Friday, October 31, 2003

Today we span the spectrum from wonk to Winfrey ... I'll start with the big O: Oprah had a show yesterday on the "Million Dollar Idea Challenge," featuring everyday people who had genius (or near-genius) ideas. Among the competitors: an at-home dad named Robert Klick who invented the Po-Knee, a rocking horse that sets on dad's (or mom's) knee. I think Robert won -- the winner was to be announced on QVC last night at 8 p.m. (I wasn't watching) and the website wasn't very helpful. But ... QVC was hawking the Po-Knee during the 8 p.m. hour last night, which I take as good news.

The bad news is that the some nice Demon Decons have determined that taking family leave is a lousy career move for men. It's convention wisdom that women who disappear to take maternity leave are often hurt in the workplace, but this study suggests that men are hurt even worse by exercising their federally protected right to take family leave. While I can't say this is entirely surprising -- I faced resistance when I took my paternity leave -- it still saddens me. Men taking leave to be with their newborns is probably the best -- and the easiest -- way to create better fathers (and more at-home dads) by letting men know first-hand about what it's like to be focused on their children on a more-or-less constant basis. Unfortunately, beyond some TV stations the news was pretty much yawned off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

For a look at a very different side of at-home fatherhood, the latest New York Magazine is worth a read. The cover story focuses on a growing but generally ignored cross section of Rebel Dads: gay parents. It's a topic I haven't seen elsewhere in the media, at least not with this kind of treatment, but bloggers might be familiar with one first-person (actually, first-persons) account from Daddy, Papa and Me. The New York piece has a lot of detailed anecdotes and makes for a compelling read.

The Better Homes and Gardens story that I had heard about was every bit as hackneyed as the New York piece was novel. That's not to say that it wasn't a good story, or a positive one, it's just that I'm beginning to feel, after a year of blogging and years of reading every at-home dad story I can find, that it is plenty easy to write the same ain't-this-interesting story about dads (funny anecdote, marginal statistics, brief bit on the challenges, another anecdote, etc. etc.). Even the stat the author plucks out of the ether (2 million at-home dads, according to the 2000 Census) is probably inaccurate (can anyone point me to a 2000 Census doc on the number of at-home dads? I'm fairly certain -- but not convinced -- that number doesn't exist).

Finally, Sunday's New York Times Magazine story on "The Opt-Out Revolution," is being knocked from all kinds of angles in the Times' reader feedback section. There are some good posts from the RD perspective and some nasty critiques from elsewhere in the parenting spectrum. Rebel Dad didn't feel capable enough to point out some of the feelings of modern feminists or those who don't have the economic options as middle-aged white women married to six-figure-making men. The Times readers, however, appear to be more than capable of making those points.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Most of the stats I talk about here are simply too bad to be true, ginned up with lousy definitions or suspect surveys. But I'm happy to announce a stat that must be too good to be true: the number of at-home dads in Scotland has doubled in the past two years. What's more, there's been a quadrupling since 1996. Not bad, not bad at all. Of course, I have no idea where those numbers come from. The story says that a UK-based web support group did the research, but I couldn't find anything on the study on the web site (it may exist, I just couldn't find it). That's not exactly a group of disinterested demographers. Still, the fact that the stat -- accurate or not -- was nonetheless believable enough for a paper to run with it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

And speaking of warm, fuzzy feelings, this AP dispatch on getting dads involved in PTAs makes me feel nice all over. That's primarily because it suggests that dads will get involved if they see other dads. Involved fathering, in other words, may be contagious.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I wasn't disappointed by the New York Times Magazine cover story by Lisa Belkin on "The Opt-Out Revolution." That's not entirely true. I was disappointed by the story, but there's plenty to blog about in there. It's a lose-win. Kind of like the World Series.

The story is not about at-home dads ... it's about high-powered women who choose to chuck their Ivy League grad degrees and their six-figure salaries to stay home. Here's a sample line that sets the tone: "There is nothing wrong with money or power. But they come at a high price. And lately when women talk about success they use words like satisfaction, balance and sanity." The story isn't untrue or overblown, from what I can tell, but it manages to leave the biggest question that I have about the phenomenon unanswered: why is this being seen in women? What does gender have to do with it? Do men not want "balance and sanity"?

The nice women Beklin quotes tend to see men and women as different creatures. One goes so far as to proclaim "'It's all in the MRI.'", suggesting that there's stuff going on the brains of women that isn't going on the brains of men. Of course, as far as I know -- and I would be very interested to stand corrected -- there is no such MRI study (a point Belkin seems to concede). When Belkin turns to anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy to bolster that point, Hrdy issues a stern warning: "'... to turn that into dogma -- women are caring, men are not, or men should have power, women should not, that's dangerous and false.'" And with that, Hrdy is vanishes from the piece, which goes on to blithely trumpet that "dangerous" dogma.

The real shame is that the question of why career-track moms are fleeing the workforce so much faster than career-track dads is a very real, very important question. Maybe biology does play a role. There are social pressure, too, and family dynamics and a hundred other subtle things. Teasing them all out would have made for a bombshell of a piece. But it's easier, I support, to leave those bits alone and just interview a bunch of fellow Princeton grads.

At the very tail end of the piece, Belkin tries to argue that this emerging domesticity is a good thing for dads, arguing that the 18 percent rise in at-home dad rates over the past decade was made possible by the movement of women out of the workforce and into the home. "Men are being freed to act like women," she writes. That argument is not complete bunk, but it wildly overstates at-home motherhood as the reason for the at-home dad increase. (There is another stat -- which I hadn't seen before -- showing that 46 percent of Ernst and Young family leaves were taken by men. That is a figure that I will look into.)

In short, the piece seemed to ram home the old-fashioned party line: women are happier at home. But I'm happy at home too. And so are the guys in my dads playground, the Ivy League grads, the ex-lawyers, the former hotshot political operatives. Is there something wrong with our MRIs? Belkin leaves me wondering.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

This is a great week for magazine articles of interest to Rebel Dad. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any of these articles. More magazine and Better Homes and Gardens (both owned by the same folks) both supposedly have at-home dad stories. I haven't seen either. I don't subscribe to More and I'm thinking the family subscription to BHG has run out. Either way, I may have to take a trip to newsstand to learn more. If someone knows where electronic copies reside, I'd be most grateful. And the fine folks at Slate, in their summary of other magazines, notes an interesting-sounding article coming out in the New York Times Magazine on career women leaving the workforce to spend more time with family. My guess is it will read true to a lot of at-home dads ... I'll let you know what I think (once Sunday rolls around).

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

An alert Rebel Dad reader sent me this fine column preaching the gospel of Ann Crittenden. But what caught both the reader's eye -- and mine -- was that the entire column was written without any gender-based assumptions about who the stay-at-home parent would be. Such a balance isn't nearly as common as it should be, and it comes in marked contrast to a book I pulled off the library shelf today: Daddy Smarts: A Guide for Rookie Fathers. It's written by a guy I've spoken to before, and who I presume is a fairly intelligent go-getter. Yet his guide devotes zero time to the prospect of a dad staying at home and little time to the idea of mom at home ... but a whole chapter on daycare. Hardly as "Daddy Smart" as the title would suggest.

I also missed this Bergen, NJ newspaper piece about men's groups. It's a generally nice article that spans a range of men-for-men support groups, including the suddenly very high-profile New Jersey dads group. The trend of men being men without being macho is one worth watching. The fallout can't be anything but good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

My suspicion is that the fine students at the Michigan Daily do not read Rebel Dad on a regular basis. Still, I am impressed that, within a week of my plea for more stories about Michigan First Man Dan Mulhern, the paper came through with this story. Kudos to Andrew Kaplan, Daily Staff Reporter. Contact me about your beers.

On the blog front, I should highlight this nice post by a gentleman named David Neiwert, who says nice things about Rebel Dad personally, at-home fatherhood generally. Plus, it's moving to boot. A must-read. Being Daddy is also back after a hiatus. We over here at RD wish him sunny days and thawed baby wipes.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The dadlands have been quiet, so I'm dredging the bottom of the barrel a little bit. Full Time Father, on the other hand, has been busy, picking up on this unfortunate piece of news. He then looked even deeper at the trend of kids -- young kids -- staying home alone. For a pre-Halloween scare, check out this report. (Thanks to FTF for both links.)

Secondly, a Bay Area non-profit that helps parents find childcare claims to have picked up on the at-home dad trend before anyone else. I'm glad that this is enough of a trend that groups are rushing to claim credit for noticing it first.

Here's where my next two bucks is going: bumper stickers emblazoned with Peter Baylies' slogan: "Men Who Change Diapers Change the World."

Finally, I missed the news a couple of months ago that we may not have seen the last of the "Daddy Day Care" film phenomenon. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends, I suppose, on whether Eddie Murphy is a step up in the dad department from Micheal Keaton.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Some quick hits today ... but nothing Earth-shattering. For starters, the fine young people at the student newspaper at the University of Michigan (NCAA field hockey champs, 2001) put out this nice piece of work about a women-in-leadership conference. The story makes clear that at-home dads play a role in allowing these women to chase their dreams. Sounds like a great conference.

Of course, it's going on in Michigan, a hotbed of at-home activity. A Rebel Dad reader wrote to remind me has a governor -- Jennifer Granholm -- who is married to an at-home dad -- Dan Mulhern. Mulhern, the letter writer notes, has probably made more of an active effort to get men to recognize the opportunities of fatherhood than anyone in the past year yet has received next to no recognition. I happen to agree, and I will make a point of trying to drum up positive Dan Mulhern stories in the coming months. And any loyal reader who can demostrate their role in getting Mulhern press will be eligible for a prize (beer) from the Rebel Dad fridge.

I also received a nice note celebrating the re-emergence of the New Jersey dads group, who sponsored their own float in the Crayola 100th Anniversary Parade. Sounds like congrats are in order.

Monday, October 13, 2003

I'm going to leave aside the first paragraph of the New York Post's review of the at-home dad-centric Rooster in the Henhouse, and relish the good press that author/actor John O'Hern. The play's run has been extended. Perhaps I'll yet have a chance to see it ...

USA Today has this story that ties the whole Demi/Ashton bit into a large story about how women are feeling more free to look at younger men to garner "trophy husbands." I'm not sure Demi was what Fortune had in mind last year when it ran the defining "Trophy Husbands" cover story, though. (Looks like the USA Today has it's roots in this story from a newspaper owned by USA Today's parent company. It also mentions an at-home dad.)

Friday, October 10, 2003

There's a suprisingly deep look at childcare choices in the latest issue of one of those free local parenting publications from the Richmond, Virginia area. The story focuses largely on at-home moms, but shows a remarkable even-handedness in talking about dads -- and families making more complex, more flexible arrangements that allow everyone to get what they want (more or less) from work and home. It also mentions Arlene Cardozo, who published a really interesting, 17-year-old book called Sequencing that suggested the parents could "have it all" if they followed career establishment with child-rearing, followed by career resumption, rather than trying to juggle kidcare and job maintainence at the same time.

I haven't talked about Sequencing before, but I wonder how much resonance the idea really has. The book, of course, is almost two decades old, and it hit the shelves in the midst of the "supermom" period (in which moms were repeatedly told they could, in fact, have it all ... at once). But I hear very little about "sequencing" as a concept today, and my conversations with work/family experts suggests that sequencing is a good way for parents to wreak havoc on their long-term career plans by making re-entry into the workforce more difficult.

So I've been playing with the idea that more and more at-home parents (with a particularly high rate of at-home dads) are continuing to work even while at-home parents, be it though contract work, flexible schedules or vastly reduced hours. A number of the local dads have side projects going on (web work, consulting, etc.), even though they serve as a primary caregiver. And the disparate Census stats (initially discussed here) would seem to support that. On the one hand, there are a couple million fathers who serve as primary caretakers, but only 105,000 are considered "out of the labor force," meaning that in the last year, they made no money and didn't looking for work. That's a huge, huge disparity, and it probably reflects a rejection of sequencing in favor of a restructured, scaled-back but still somewhat active work life.

That clearly doesn't apply to all dads -- I've met plenty of fathers who would fall into the smaller "just-childcare" group -- but let me throw it open to the readers: are parents today more likely to keep minimal professional involvement even when they're home with their kids? And are dads more likely that moms to do so?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

So what are at-home dads doing today, according to the national media? Well, for starters, we're marrying older women (coo-coo ca-choo, Mrs. Robinson) and we're getting kicked out of the public square for offending the powers-that-be with our topical, though slightly inappropriate and largely unfunny jokes. But nothing that makes me any less proud to be an at-home dad ...

... and it's finally up, the Rhymes with Orange strip from last month. Funny stuff.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

It is quiet. It's almost eerie. The at-home dad media landscape has fallen largely silent. Of course, folks like Being Daddy are still posting (check out this BD instant classic). But all in all, there's not much to say. I should point out this brief bit on a gender studies program in Iowa. Dads get some ink, but it's not a very well-done story. It does raise an interesting question, one that I really haven't seen addressed: are gender studies programs focusing more on at-home dads? And if so, in what ways?

Overseas, we're getting more ink. Super-dad Bruce Stockler apparently had a piece published in the Times of London titled "I'm a stay-at-home dad, a pariah in the suburbs." Access to it, sadly, will cost money, but I will reward with beer anyone who can get me the text of the story ...

Sunday, October 05, 2003

It's going to a slow month here at RD central, so please bear with me. The first bit worth linking to is this "Annie's Mailbox" from Friday (Annie's Mailbox is sort of the the reincarnation of Ann Landers). The topic: an at-home dad shunned by his teenage daughter's friends (and parents) because of suspicions that he might be a creep, so to speak. This caught my eye, actually, for its rarity: I hear all the time about male teachers, scout leaders, etc., etc., who worry that they'll be looked upon as predators because they choose to work with kids. But I can't think of another example of dads reporting the same kind of discomfort. Are dads (generally) more immune to that sort of stereotype?

Secondly, since when has one of Luciano Pavarotti's titles been at-home dad? Heck, I'll welcome him to the club ...

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I'm a wee bit tired and more than a little bit traumatized, but the posts must go on. Actually, I'll be all over the map today:

On the wretched subject of baseball, one advantage of at-home dad-dom is you have no problem bringing your kid to weekday playoff days games. Even if they are Yankee games.

There's this brief at-home dad profile in an Arkansas paper. I can't say it's comprehensive, but it sure ain't bad press.

And I should note that the Cincinnati dads gets results! According to my man Tim (see comments to Tuesday's post), he complained to the Jif people about their "Choosy Moms Choose Jif" line ... and now they've changed it. So Tim, I owe you beers.