Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The 60 strongest words of the year on the importance of involved dads for women, children and society:
[Time's Sonja Steptoe] What do you mean when you say it's time to get men to do what women traditionally do?

[Gloria Steinem]: As long as working women also have to do the work of child and family care at home, they will have two jobs instead of one. Perhaps more important, children will grow up thinking that only women can be loving and nurturing and men cannot. Achieving a society in which men raise children as much as women do is crucial.
Thanks to Christine at ms.musings for the link.

(Also, thanks, Christine, for the shout-out earlier this week. And thanks, Laura, for adding your voice on the strange omission in the Time cover story. And I appreciated the link, too.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

As promised, I wanted to get to Full Time Father's posting last week admitting that "I have lost some of my enthusiasm as an evangelist on this issue." It's hard to read Mike's blog over the past few months and not have seen that coming, but it prompted a (small) degree of soul searching on my part, for I haven't lost that enthusiasm.

On the other hand, I know where Mike is coming from. Being an at-home dad advocate is tough. On a personal level, it's hard to affect change. I'm not going to alter the family roles of my neighbors; the best I can do is set an example, to refute the myth that no dad would ever make this choice and be happy.

And on a more global level, at-home fatherhood is hardly a movement. If you support gun rights or environmental rights or a sensible energy policy, you have a ready-made political ideology to plug into. There are politicians to support, issues to embrace, publications to read, fights to wage against clear foes. But if you're a big supporter of at-home fatherhood, if you want to see the idea get more traction, there's no one to support. There are no magazines to buy. No members of congress to lobby. Indeed, there are not really any issues to lobby at all, in a traditional sense.

Of course, there are still battles to wage, though the enemy is murky. I'm still often the only guy at school meetings, and I still get bombarded with advertising images determined to reinforce the idea that mom -- not dad -- is the parent who should be watching the kids. I'm still interested in looking at those problems, and though the solutions to those ill-defined bugaboos aren't clear to me, my enthusiasm hasn't been dampened.

Monday, March 29, 2004

All of a sudden there's lots to blog about. I'll get to what I can today and push the rest off to later this week ...

I can't resist starting with this Washington Post profile of WWE-wrestler-turned-action-hero The Rock. Key quote: "'It's great!' says The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson. 'She has baby dolls and she has daddy dolls and they sit and drink tea and do little stuff together. It's funny. My doll and this one doll -- not Barbie, she's kind of puffy and stuff -- they're together like this . . '"

In short: real men play with dolls. (What a pleasure to see The Rock say this, the day after I discovered a new at-home dad blog that included this post. At least The Rock gets it.)

Along the same "real men" lines is this SF Chronicle review of a new booked called What Makes a Man. The short answer, according to the review, is there are plenty of "macho-man alternatives." Just ask The Rock.

Preview corner. Later this week, I'll get to this three-part Albany Times-Union package on childcare, including an at-home dad story. And I hope to respond a bit to Full Time Father's posting about how he no longer feels like an at-home dad evangelist.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Couple of nice, if throwaway, mentions in the press today. The San Francisco Chronicle (which seems to be good at gender-balancing parenting) ran this piece on a local "nurture center" for new parents and pregnant women. The noteworthy part -- a large and high-profile chunk of the article dealt with an at-home dad program.

And Salon's review of the new Ben Affleck flick, "Jersey Girl," begins like this:
Forget the overexposed bliss of motherhood: Nearly everyone I know who has ever become a father has fallen in love with it. And in some ways, fathers have it harder than moms. Even stay-at-home dads can find themselves floating outside that special bubble that encircles mothers and their children -- no matter how close they are to their kids, that's a mystery they're locked out of.
Leaving out the strangle "locked out of" the bubble comment, it's nice to note that fatherhood is now seem as a wonderful, life changing event. Kevin Smith, the writer and director, says this a personal movie that stems from his own experiences as a father. I'm generally a big Smith fan, so I'm interested to see how this movie plays out ...

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

In an effort to beat back the quiet on the at-home dad front, let me introduce a couple of other blogging at-home dads. There's Blogging the Children, which used to bill itself as providing "the milestones, quips and quirks associated with raising children" and now proudly bills itself "the milestones, quips and quirks associated with raising children through the eyes of a stay-at-home-dad."

And let me be the first to induce the Daily Yak, which has had a grand total of one post (it was launched on Monday). It's been a while since I witnessed the birth of a blog, and I look forward to what Russ puts together over there.

I'll get those guys up on the right rail one of these days ...

I should also mention Daddy, Papa & Me, a great blog about two dads raising a daughter. It's not technically an at-home dad blog, but still voices worth having.

Monday, March 22, 2004

We interrupt our usual bashing of childrearing magazines for this month's Parents magazine. A few things are worth noting: 1) Parents has a "Dads" page every month. I just started getting the magazine, and I like even that small space. 2) They published a letter from an at-home dad praising the at-home-dads-are-cool story of a couple of months ago. ("Thanks for acknowledging that dads are parents too -- it's great to be recognized.") So a big shout-out to Kevin Rohrman, the letter writer. 3) Finally, in their wrapup of what's going on at the site, they mention two posts by at-home moms decrying the idea of calling it "babysitting" when a man takes care of the kids. (The second post is a little snotty, but I'll let it go.)

And in the celeb files, Anne Heche apparently has an at-home husband, a guy named Coleman Laffoon. Who knew?

Friday, March 19, 2004

I paid the nice folks at AOL Time Warner their $3.95, and took home my own copy of this week's Time (cover story: "The Case for Staying Home"). My take? Like Mike, I was underwhelmed. Not much ground that Fast Company and the New York Time Magazine's Lisa Belkin haven't already covered.

I have no doubt that the trend is a real one, based on my own anecdotal experiences. And, to its credit, the story does a reasonable job of suggesting that work policies remain stubbornly family unfriendly.

But like the other rich-well-educated-moms-fleeing-the-workplace stories, dads weren't mentioned at all. No explanation of why dads don't appear to be feeling the same pull toward home, no details on why the idea of co-parenting seems to be in decline (replaced by "sequencing" ... the idea that moms can slip right back into the workforce after a few years at home).

The implication that bothers me is that "the case for staying home" isn't worth making to fathers. In the lead to the story, the frazzled working mom struggles with her 10-hours days and the childcare and the breakfasts and the pressure and the guilt. Dad usually leaves the house at about 5:30 a.m. No word on whether or not he feels work/family stress at all.

Then again, no one is asking him. "Opting out of the rat race," as the cover puts it, is for "young moms." The other side of Time's message: Back to your desks, guys.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Time has made the online version of its "The Case for Staying Home" story available only to subscribers, so I can't weigh in until I drag myself to the newsstand and buy the damn magazine. But it did make available an accompanying essay titled "Men Want Change, Too."

It was as frustrating a piece to read as any I have seen in quite some time. The thrust is that the author (journalist Michael Elliott), a product of the anything-is-possible late 1970s, is trying to figure why he didn't have the all-roses, egalitarian parenting experience that seemed promised by the era of Alan Alda and Marlo Thomas. Instead, his wife stayed home and he "allowed work to take over my life."

Why men never become equal partners is childrearing is an excellent question, one we struggle with over here on a daily basis. And Elliott seems to have ignored all the obvious culprits. The worst problem is clearly that despite two decades of efforts to make work more family-friendly, it's less family friendly than ever. Innovative proposals like the Four-Thirds Solution and Joan Williams' constant push for pro-rated benefits for part-time work have gotten nowhere, despite their promise of giving guys like Elliott what they claim they missed: the opportunity to have work and family.

Elliott asks "Why did we get it so wrong?" His answer: labor-saving household technologies stopped being introduced in the 1960s. This is as right-field an argument against men staying home as I have ever heard. Did he assume that technology would allow more parenting in less time, as if there was a childrearing equivalent to the large-load washing machine? (Of course, the idea that no labor saving devices have been introduced since the 1960s is a bit strange, too. I have a microwave oven -- perfect for chicken nuggets -- an a TV/VCR/DVD hooked up to cable TV. Parents who have never ever used that device to grab a moment of calm are much, much better people than I.)

And then he complains that the unit cost of information is dropping, meaning it is easy to bring work into the home, extending the hours that work life can reach us. But this has been a boon to the numbers of at-home fathers, making it easier to be a freelance computer programmer, consultant or journalist. But until we realize that the new technological realities mean nothing without a work culture that pays more than lip service to work-family balance, we're likely to keep churning out more men like Elliott, who never realize exactly how their youthful idealism slipped away.

He ends by writing "Thirty years ago, we dreamed of something different. Pity it didn't work out." I feel bad for Elliott. He didn't get what I have. And he doesn't seem to understand why.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Missing the boat. I've only just now noticed that Time has chosen to flag at-home parenthood for the cover treatment. The Rebel Dad treatment of the Time treatment to come.
Want a happy marriage? Be supportive co-parents. That's the message of a new study out of Ohio State. Researchers checked in on 46 families both 6 months after a child arrived and then again at 3 years.

Families that had figured out how to have complimentary parenting styles at 6 months were more likely to have happy marriages at 3 years. "This suggests," said one of the authors, Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, "that the quality of the early coparenting relationship is particularly important for the quality of the marriage."

I don't have hard data to prove this, but I suspect (as does American University's Joan Williams) that parenting roles are more equal and better-spelled-out in families where dad is the primary caretaker. On the other hand, I'm not my feeling squares with the fact that marital strife tends to be higher in non-traditional families.

I received the first review of Spike TV's This Just In, suggesting that the at-home dad character, in addition to coming off as a wimp, is also "most dishonest of all the characters in the show."

In other TV news, ABC appears to be looking for at-home dads for a show where families swap parents for 10 days. Let me know if any of you make the cut. I'll set my VCR.

Also ... at-home dad Joe Mozian kicked off "My Life is a Sitcom II" earlier this month. Joe, no dount, would like you all to tune in to ABC Family at 7:30 p.m. eastern on Sundays.

Monday, March 15, 2004

I have a serious post about science and research and other deep thoughts, but a kind and loyal reader directed me to the news that a new animated Spike TV show debuted yesterday. I didn't see it, and I don't have high expectations for a network that considers "Stripperella" to be the pinnacle of art, but the show, This Just In seems to be ready to offend.

Of course, the show's calling card seems to be its politics, but it's counting on laughs from one of its characters, a househusband who is thusly described:
Craig Tindle
The guy who was cool, fun, and a blast to be around... until he got married and surrendered his spine and goals along with his penis. A house husband who is only a few Dr. Phil episodes away from total puss-dom, Tindle went from being in customer service for a major department store, to customer service for his wife Hu. Newport and Townhouse hope to some day see the Craig they knew before marriage... but for all they know, that guy died with Kurt Kobain. Craig Tindle isn't just a married guy -- he's a cautionary tale for every man who fears the worst in marriage.
Funny, no?

I know it's comedy. I know it's a joke. I'm not going to foam at the mouth about this one.

Friday, March 12, 2004

This is one of the best intros to an at-home dad story I've read in a long time. (From this Wichita Eagle article:
About four years ago, Sam Foster quit his job to stay home with his newborn son, Joel. "You're so lucky," his colleagues told him. The unspoken message: You don't have to slave away at the office anymore. You get to stay home, put your feet up, maybe watch some TV.

"If I were to see those people now, I'd say, 'You were right, I am lucky,' " Foster said. "But not for the reasons you think."
I've received word that Being Daddy is doing fine, having made the decision to pour his blogging energies into parenting. I'll miss the prose, but I can't fault that decision one bit.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Tales from all over the map. For starters, there's rather interesting ABC News piece on at-home moms and teenagers (thanks to Peter Baylies for the link). It suggests "that children may need their parents more than ever in their teen years."

Apparently, the piece is based on a Ladies Home Journal article, and it pretty much ignores fathers. But I know the dads who have made that choice -- to remain home as their kids move through the teen years -- think it's a great decision. But I'm also wary of suggesting that parents *must* stay home when their kids are teens. There's a vast gulf between a super-involved at-home parent and a parent who basically checks out of his or her kid's life once high school begins.

On the other side of the coin, please be sure to check out this great Onion story on fatherhood ...

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

An Oasis in the Research Desert? The self-explanatory group Dads and Daughters has come through with the funding for their poll, which will look at a variety of different subjects, including (possibly) this one: "How often do you talk with other fathers about being a father?"

That's one I find interesting. Men -- generally -- don't seem to do much communicating about parenting, so I'd be curious to see if the study reflects that. The results are due to be presented at a DC briefing in June ... I'll do my best to keep you posted.

Monday, March 08, 2004

The heartwarming local stories about at-home dads tend to come and go in spurts, and we've been in kind of a dry spell. That changed this weekend when the Albuquerque Journal ran this piece about a successful marriage built on the freedom and flexibility of at-home fatherhood.

In the homedad celebrity spotlight, we celebrate Clint Black's decision to be family-centered over the past decade. I know that at-home fatherhood is a different beast from my own experience when you're talking about a very, very rich performer. But I'm not complaining. Society sees so many super-happy celeb mothers claiming that babies changed their lives that it's nice to see a famous guy touting that line.

Just what we need: another stereotype. In the new book by Tom Perrotta (the guy who wrote "Election"), we're treated to a main character who is an at-home dad. Good news, right? Not exactly: Todd, a lazy, pretty boy dad, ends up having an affair with a mom he meets at the playground.

This doesn't exactly match my understanding of reality. Whole sessions at the At-Home Dad Convention are held on the subject of how to get moms to jut *talk* to at-home dads at the playground. There are *definitely* no reports of any broad-daylight playground kissing going on ...

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Not much moving in the at-home dadlands, so I've taken this opportunity to trick out the site a little bit (a very little bit, given my technological shortcomings). I've added a few of my regular at-home dad blogs to the left rail. If you're not reading Laid-Off Dad and Daddy Zine, you're missing two guys who can write. (Though I have no idea what happened to Being Daddy, I'm keeping the link active. The archives alone are priceless.)

I'll also added an XML feed that will, in theory, make this page readable to you guys who surf via RSS feeds. This Slate piece today finally prompted me to figure out the whole deal. So if you're a geek, you should be happier. (On the other hand, if the site is not, in fact, syndicated right now, I am powerless to explain what went wrong.)

Happy surfing.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

As I've mentioned before, at-home parenthood isn't a panacea for all that ails families. It's an expensive choice and often an ambition-shrinking, career-limiting one. I can't hold anyone's decision to work against them. But let's face a fact: in general, Americans work too much. That leads to all sorts of uncomfortable consequences, including -- obviously -- limiting family time.

So I'd like to heartily endorse the idea of "Take Back Your Time Day" (Oct. 24), when Americans shift their priorities away from the office. The group has an agenda that's not so different from the one that we like to drone on about at parties -- paid leave, a minimum level of vacation time, some more holidays (like Election Day ... and Take Back Your Time Day).

(Thanks to an anonymous poster at the M.O.T.H.E.R. forums for the head's up.)

Monday, March 01, 2004

I'm apparently not the only one wondering where Being Daddy is. This blogging mommy is curious as well. I sent BD an e-mail a month or so ago and never heard back. Anyone know what became of perhaps the finest at-home dad blogger?
Another good reason to get dads more involved: involved dads are better at managing their children's health. This Saint Louis University study, out today, suggests that a good chunk of dads aren't making it to doctors appointments for their children. The numbers aren't as dire, actually, as I would have thought, but the fact that men are being tied to their chair by their bosses isn't at all encouraging. The study raises a good point: this is about a child's safety and well-being, not just being an involved, supportive parent. A dad in the E.R. who doesn't know when a kid last had a shot or if the child is allergic to penicillin is putting the child at some risk.

So how do we change that? This Indianapolis Star story from the weekend suggests that dad classes are a good way to start getting fathers involved early. The problem is that dragging fathers to parenting classes seems to be a challenge. I've celebrated the concept before, plugging Hogan Hilling's Proud Dads, but the fact is that it is damn hard to get guys to come out. I don't know if that's a failure in marketing by the hospital or what. I've long thought someone should be cornering the guys who show up to Lamaze classes and get 'em committed to a post-natal course then and there. Anyone have other ideas?