Tuesday, September 30, 2003

More tech problems. I've come to realize that my usual e-mail address isn't working. If you've sent anything to me in the last two or three weeks and would like me to see it, try resending to rebeldad@rebeldad.com. Apologies.
A truce of sorts has broken out between my blogging provider and my the host of rebeldad.com, so I can again post. Yesterday, I threw up a dated post that had long been held hostage by the dispute, and I'll begin blogging again in earnest now. (Well, sort of earnest. As I mentioned, October looks to be a wee bit busy.)

And though some news has built up while I've been struggling with the finer points of FTP, I'll get to that later. Now, I'd like to celebrate the nice folks at the J.M. Smucker Co. for their new Jif ad campaign. I was tuned into the Today show this morning when I caught a warm, fuzzy peanut butter commerical with a dad making sandwiches with his daughter. I'm a sucker for sweet commercials featuring men fathering. Then, the ages-old Jif tagline begins: "Choosy Moms" -- pregnant pause -- "and Dads Choose Jif."

Dads buying peanut butter? Interacting with their children? It's not the kind of thing I see on TV, especially not from the Madison Avenue ad types, very often. So now I have a new brand of peanut butter. And I need to send J.M. Smucker Co. a note of congratualations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

No one has yet won the Great Get-Dads-To-Submit-"Mom-Tested Tips"-to-Parenting-Magazine Contest. My new issue came while I was away, and, as usual, it was lacking in dad voices. Of course there was a cover story about dads ("How to get Dad to do his share (really!)"). Not exactly progress. Of course, the stats are pretty clear: in most families, dad does less of the housework than the mom. And the researchers I've spoken to suggest that at-home dads probably are less housework-centric than at-home moms. So I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, cleaning responsibilities are a big problem in a lot of families. On the other hand, Parenting chooses to frame it in an us-vs-them way. Typical.

(I'm reminded, of course, of Parenting's new ad campaign: "We Get Moms." Laid-Off Dad had this to say on the topic a couple of weeks ago: "Apparently this pithy little nugget was chosen over the inferable 'Dads perplex us.'")

But the reliably manly Men's Health runs a long piece by their advice-dishing bartender columnist (not on the web) in which he gives a swift kick in the ass to a working man who complains that his wife wants him to take up some of the kidcare slack ("Don't I get any downtime here?" the dad complains). Jimmy the Bartender's reply, in part: "What you have to understand is that when it comes to your home life, your wife is the starting pitcher and she throws a ton of pitches every day. Be a trouper and close out the game, would ya?" Jimmy also suggests trading places for a week: "... then tell me who needs downtime". It ain't Yeats, but it's good stuff.

Finally, more good press for super-dad Bruce Stockler, a member of the Rebel Dad Hall of Fame. (As an aside, how the heck does an at-home dad of triplets both write a book and write political humor for major magazines in his spare time? Where does this spare time come from? I'd love to purchase a nice block. I want to write a book, too.)

Monday, September 22, 2003

OK. I'm really back. And ready to blog. Unfortunately, I wanted to link to yesterday's Rhymes With Orange comic, but I can't seem to find it on the web. It'll get posted eventually. Hint: the title of the comic was "Daddy Day Care." (If you find the link, please let me know).

Sadly, I don't plan to be in the New York City area in the next couple of weeks, so I am likely to miss the first (I would guess) one-man play about at-home fatherhood, "A Rooster in the Henhouse". The first read to submit a review, either in comments or via e-mail, will be entitled to beers from me. It sounds like one heck of a work, and my new goal for the week is to somehow buy/finagle a copy of the script. If so, and if I'm plied with enough alcohol at the convention, maybe I'll put on a production of my own in Chicago.

The other pop culture note worth making is that tonight (9:30 p.m. Eastern) is the premiere of Two and a Half Men. Not an at-home dad show, per se, but a comedy about men raising children. I have such a hard time scheduling my TV watching, but influential TV critic Tom Shales likes it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that effort, too.

In the world of at-home dads in the media, I didn't miss much while I was out, unless you consider dads running the PTA to be revolutionary. There's other news to report -- my monthly Parenting analysis/rant and a nice plug for involved dads from the cooler-than-thou folks at Men's Health, but I'm not in blogging shape right now. I'll have to pace myself.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Excuse du jour: 52-hour power outage. Back now, still reeling from combination of post-vacation chaos and natural disaster chaos. But there's a few things worthy of discussion that have popped up into pop culture. Maybe tomorrow ...

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Yes, I'm back. But I don't have my act together. No posts today, most probably.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

OK ... one more quick link: Day care rules, via the Onion's Herbert Kornfeld. (Warning: contains lots and lots of profanity, examples of flagrantly bad parenting and accountant humor. If any of this stuff bothers you, don't click the link.)
Last-minute, pre-vacation grabbag today. Rebel Mom and I are leaving for a kidless vacation tomorrow, so Rebel Dad will go stagnant for the rest of this week and most of next week. Feel free to carry your discussions into the comments area if you're really dying for at-home news, or check out Being Daddy, who posts an impressive amount ...

While we're talking about Being Daddy, he here examined the souped-up stroller phenomenon that the fashion gurus at the New York Times wrote about earlier this week. Finally, a baby trend in which dads are targeted! (Of course, we're being played as gadget-obsessed nutcases, but I'll take what we can get.)

Along the same lines, I've been beem meaning to make a quick post about the ad campaign for the new Nissan Quest. The tag line is "Moms have changed." Here's the weird thing: the Quest is the designer stroller of the minivan world. It sounds like a minivan built by frat boys. It's loaded with gadgets. Five sunroofs. It has a 240-hp engine, for Pete's sake. And yet the ad campaign aggressively directed solely at women? Odd, no?

Finally, Al's Morning Meeting (a story resource for reporters run out of the journalistic think tank at the Poynter Institute) has challenged his reporting readers to explain the male teacher gap. I'll keep an eye out to see if anyone takes the bait.

Monday, September 08, 2003

I'm taking a step back from at-home dad analysis today to try to parse a more puzzling (but related) phenomenon. Where the heck are all the male teachers? The nice folks at the National Education Association put out a 300-odd page report on the state of the American teacher. Buried in the report (and in the much more accessible four-page data summary (PDF)) is this startling fact: 21 percent of teachers are men, the lowest (by a long shot) since NEA started collecting the stats 40 years ago.

What gives? Newspapers are rushing to write happy stories about men taking over traditionally female jobs (see this USA Today story and this one from the Cincinnati Enquirer). The number of male nurses has almost triped in the past two decades. The same seems to be true in other fields. And, of course, at-home dad numbers (as best we can we tell) are on the rise.

So there's a mystery here, and I haven't seen a good explanation of why teacher-gender ratios should be widening when they're closing elsewhere. (In fact, in the two stories linked to above, which were written before the NEA report, the authors come to the common-sense conclusions that men must indeed be making strides in the classroom.)

The teacher gender gap is particularly bothersome to me because school is where those first impressions of what men do and what women do begin to get reinforced. And those I don't have time to do more than a cursory, unreliable Google search, it seems that men and women tend to have different teaching styles. And then there's the importance of role modeling. I'd love to propose a solution to this disparity, but I can't even figure out an explanation for what's going on. Can you?

Saturday, September 06, 2003

A month ago, I had no idea who Paul Auster was, but he quickly came to my attention when the New York Times ran an article about his successful effort to get Nathaniel Hawthorne's musing on fatherhood published. In what I feared was a bit of overstatement, Auster bragged that the book, Twenty Days with Julian and Little Bunny by Papa, "should be the bible of all the housefathers, the stay-at-home fathers today."

The bible for Rebel Dads? Written by the Scarlett Letter guy a century and a half ago?

But I'm a sucker for this stuff, so I ponied up and bought the book. Good move. The literature on fathers and children often seems a bit bare, though there are clearly some wonderful current examples (like Believing It All by Marc Parent and buddy Hogan Hilling's The Man Who Would Be Dad). But Hawthorne's 74-page account -- taken from his notebooks -- of the three weeks he spent caring for his five-year-old is a true gem. The not only can the guy write, he has a great eye for parenting, too.

There is no whitewashing in the account. The kid sometimes drives Hawthorne nuts, and he is confident enough to say so. But the book paints a picture a father who appears to love every minute of his time with his child. And it serves almost as a modern parenting guide: stimulate the imagination, endure the constant questioning, be a kid yourself. Apparently, Hawthorne doesn't have much of a rep as a softie in literary circles, but it sounds like he's one heck of a dad.

The book was written in 1851, showing that the idea of men as caring, capable providers stretches back well before Alan Alda ever hit the scene. One of the troubling elements of at-home fatherhood coverage is the perception that somehow men only recently figured out how to raise kids. Hawthorne shows that we've always had the tools, just not the opportunity. Hawthorne, as a novelist (and a slightly eccentric one at that), had the chance, and he made the most of it. I only hope I can do the same.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Before I get to the gripping subject of the analysis of America's great 19th century writers and their perspectives on fatherhood (tonight. Or maybe tomorrow), I'd like to re-open the comics page, briefly.

For starters, it look's like Mike from For Better or for Worse may snag a new job, which would effectively end the fired-writer-become-at-home-dad storyline I've been hoping for. But the last panel keeps hope alive... could Meredith be tugging at Mike's heart (as well as his shirt)?

And let's throw in this panel from this week's New Yorker. Remember ... if you're not having fun with your children, even New Yorker types will make fun of you.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

To continue ...

* The nice folks at The Cinci at-home dad group wanted to make sure that I saw this Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader story (and this sidebar). It's a well-done member of the "local at-home dads" genre, and gets the great guys in Cinci to comment, along with the usual suspects (Jay Massey and Libby Gill.)

* Along the same lines, the weekly Jewish paper in DC carried this story last week. It's a deep look at a minority group of a minority group, and it provides a compelling look at some at-home dad lives.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Free time has appeared with the chaos's usual suddenness. So here are some of the nice media mentions of the last week:

* This story out of Clarksville, TN does the usual, happy job on at-home dads, but throws in a stat that I had yet to consider seriously in looking into the crystal ball of at-home dad-dom: "Experts say that number is likely to grow as young women pull ahead of men in higher education, with its ticket to a higher income. Thirty-three percent of women ages 25 to 34 have completed college, compared with 29 percent of men in the same age group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau." Interesting, no?

*Dads at co-ops. Co-oping dads! It's about time.

* Time's running out. More later ...
No nap today. Ergo, no post.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Continuing to clean out the closet. Noted (almost) without comment: this Atlantic Monthly piece lionizing 50s housewives. No trace of irony. Seriously.
I survived (more or less) my travels. I'm not particularly refreshed or well-rested, though, so please excuse any flagrant flaws in my logic. Let me start by trying to clear off my desk from last week. I will get around to everything I promised. In good time.

As you recall, the Wall Street Journal last week put Rebel Dads on the front of their Marketplace segment and detailed the struggle of at-home dad to reenter the workforce. The online daddy boards too a somewhat dim view of the article, suggesting that the story, headlined "Stay-at-Home Dads Fight Stigma," may have reinforced the (largely) untrue stereotype of at-home dads as unemployed gentlemen putting on a good face. And one of the men quoted said that the incidents retold in the piece represented the fringe of the hiring world, not the general attitude of those hiring. I'm not sure I agree with the first charge (that the piece reinforced negative stereotypes) and I'm not too troubled by the second charge (picking only the most extreme examples).

The reality out there is that some people doing hiring right now are short-sighted dolts with a bias against hiring at-home parents. But I think the story made it pretty clear that such execs are indeed dolts. (In talking about one disasterous interview, the story notes: "... although the interviewer never bothered to ask ... about any of his specific technological abilities.") Not the kind of guy I want building my company.