Thursday, August 28, 2003

Fair warning. Rebel Dad will be traveling somewhere around 6,000 miles over the next five days to attend far-flung weddings. Don't expect any postings. But rest assured that there have been articles in the media worth flagging, comments on this week's WSJ story worth making and an English 101 post on Nathaniel Hawthorne as at-home dad worth penning. All that (and more!) coming next week.

Exciting, no?

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I was all set to get literary today: I finished 20 Days with Julian & Little Bunny by Papa, an account by Nathaniel Hawthorne of his adventures in stay-at-home parenting. But I'm afraid that post will have to wait.

The nice folks at the Wall Street Journal published this story (paid subscription required) (update: article posted free of charge here) on at-home dads re-entering the workforce. Any time the nation's largest newspaper puts at-home dads on a section front, it's a big news day at Rebel Dad central.

The take-away is that as more at-home dads enter the workforce, both the prospective employees and their would-be employers are trying to figure out what to make of experience running a household. The conclusions aren't startling: headhunters think it's a liability, less so when the person doing the hiring is a woman. But the relieving part of the story is that the author, Kemba J. Dunham, takes a tack that suggests holding at-home fatherhood against job candidates may be real, but it's certainly not a fair or effective way to find the best workers.

(It should be noted that Dunham gets a plug in for this year's at home-dads convention. Rebel Dad will be there. Will you?)

Monday, August 25, 2003

Making good on my 'no new (posts about) taxes' pledge, I'd like to point out some new writings on dads. The first (courtesy of sharp-eyed Being Daddy) is actually a bit stale (it ran earlier this month). But the column by Wall Street Journal work/family guru Sue Shellenbarger is an important read. It notes the advantages to certain kinds of dad-kid interactions and highlights what everyone should suspect: high-earning and long-hour-working dads tend to spend less time with their children. The points made aren't earthshattering, but the more they're repeated (and the more they start to sink in with dads) the better.

Secondly, the Santa Cruz Sentinel has this interesting little piece by a clinical psycologist serves as rah-rah bit for at-home dads. It's almost a Stuart Smalley kind of thing, light on news value and filled with lines like this "Regard the less than approving comments and looks as a sign of misguided understanding." It may be cheesy, but I'll take the affirmation. After all, I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Last post on taxes for at least a little while. Rebel Mom and I had a discussion about Murkowski's tax break for at-home parents. I was intrigued, R.M. was turned off by it. Her rationale:

a) It's not means tested, meaning that the same philosphical problem that dogs the child care credit now (rich double-income parents reaping tax benefits they don't need) will arise with at-home parents (lets face it, at-home parents of corporate execs or big law firm partners don't need the benefit, even if there are families that would benefit).

b) Anything that rewards at-home parents is likely to have the effect of driving women out of the workforce and into the home in far, far greater numbers than it would drive dads into a caregiving role. And while Rebel Dads wants to remove the barriers to full-time fatherhood, Rebel Mom points out that such a policy would reinforce certain stubborn barriers to women in the workforce.

So that leaves a tricky gender-equity paradox: how to give men incentives to stay home without ginning up a system that makes it more difficult for women to remain in the workforce? Obviously, offering men the same kind of benefits offered to women (paternity leave, paid paternity leave, etc.) is one solution. Are there other easy ones? Hard ones?

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Back to the fun and exciting topic of federal tax policy. (A quick history: Being Daddy brought up the child care tax credit here and then again here. Intrigued, I followed up with this post about recently introduced legislation to give at-home parents a break. Since then, Full Time Father has also joined the discussion. Got it? OK ... to proceed ...)

In the last day, Being Daddy has taken the initiative, providing a how-to-participate-in-government primer for those who want to join the cause. To summarize: contact your senator, contact the bill's sponsor (Alaska's Lisa Murkowski) and generally tell everyone you know, electronic or otherwise.

Naturally, there has been some sniping. In both FTF's post and in comments to Being Daddy, bloggers have thrown out the idea of basically just adding an additional child tax credit, rather than arguing about what kind of kid care should get what kind of tax credit. Being Daddy wondered aloud if there should be some sort of means testing so that Carly Fiorina's at-home husband doesn't get a tax break. And FTF raised questions about the political viability of Murkowski's proposal. All valid concerns.

Still, even if it's a losing fight, I'd like to see the issue get some traction. Like so much else in the Rebel Dad universe, I am willing to claim victory if people simply stop and think about the issue. If any of you take action, let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

As promised yesterday, I wanted to flag some recent press clippings.

When it comes to media mentions, there are two kinds of stories I love to see: ones where at-home dads are painted as extraordinary men and ones where they're painted as normal, average, everyday men. There's a paradox there. I want at-home fatherhood to be seen as socially normal, as natural a family arrangement as any other. But I also suspect, ironically, that stories that show us at-home fathers as something special help boost our numbers and help get us to that "normal" status.

The Washington Post had this second kind of story yesterday. A story about parents going back to school (becoming at-home parents/at-home students) featured a DC-based lawyer who got an advanced law degree while "defrosting breast milk, preparing toddler lunches and volunteering at a preschool." But the story wasn't about how extraordinary this guy was because of his sex ... he was just another parent, part of a larger trend. And that kind of ho-hum treatment is comforting.

And then there's this heartwarming story about an at-home dad struggling to deal with the midday void in his life that comes with a new kindergartener. But rather than focus on dad's gender, it looked at the issue: parents letting of their kids. Again, dad was received the exact same kind of treatment that a mom would have.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Leave it to Being Daddy to not only beat me to a topic, but discuss it so completely that I have little left to add. He's been talking the last couple of days about the absurd child care tax credit, which puts money back in the pocket of those that farm out the child-raising responsibilities and offers no incentives to at-home parents to raise their own children.

Suffice it to say that I agree with everything he has to say. The tax system is really a set of incentives designed to alter behavior, and that makes the credit all the more silly, given that it encourages folks to leave their children in day care. While it was originally intended to give a much-needed break to families that had no choice but to work two jobs, it's now used by plenty of two-income families that can easily hack it on one salary.

I did some snooping around, and found that at least one pending bill would work to fix the problem by getting us a similar deal. It was introduced in June by Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. See the PDFs of the introduction here (page 1) and here (page 2).

My cynical assumption is, of course, that the bill has a snowball's chance in hell, given that a freshman senator who sits on a bunch of non-kid-centric committees has little real sway on family issues. But I'd encourage you to contact her here with any you-go-girl comments. And, of course, it never hurts to write your senators.

There are a couple of interesting at-home parent pieces out there, but I wanted to get this out of mind first. I'll get to the press clippings in the next 48 hours.

Monday, August 18, 2003

It has been quiet out there, which explains my lack of posting. But it looks like I have more to talk about. For starters, we're now one A-list celeb away from a trend of at-home fatherhood in Hollywood. Russell Crowe told USA Today that he would take a break after his first is born. And remember that in April, Michael Douglas said much the same thing. In the newspaper biz, you need at least three examples to qualify for an emerging trend. So whaddaya say Mr. Farrell? It's almost September, isn't it?

And there's a good piece on at-home fathers out of Waterloo and Cedar Falls, Iowa. The piece goes a long way to dispell some of the stereotypes (I'm ignoring the Mr. Mom reference. It's just too tempting to leave out, I suppose.) Again, another reporter is honestly struggling with the number of us at-home dads, deciding to say that there are 1.7 million kids cared for by at-home dads, a jump of 70 percent since 1990. No idea exactly where those number come from -- they don't quite match my understanding (which shows more than 2 million preschoolers alone under fathercare in 1999).

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

I missed the boat in missing this Rich Lowry column from last week, which intends to be about how the huge drawbacks of day care (compared with parental care) are swept under the rug (he reviews Day Care Deception). I'll get back to that idea as soon as I deal with some silliness that crept into the op-ed.

Lowry decides that discussing (and dissing) day care isn't enough -- he wants solutions to the problem. Some of them (fix the tax system to reward parents) make sense (see this week's New Yorker for another take on the service parents provide ... at great expense), but his parting argument is just nutty: "The biggest, most important change would be for the culture to stop showering praise and adulation on working moms ... "

I have no problem whatsoever with making sure that at-home mothers get more credit. That's not a controversial political view. I believe it. Lowry believes it. Some of the nation's highest-profile women's advocates believe it. The problem arises when we lay the blame squarely and solely at the feet of working women. You want to blame America's wealth-and-work obsessed culture for the number of kids in day care? Go ahead. But don't say that it's mom's fault. Dad can certainly do the job at home. Trust me on this one.

Two letter writers to the Portland Oregonian, which ran Lowry's piece, were published today, and it's worth checking out the that feeback here and here.

Finally, let me touch on the central tenet of Lowry's piece -- the argument about day care he makes before claiming that feminism is sending the nation's youth to hell in a handbasket. The line of thinking that day care's dangers are covered up seems to be getting more and more attention, and I'm increasingly convinced that there's something to it. For many families, there is no other choice (let's face it, staying at home is not economically in the cards for everyone), and I can understand the desire to soften the impact of negative findings about day care. But I have to wonder about the extent to which that incomplete information clouds the calculation about whether to a parent should stay home ...

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

FYI: the folks that provide the comment service are switching servers. Should be back up at some point soon. I hope.
I read all the way through the new Parenting, and my blood pressure remained completely steady. While the usual frustrations (the beauty section, the "Mom-Tested Tips," etc.) remained in place, the tone was less aggravatingly mom-directly than it's been over the last few months. And for those who managed to make it to page 151, there was a well-reported, thoughful piece on how men are balancing work and family better nowadays. The mag played the story straight, hit some important points and generally argued that having dad around more was both a) very very good and b) very doable. Let's hope it's a trend that catches on.

Because I touched about on the usual frustrations, I'd like to propose a Rebel Dad challenge: I want to see if we can get as many dad names into future "Mom-Tested Tips" as possible. The magazine has a number of e-mail addresses you can use, or surf over to the mag's "community" page and enter your thought there. Rebel Dad-reading fathers who get their name into print win beer. Get quoted directly under a "Mom-Tested!" heading and I'll make sure it's good beer. Sound fair? E-mail me with any questions about this endeavor.

Monday, August 11, 2003

For starters, let me flag this cover story from USA Today about kids doing their own back-to-school shopping. Why? Because the parent letting the kids in the story's introduction run wild in the mall ... is an at-home dad. And yet the story never lingers on the point. I rather like seeing the media occassionally treat Rebel Dads like perfectly usual members of society. (Kids shopping on their own? Major Trend! At-home dad? Part of the American family fabric. Yawn.)

Something to add to the reading list: the New York Times runs this review of a newly published Nathaniel Hawthorne book that recounts the great author's three weeks of at-home daddydom with his five-year-old son. Says Paul Auster, the guy who brought the short book to print: "It should be the bible of all the housefathers, the stay-at-home fathers today." Off to amazon I go ...

Finally, the stoller daddy phenomenon has caught blog-fire among parental-type blogs, with two more dismissive thoughts from daddies (Laid-Off Dad and frenzied daddy) and one of-course-stroller-daddies-are-hot piece by MomBrain).
Ahhh ... the magic of nature. A rotten tree yesterday limb severed the cable that connects the Rebel Dad telecommunications hub (read: phone, DSL) to the world at large. It's now repaired, but I'm digging out from the e-mail and phone calls that stacked up. There's some minor at-home dad news out there, but that's toward the bottom of my priority list right now ...

Friday, August 08, 2003

Google-powered search is now a go along the left-hand rail. This is far more likely to be useful to me than to you, but it's there if you want it.
I've whined in this space before about the dearth of thoughtful research on at-home fathers and the fact that no one has taken much time to figure out who we are and how we decided to take this gig. So I'm guarded optimistic about this USC effort to create a disipline called "Men's Studies. From the story, it looks like it'll be a real exploration of the other side of the gender revolution of the last 50 years. Though new areas of academic study sometimes seem to respond to someone's ideological need, rather than an academic need, the fact that the Women's Studies profs quoted are also upbeat about the prospect makes me more comfortable.

For more on the subject of the "stroller effect", check out Being Daddy, who has both a nice post and a lively discussion in his comment

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

I received a nice surprise in the Rebel Dad mailbag. A reader pointed out this bit from a New York magazine on sexy pulled-off-the-street New Yorkers. The linked part shows a nice musician pushing his little girl about town in a stroller.

The comments from the mag's experts: "Hello, Daddy! What is it about a yummy guy with a cute kid that gets our panties in a twist? He looks like he’d stay the whole night and make you breakfast in the morning." And "What woman wouldn’t want this guy? If he’s married, that only makes him hotter."

The reader comment: "So, should we be pleased that dads can be recognized as sexy, or insulted that the stereotype of an unaccompanied dad as a Lothario is being reinforced? A little of both, I suppose."

I must admit, I'm at a bit of a loss for what to make of this. My first impression is that anything that a) makes caregiving dads look normal and b) makes us look attractive can't be bad. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Moving back (thankfully) to the news, I want to flag a story that ran Sunday in the Kansas City star on local at-home dads. In terms of reporting, it was one of the most exhaustive newspaper stories I've seen in a long time, tracking down's Jay Massey, convention founder Bob Frank and Hogan Hilling. But the analysis of those guys was secondary to the stories of some nice-sounding midwestern dads who had it all -- perspective, humor and the best job in the world.

The piece was also noteworthy for its expressly non-economic analysis. It makes the point right off the bat that we're not talking about laid-off fathers here -- we're talking about guys who have chosen this path in life -- and suggests that few at-home dads were forced into the job by a layoff. There's no data, of course, on how dads ended up at home, so it's speculation, but the author clearly seems to have an opinion (and one that I share). Bonus points also given for casting doubt on the Census numbers (though the story errs in publishing the number of kids under fathercare -- 189,000 -- rather than the number of at-home dads themselves -- 105,000).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, some in Australia have figured out the right thing to do regarding paid parenting leave: offer it. Though there's still much state resistance to the idea, it sounds like progress is being made. If I remember correctly, Australia is one of those countries where worker benefits is far more American than European, so this may be extra-good news.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

I've had an interesting exchange with "ridley" in the comments section to Friday's post, and his final post begs for some answers. The questions he poses are serious enough that they're worth trying to answer here.

1. "So is it that you think you can possibly spark this revolution of stay-at-home fathers? Do you hope to send all mothers out of the house, to jobs usually filled by highly qualified men?" Leaving aside the final aside, I don't think I can spark change alone via a weblog (but I'll do anything I can to help). And I do not wish to cast out all at-home mothers in terms of at-home fathers. Right now we're outnumbered 56 to 1. I don't want parity, I but I believe that a ratio that's smaller than 56 to 1 is possible. I want to make sure that families know that they have another option. I want fathers to have the same choice as mothers. Here are the stats:
40 percent of men say they'd like to be at-home fathers.
30.7 percent of all working wives outearn their husbands, 11 percent of them earning significantly more.
But one-half of one percent of dads are the at-home type, according to the (flawed) Census numbers.
I want to know what accounts for the discrepancy between the economics, the desires and the reality.

2. "WHY is this so important to you, anyway? I know you must be a father, but, really, is it truly necessary to carry on like this?" I believe that anything that expands a family's child-care options is a net good for society, and any time a viable option is disregarded or ignored, families suffer. I don't believe that every family that thinks about fathercare will come to the conclusion that it is best. Heck, most families will come to the opposite conclusions for reasons of economics or temperment. But at least some of those deep-thinking families will come to the same conclusion that MP Dunleavey does: this is a wild, socially rebellious plan, but it just might work out for us.

There has been a good deal of gnashing of teeth about whether daycare is bad or just kind of benign. Especially given concerns about other forms of care, why there hasn't been a fuller examing of the option of at-home fatherhood, given the documented benefits to everyone in the family? That's an important question to answer. And that's why I "carry on like this."

Friday, August 01, 2003

I know it's getting late on a Friday night and this post is likely to get lost in the black hole of content that is the weekend, but I have a link so wonderful it must be throw up here sooner rather than later. MSN's Money Central put up this hard-headed examination of the personal finance/career/family planning decision to have an at-home dad. (Thanks to the Yahoo! dads-at-home group for the link.)

Not only is the reasoning laid out crystal clear, I love the tone of happy surprise that the author -- MP Dunleavey -- infuses into the column. It reads as if she sat down, thought through the implications of at-home fatherhood and was shocked at the simple conclusion she was able to reach. "I'm lovin' the idea," she writes. "I just got married and I need more financial options than a) I stay home with the kids or b) we shell out half our salaries for child care."

This fills me with joy, because it suggests the big obstacle that keeps many families from choosing at-home dad-dom is a lack of deep thought. Dunleavey's analysis reinforces what I have long believed: anyone who works out the pluses and minuses of various family care decisions must inevitably come to the conclusion that the dad-at-home lifestyle is far more sensible and viable than most seem to appreciate. Of course, the next step -- getting people to think hard about this -- is the hard one. And I'm open to suggestions on how to get over that hurdle.