday, July 07, 2003

Corrections! The obvious problem with blogging is the utter lack of editors, which means that standards around the web can be a bit slippery. Here at Rebel Dad, though, we are committed to being as factually correct as we possible can and will correct any errors -- no matter how small -- that creep onto this page. To that end, I'd like to note that I've gone back and fixed three gaffes. Apologies.

1. I misspelled Kyle Pruett's name in an April 17 post.
2. I misspelled Andrew Cuomo's name in a July 2 post.
3. I noted, in a June 11 post, that the Fortune mag cover story was on "Trophy Dads." It was instead titled "Trophy Husbands." In the interest of completeness, here is the link to that story. I haven't previously linked to it.

See any other errors? Let me know.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

In case you're wondering, the beach trip was a success. I came back unburned. That's quite a feat.

Into the July Fourth news hole dropped this nice Women's eNews story. I have no idea what Women's eNews is, but this is a well-researched piece that manages to track down Libby Gill, Hogan Hilling and Jay Massey. And a bunch of other dads. Interestingly, the story pulls out this stat: "Though there are no hard figures on the number of such men who forgo jobs to stay home, data show that just over 20 percent of preschoolers in married-couple households are cared for by their fathers--up from 17 percent in 1997, according to the U.S. Census Bureau." I have no idea where this stat comes from (it seems high, but you won't hear me complain). I'll have to jump right to the source ...

In the "Tee-Hee" department, this piece from an expat in Europe starts with a nice at-home parent joke. I hadn't heard it, so apologies if you have.

Finally, Gary Aldrich, the FBI gentleman who turned heads by writing a Clinton tell-all, has seen it fit to mention us at-home dads in this commentary. I'm disappointed. Part of his argument against affirmative action is that women don't deserve special breaks because they tend not to be ideal workers, taking care of families and such instead of putting in 50 years of non-stop hard work. And in Aldrich's view, men ain't in that camp. And then he lets loose with this: "Yes, we have heard of a few 'stay-at-home' dads, but they are rare, and their numbers are not growing as some progressive feminists would have us believe. When women have babies, they either send them to day care or take the option to raise them at home. Indeed, more women are choosing to stay home with their children, as we’ve seen a 13% increase in the past decade alone."

For starters, I have no idea where the idea that we're not on the rise. As I've pointed out before, the Census stats suggest that our (artificially low) numbers grew about 18 percent over the past decade (though they've bounced around to such an extent that I think the Census folks are nervous about coming right out and saying it). And who are these "progressive feminists" leading everyone to believe that Rebel Dads are mainstream? I'd love to contact them and tell 'em 'thanks.' But other than American University's Joan Williams, I can't even think of the last time a "progressive feminist" was quoted talking up at-home fatherhood. (That's not to say that they're not supportive. I just don't think the at-home dad agenda is being pushed hard by anyone but at-home dads right now.) I won't get into the politics of the column -- that goes beyond Rebel Dad's mandate and his debating skills -- but anytime we're minimized, I worry that bad things are afoot.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Can get I one last post in before I head for the beach? Full Time Father links to this really astounding NY Post piece. FTF's comment was "Ouch!" Mine is [smack]. As in my hand against my forehead.

The upshot is that one-time-rising-political star Andrew Cuomo's soon-to-be ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy, went on a humanitarian mission to India in 1998, leaving her three young children behind with her husband and mother-and-law. For this she is taken seriously to task (her husband, sources assure the columnist, was a devoted family man).

This view of events raises some questions: Who says mom has to stay home? All the time? Why does dad, busy with politics, not get the same treatment? Shouldn't it take two people to fail a child? And since when does getting Grammy to babysit become a parenting move so horrific that one of the nation's biggest newspapers must denounce it?

The quotes from Andrew's camp makes dark suggestions about Kerry's "conduct" during the marriage. Over here at R.D., we don't feel able to judge what goes on inside any marriage, and we're not about to absolve anyone of responsibility. But for the media to decide that the problem was that mommy chose to work -- from time to time -- betrays the very kind of gender-equal thinking that makes up the cornerstone of Rebel Dad thinking.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Just so you know: a) there's really not much in the way of news floating around out there right now and b) I'm headed on a mini-vacation tomorrow. So apologies for the slow flow of postings. As always, if there's something I've missed, I'm easy to track down via e-mail.