Wednesday, November 26, 2003

First of all, a big kudos to the guys who put on the annual at-home dad convention. It went over wonderfully. The actual program (which is really secondary) was very, very well-done, with heavy emphasis on very convention-esque "breakout sessions" that gave ample opportunity for us to talk to each other.

That is, of course, the whole point of the gathering. Unlike a meeting of, say, cardiologists, the room isn't packed with guys wanting to know what the newest findings in the field of fatherhood are. The room is packed with guys looking to connect with fathers who are as passionate about at-home fatherhood as they are. It's a vaccination against isolation, a reminder that there are lots of guys in our exact position, however rare at-home dads seem to be when we saunter into the coffeeshop or the playground.

In that regard, the pre-convention festivities (which I missed this year) and the post-convention activities (which I made) are the most important element. And those went off great, too. I feel like I shared a beer with just about everyone there, leaving with more friends, more contacts, than I could have imagined.

Next year the program is getting even beefier, with a presentation by the only person to have done any good research lately on at-home dads, Yale's Kyle Pruett. I'm blocking off the weekend on my calendar now.

Of course, I now need to make the predictable complaint about the whole shindig: the timing is terrible. Holding the convention the weekend before Thanksgiving complicates travel plans. I'd estimate that less than 10 percent of the guys (excluding speakers) at the event flew in, making it a regional convention, rather than a true national meeting. Move the meeting back a month (or even a week) and I'd be willing to bet attendance soars.

There's more to write, and I'm trying to put it into a publishable form ... feel free to share your experieces in the comments section.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Back from the Windy City. Another good convention. More on that -- and a week's worth of links -- once I get my wits about me.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

I know that the hard-core conventioneers are already en route to Chicago, but I wanted to see if any other Rebel Dad readers will be there on Saturday. I'll be wearing my Red Sox cap. Please say hello. I'm somewhat shy in real life.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Between the start of the annual flu season at the Rebel Dad headquarters, the piling on of assorted small tasks and preparations for this weekend's convention, I can hardly keep straight what I've been planning on writing about. So apologies in advance for jumping around (and liberal use of parenthesis).

Let's see ... American Baby magazine ran this piece on their website, which, while not the worst piece ever written on at-home fathers, could be the laziest. Best part of the story: the auto-generated disclaimer at the bottom of the page: "The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care." Remember, don't try this at-home dad stuff before talking to your doctor.

I said I wouldn't blog on the gawd-awful New York Magazine cover story from last week. Instead, let me point you to an insightful post from the Ms. Magazine blog. (It's a two-fer ... the gawd-awful NYT magazine piece of last month takes some more lumps, too.)

Finally, the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger ran this Gannett News Service story on whether work is becoming more family friendly (you'll have to ignore the headline, which was clearly written by someone who didn't read the story ...) There's no clear answer, but Julie Shields, author of How to Avoid the Mommy Trap says she's optimistic, in part because of Rebel Dads. (As an aside, Shields is looking for paternity leave stories on her message board).

Monday, November 17, 2003

Big news: the worst story ever written about at-home dads has been published. New York Magazine let loose with this piece of work titled "Alpha Women, Beta Men." It's bad, it makes the much-derided Newsweek cover story (can't find active link, sorry) look like a Pultizer winner. In short, the story is about the trials and tribulations of powerful women who have at-home husbands. How bad is the story? Here's a sampling of the way the men are described. Items from the story itself are in "single quotes," and quotes from the story are in "'double quotes:'"

"'it's like ... where you realize you're married to people who drink" ... "puttered around the house" ... "'freeloading'" ... "shell-shocked beta-spouse" ... "'like a child'" ... "'a parasite'" ..."'the bum'" ... "even though some of the freeloaders are excellent fathers" ...

Let's be honest: there are reams of social science data (none quoted in the story) that suggested that swapping gender roles is a stress on a relationship. That's not even up for debate. But this story goes well beyond that, spending thousands of words bashing those role-swapping men as no-good couch potatoes. Here are the three most disturbing elements of the author's approach:

1. There's a near-total avoidance of questions of parenthood and the value of raising the children. Can you seriously talk about househusbands without a serious discussion of fatherhood?

2. The story implies that you can be a do-nothing beta male even if you ... bring home $16,000 on the side (according to one woman who makes $270,000 a year) or if you teach public school (according to a divorce mediator).

3. There's latent sexism here with regard to the "beta" role in the family. If the story had been reversed and quoted a bunch of cigar-munching male execs belittling their "do-nothing" wives, the author's head would be on a stick.

I take all this with a grain of salt, and I doubt I'll blog on this article again. The author, Ralph Gardner, Jr., writes about the world as if it consists solely of uber-rich Upper East Side professionals. It's like reading about lost Amazonian societies -- there's a lot to the rituals that are so foreign as to be almost incomprehensible. A year ago, he botched a 'mommy wars' story by focusing on the same group of people ... people who aren't even representative of New York City, let alone America.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Friday night ... as good a time as any for deep thoughts about paternity leave. Following Wednesday's post on the fierce presidental politics of paid leave, I would be remiss in not flagging this brilliant piece from the Seattle Times on paternity leave. As some of you have figured out, I'm growing sick of the dads-are-caring-for-kids-more stories, and this one takes on the subject -- and takes it on well -- through the lens of paternity leave.

Some nice stats from a 2000 Oxygen/Markle poll: " ... two-thirds of men (and nearly three-quarters of women) said new dads should take more than two weeks off after the birth or adoption of a child ..." ... "three-quarters of men said loss of income, not lack of interest, was the main reason dads didn't take paternity leave ..."

That brings me to the feedback from Wednesday's post. In the comments, Hogan Hilling shocks me by saying he's opposed to paid leave. He has five reasons (I'm paraphrasing, he was more eloquent): 1) It'll hurt the businesses (or taxpayers) who pick up the tab. 2) A minority will abuse it by not taking care of the kids. 3) It ain't the money that keeps dads from taking leave, it's the loss of some measure of job security. 4) Family should be the priority, not money and 5) You can't put a price on wanting to spend time with you kids.

I can't say I agree. I answered Hogan point-for-point in the comments section. For the sake of brevity, I'll repeat here only my personal bias toward paid leave: if not for paid leave (I took three months, fully paid), I wouldn't have taken nearly the amount of leave I did. And if I hadn't taken all that leave, it's unlikely I would have become an at-home dad. It's not a question of my valuing money over spending time with my family. At the time of my first child's birth, my wife and I could not have afforded me to stay home, unpaid, no matter how much I loved the baby. Paid leave took away a certain amount of financial pressure. It also hooked me on parenting as a vocation. I didn't start the leave thinking I would end up quitting my job. But as the months progressed, swapping fathercare for daycare seemed like a more and more uncomfortable choice. In short, I owe my current status to my paid leave.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

There are very few single-issue voters on the subject of parenthood, but you have to wonder if being a good dad (or mom) is a good proxy for public office. Last week, most of the dems with presidential aspirations sat down at a Planned Parenthood forum that covered a number of women's-rights issues. But among the usual questions, there were a couple of interesting zingers in there. Wesley Clark and Carol Moseley Braun were asked about the prospect of paid family leave (and yes, they all used the term "family." Not "maternity," thank goodness).

For those keeping score, Clark is in favor ("Paid family leave, absolutely.") Braun is more circumspect because of the potential burden to business. This opens an interesting question: is coming out in favor of paid leave a radical stand? Have politicians had to answer that question before?

The second fun part is when each candidate is asked to grade themself as a parent. Everyone talks about how great their kids are, but there's no actual grading (other than Clark: "I don’t give myself that good a grade, but I had an A+ wife."). Another interesting snippet: Dean does diapers ("I did not nurse my children, but I did everything else, the diapers and all that other stuff.") Though, Dean admits to doing less than 50 percent of the share, his courageous stand in favor of dads doing diapers should be recognized.

Of course, the record on presidential/presidential candidate kids of late is a little spotty. The George W. Bush twins have been busted for alcohol, Dean's son has been arrested on burglary charges, Gore's son was cited for DUI and George H.W. Bush gets credit for Neil (though Neil, it should be noted, was never charged in the S&L debaucle). Reagan's daughter, Patti, posed for Playboy and Amy Carter was somewhat famous for getting arrested at political demonstrations. That's pretty impressive for rich white kids.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Don't know why I haven't been able to catch my breath, but when I do, there's news from the Democratic presidential nomination race and an interesting piece on paternity leave coming ... I will get to those topics this week, promise.

Friday, November 07, 2003

It's magazine day! In the magazines-commenting-on-magazines department, Reason gets in the last (?) word on last month's slightly silly NYT Magazine cover story on "opting out." (See the Rebel Dad discussion of it here.) Now while Reason has its ideological slant ("Free Minds and Free Markets"), the piece on opting-out seems to follow the RD slant.

"Belkin's biggest omission: men ... ", the author, Cathy Young, writes. " ... in many cases, perhaps, it's not that the women have less power but that the men have less freedom. Society still tends to frown on a man who "opts out"... Yet in a 2000 Harris poll, more than four-fifths of men in their 20s and 30s said that a work schedule which allowed for family time was more important to them than a challenging or high-paying job; only about one-quarter said that having a prestigious job was very important." This marks the second interesting Reason writing on dads this year: this piece from May remains one of the most thought-provoking (if wonky) articles in a long while.

Finally, I've sent an e-mail to the guy running Dad's Magazine to see if I can learn more. We're clearly talking about a small, more or less amatuer effort, but I'm happy to see such endeavors. It's tough territory. DadMag is so dead that it appears its URL has been sold to a porn merchant. And other on-line dad resources tend to be caught up on protecting men in the midst of divorce and paternity suits and unearthing feminist conspiracies. If there's a new publication out there -- no matter how small or local -- that can really celebrate dads, then I have one more reason to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

It's official. The plane tickets to the Ninth Annual At-Home Dad Convention have been booked. Now all I need is a bed and a rental car. I'll be at Midway around 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, which means I'll miss the real fun. Look forward to seeing some of you there.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Quick hits today ... nothing too groundbreaking. One week after I argued that gay at-home fatherhood has been a largely ignored element of the at-home dad universe, the Portland Tribune put out a nice bit on the phenomenon.

How confident is Full-Time Father in his at-home dad-ness? Confident enough to go on Bill O'Reilly with a dirty shirt.

Really want to get away? Join at-home dad Jim Rogalskiamong the headhunters of Malaysia.

Finally, I stumbled onto the blog of a an Australian househusband who seems to enjoy his gig a great deal ...

Saturday, November 01, 2003

The trend-spotters overseas are beginning to pay more notice to at-home dads. Today, the Guardian has an overview of how the old-school mum-at-home, dad-at-work family could be a "thing of the past". The story bounces around a bit, but it did have one detail I had missed -- a legislative effort in the UK to allow two weeks of paid paternity leave. Two weeks ain't that long, but it would be almost unthinkably better than what we have here ...

My Parenting magazine subscription finally seems to have lapsed, and I don't think I'll re-subscribe. I borrowed a couple of copies of its rival, Parents, and I didn't have to look hard to feel excluded. On the October cover: "Mommy It Hurts: How to Tell Real Aches from Fakes." On the Novemer cover: "Organizing Ideas for Really Busy Moms." Nice work from the self-proclaimed "#1 Family Magazine." Family? Aren't there dads in most families? I saw marketing research for Child magazine bragging that its readership was 87 percent female. Assuming all the kid-raising mags have similar demographics, is it a good marketing idea to alienate 13 percent of your readers? I have a sinking feeling that my answer to that question doesn't track with what magazine execs think ...

At-home dad and inventor Robert Klick gets more good press. (I mentioned yesterday how he won Oprah's Million Dollar Idea Challenge on Thursday. He's in the Hall of Fame now ... And while we're talking at-home dads and Oprah, househusband/goofball Joe Mozian gets more good PR from Oprah on Friday's show (Joe has apparently lost lots and lots of weight. Go Joe! Two at-home dads in two days ... maybe we are taking over.