Friday, April 30, 2004

One of the great drawbacks in the expanding pool of at-home dad bloggers is that you're less and less likely to hear the news of the day from me. Case in point: Peter Baylies' At-Home Dad blog got right on the latest U.S. Census release yesterday, before I even had a chance to digest it. (By the way, Pete's blog has settled into its final home at Please update your bookmarks, and I'm sorry if this caused any confusion.)

To add what to Pete wrote, let me first say the nice folks at the Census Bureau seem to be having second thoughts about their low-ball estimate of our numbers. While that number -- 105,000 at-home dads -- is still in this year's press release, they also add that 2 million preschoolers have dad as a primary caregiver. While this stat makes zero sense next to the 105,000 number (and even less sense when you count the 600,000 gradeschoolers that have dad as primary caretaker), it's nice to have it included, to offer a competing view.

(I've discussed before the wide divergence between the Census Bureau's household survey data -- from which the 2 million number comes from -- and the labor market data, where the 105,000 number comes from. Suffice it to say that there hasn't been a big effort on their part to explain that difference.)

These numbers have become my great white whale, and I actually took a chunk of naptime yesterday to pull out the raw data from the SIPP survey that gives us the big numbers to see if I could better estimate the current at-home dad numbers. But I gave up after a struggle ... I'm no demographer. If any of you are, I'd be happy to point you in the right direction.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

I don't mean to rush you all, but if you wish to take part in what promises to be a supremely ridiculous television program that seeks to send gender roles back a few decades you must apply by May 7. (Thanks to Daddy Types for the link.) The show is looking to throw a bunch of "un-manly" men out in the woods for a couple of weeks. And, given that the show is to air on Comedy Central, it would seem that the plan for hilarity to ensue.

Here's what they're looking for:
Any guy you'd consider UN-manly. A guy lacking in some skill or characteristic that you think men should have. Think George Costanza, Frasier Crane, or Raymond, without the whole everyone loving him part.

Ladies, we'll give the minivan-driving soccer dad the ride of his life, that new age vegan ex so intent on saving the world, the chance to experience it. We'll give that prettyboy metrosexual boyfriend a chance to get ugly.

Guys, we'll give that whipped buddy of yours, well... a set, for once. And your little brother his first thrill not on a computer. We'll break out the old friend doing time in a suburban office park, and give your trust fund college roommate the first real day of work in his life. For that guy you know who's 35, still lives at home and has his clothes laid out for him, we'll give him a nice, swift kick in the ass.
(I'll put up with this goofy sympathy from the manly men. After all, us "un-manly" "minivan-driving soccer dads" who believe in equality in gender roles are probably having more sex than they are. But let's keep that our secret.)

Yet more blogs: geekpunk is now officially an at-home dad blog.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Drumroll please ... I'd like to welcome to the blogosphere the man who, more than anyone else, is responsible for whatever national unity at-home fathers have: Peter Baylies.

The man behind the long-running and popular "At-Home Dad" newsletter and one of the driving forces behind the at-home dad convention is now back with his own blog (there's also one here, but it's not clear to me if Pete intends to keep both addresses up. The content is now identical ...)

Seeing Pete make the leap to digital warms my heart. When I first started doing this online thing in the waning weeks of 2002, I was pretty lonely (Being Daddy (ret.) was out there, but I didn't find him for a few months). Now, there is a growing group of us (see left), which gives me a boost. I wish Pete the best of luck in this new endeavor, and I have no doubt I'll be linking to his site often. And when his book hits shelves, I'll be writing about that, too.

Welcome, Mr. Baylies. We're glad to have you.

(P.S. There is a small mountain of at-home dad news piling up. And I'll get to it. One of these days ...)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Sellout. Enough people have asked me about my "Men Who Change Diapers Change the World" t-shirt in the week I've owned it that I've decided to begin marketing and selling Rebel Dad apparel. Hit the shop for all of your Father's Day needs. (Thanks to Daddy Zine for turning me on to this particular brand of consumerism.)

Monday, April 26, 2004

Today's edition: thank-yous for the March for Women's Lives.

* Thanks to the Rebel Family and Rebel Family friend Maria for keeping me company.
* Thanks to the many, many who told me they enjoyed my T-shirt. In the spirit of capitalism, I will begin offering them for sale on this site in a short while.
* Thanks to Christine at Ms. Musings for blogging the event itself.
* Finally, thanks to Gloria Steinem for agreeing to spare Rebel Dad in the rebellion to come. ("I want all you guys to know your presence here will keep you safe in the upcoming feminist revolution," she told the crowd during the post-march rally.)

Back to the at-home dad stuff shortly ...

Saturday, April 24, 2004

This must be an interesting household to live in: a year or so ago, Cathi Hanauer got together a bunch of women to write about modern motherhood, and the provocatively titled book, The Bitch in the House became a much-talked about tome in certain quarters. Now, Hanauer's husband has assembled what I suppose is a companion tome: The Bastard on the Couch : 27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings About Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom. It comes out next week, and I'll give you the full review as soon as I get the book and actually, y'know, read it.

A posting at the New Republic's site brought "The Bastard on the Couch" to my attention, and the take of the piece -- penned by senior editor Ruth Franklin -- is worth looking at. Her conclusion from looking at "Bitch," "Bastard" and all of the silly "mommy wars" crap foisted on the public in the last year (see this post from last week for more on the war that isn't) is certainly unique. And it bears amplification.

Her point, boiled down, is this. If there's one thing that all these writer parents -- moms and dads, working and at-home -- seem to agree about, it's that kids are a royal pain in the ass. Franklin nicely harvests the best examples of writers trying to top each other with descriptions of how dirty and utterly boring children are. "With all this focus on parental self-pity, it's hardly surprising that while their paraphernalia is ubiquitous in these pieces, the children are virtually absent," Franklin writes. "When the little cherubs do make an appearance, they are savaged."

This is a heckuva good point that has been lost: in the quest for martyrdom, these parents have lost sight of what fun it is to parent. Sure, kids are capable of being difficult, but the benefits outweigh the costs by a staggering amount. So thank you Ruth, for giving me a new quick-and-easy rule when it comes to evaluating writings on motherhood and fatherhood: Any book, any article on parenting that ignores or belittles kids should be viewed with extreme caution. After all, isn't this gig about the kids?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I was a little confused by the plot of this year's must-read beach book, Little Children, a tale that centers around an affair between two at-home parents. In a previous post, I wondered aloud about the book's choice of subject. Suburban parents live interesting lives, to be sure, but not the kind of epic ones that make for good novels. So I've wondered where the souped-up love and conflict came from.

As it turns out, the author, Tom Perrotta, has done a stint as an at-home dad, and he told the Boston Globe about it. He didn't smooch anyone at the playground (as his characters do), but he did have some observations about life as a Rebel Dad:
"When I first started going to the playground, I thought I would meet a lot of other stay-at-home dads. And I didn't," he said. "In the daytime, it was a world of women. And I noticed sometimes that it would make the women uncomfortable to have a man there, and they would be unfriendly.

"But then, other times, there would be a mom who didn't fit in with the other moms, and I would be more likely to have a conversation with them. And it was sort of the Sarah-and-Todd dynamic."
Who knew that there was such a seedy underbelly to domestic life?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

But will it meet the same fate as Daddio: there's apparently a new Japanese TV show called (descriptively) At Home Dad. Hard to know exactly what to expect. I believe I have (maybe) a single reader in Japan -- can anyone give me a review?

Also: a thousand apologies on missing this wonderful National Lampoon piece on at-home fatherhood. It proves a fundamental truth of comedy: if you're going to stereotype in the name of humor, go all the way over the top.
There isn't much to talk about today, so let me introduce this week's contest: "Where's Rebel Dad?" (kind of like Where's Waldo, but without the goofy stripes and the glasses).

This weekend, I'll be at the March for Women's Lives with the Rebel Family. I'll be wearing a blue shirt that says "Men who change diapers change the world" on the front and promotes this site on the back. It is the only one in existance, so you can be sure it's me.

Everyone who slips me a business card at the march gets beer (or the libation of their choice).

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Today we are giving thanks for small gains on the gender front, in the form of an admission from household product makers that men, in fact, are capable of buying and using soaps and detergents and cleansers and cleaners and powders and pastes and waxes and bleaches. The New York Times has the scoop in a story about a new book called Clean Like a Man:
Men, in fact, are on the radar of the cleaning products industry. "Today, more and more men are participating in home care," said Carol Berning, a consumer psychologist working with product development at Procter & Gamble. "It's generational. As we talk with younger families and empty nesters, we speak with more and more men."
Berning claims that more and more ads are being directed at men -- something that I haven't noticed -- that makes me a bit warm and fuzzy on the inside. Still, the undercurrent behind all this remains that men are more or less idiots around the house and are ideal consumers for new, idiot-proof products (think pre-measured laundry soap and single-use duster). But given my past rants on the subject, I'll chalk this one up to the forces of progress.

Friday, April 16, 2004

One of the great joys of blogging is that I don't have an editor hanging just behind me, smacking me whenever I becoming dangerously repetitive. I can, with impunity, repeat the same point, over and over and over again. Consider yourself warned.

Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune penned this very well-thought out piece on the "Mommy Wars": that perpetual, artificial who-is-the-better-person debate between at-home moms and mothers who work outside the house. Let me say up front that this is a most thoughtful call for a truce at a most opportune time. (Ryan cites "The Mommy Myth," the Time cover story and Caitlin Flanagan's bizarre "Nanny Wars" piece in the Atlantic as evidence that the media has again seized on the issue.)

Now I'll start repeating myself: the debate over the mommy wars is not likely to abate until society begins to recognize that raising children is not the sole sphere of the mother. Ryan (like the "Mommy Myth" authors, like Flanagan, like Time, like everyone else) skips over the role of men in creating a more parent-friendly society. (Though she asks: "Isn't the point that, as a society, we could do a lot more to acknowledge that women's work patterns are often different from men's?" I could invert that idea: we could do a lot more to acknowledge that many men's feelings about the family are not all that different from women's -- but expectations of the work world continue to be very different.)

Can I see a world in which women have acceptable work-family choices? Sure. But that world will appear much more quickly if there's a growing acknowledgement that women and men both need better choices.

(Credit where credit is due: the first post I saw on the Ryan piece was on Apartment 11D. Christine at Ms. Musings also flags the article.)

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Challenge to Maryland at-home dads: this article about moms in the Urbana area says that dads are welcome in the local moms club, but no gentlemen have ever shown up.

The dispiriting remark of the week comes from a piece in the Rocky Mountain Bullhorn on the lack of good work/family choices for women. Why is it dispiriting? Check out this paragraph:
For a while it was fashionable to work. Magazine ads showed mothers in Armani success suits holding happy babies on their hips. It was even cool, for a few minutes, to be a stay-at-home father. Men learned to cook. Everyone juggled. Fashion has changed -- as it does -- and more women who have the means are proudly staying at home. But fashion is no solution.
Trust me, at-home fatherhood is still cool. We're like rugged white T-shirts with jeans. We'll always be in fashion, no matter what the arbiters of "cool" say.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The source of today's link is again Daddy Types, which is the best new dad-centric blog on the face of the Earth. If you haven't bookmarked it, please do so. Now.

Greg's latest post links to this gawd-awful New York mag cover story on "Tot Therapy." Naturally, it's written by Ralph Gardner, Jr., who wrote the worst at-home dad story, ever last year and well-botched a "Mommy Wars" story a year earlier.

Leaving the legitimate criticism to others (I suspect Gardner again wrote a story that will ring true to the two or three hundred wealthiest NYC parents and will sound like absurdist fiction to everyone else), his characterization of dads toward of the end of the piece (as Daddy Types notes) is reason enough to pound my head against the wall.

Let me belatedly link to this Echidne post about a new study of the marriage market, which suggests that it's getting better and better for educated women. Why do I care? The researchers (read the release here) think that this reflect more egalitarian marriages ... and, perhaps, a more even distribution of household roles.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I bring news of a land down under: according to the Australian press, the number of active dads is expected to double in the next five years (according to the The Australia Institute, though I haven't found any Institute report that talks about it). Now that sounded to me like the kind of happily overoptimistic number that was more or less plucked out of mid-air, but still ... the story mentioned that 53 percent of Australian businesses have paid parental leave. Let me say that again: 53 percent.

As I've mentioned in the past, Australia has family leave laws similar to the U.S. (and different from much of the rest of the world), in that paid leave isn't legally required. But unlike the U.S., it sounds like Aussie companies are stepping up to the bat, urged by the national chamber of commerce. Whaddaya say, Tom?

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mentioned that Full Time Father has responded to my response to his posting on the additional money for childcare. I'm out of my league on this one (someone call Mickey with these welfare questions), but let me throw my central point out there again: if the country is going to require/encourage low income parents to work (both within and outside of the welfare system), it owes it to those parent to make child care as good as possible. This seems utterly outside the realm of making the choice about whether to stay home. The money, from what I understand, is aimed at those with the least choice in the matter.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Warning: going slightly off-topic. But I had to do a meta-blog post (blogging about blogging). I'm behind in flagging this Time story about blogging parents (or, more accurate, blogging mothers. The words "dad" and "father" never appear ...), which notes that this is becoming a new way for home-locked parents to feel in touch with the outer world. They fail to mention, however, The Trixie Update, which is, without a doubt, the most amazing web site I have seen a good, long time. (Thanks to Daddy Types for the Trixie link.)

Thursday, April 08, 2004

I'm considering shutting down the blog and just leaving the comments up and running. Thanks to Michael, Hogan and Amy for taking the time to share their thoughts. (In all seriousness, I do have a posting backlog, which I'll try to take care of when I get the chance. Family in town, etc. may delay that effort.)
The discussion taking place in the comments section of Tuesday's post is worth bringing out into the light. Michael of Daddy Designs took issue with my decision to catagorize the U.S. as a not-especially family-friendly country and called my defense of that characterization weak. Later in the comments, Amy made some points I wanted to make, but let me reiterate them here to shore up my argument. For reference, I define a family-friendly policy as one that tends to encourage parent-child time together or improve the health and development of children generally:

In terms of governmental policy toward leave, the U.S. has a less generous policy than any other OECD country, save Australia, where the issue is a hot political topic. Up in Canada, both moms and dads have access to government funded leave. Ditto in Sweden, where dads have special use-it-or-lose-it month of paid leave -- a benefit that 80 percent of men take advantage of. In the U.S., by way of contrast, Working Mother Magazine managed to find (in 1997) a grand total of 32 American companies that offered men paid leave.

In France, well-funded and well-regarded preschools are available for every child, and every child is has unfettered access to medical care. Paid maternity leave runs for a year. Not surprisingly -- as Amy notes in the comments -- this attention to kids shows up in the poverty stats: France has about 6 percent of its children living in poverty. The U.S. number: 17 percent.

That's the government policy. U.S. companies are notoriously stingy with family-centric benefits.

There is a flip side, as Michael point out. The U.S. has a low tax burden, ample opportunity for entrepreneurship and far less rigid government regulation of business than in other countries. We are the world's economic development engine, with a rate of unemployment (5.6 percent) far lower than that of France (9.6 percent). But just because the U.S. remains relatively more financially robust than other nation, we are not somehow more family-friendly.

(Thanks to Ann Crittenden, upon whose book -- The Price of Motherhood -- much of this post is based.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

For those of you who wonder why I have a link to the very non-dad-sounding M.O.T.H.E.R., take a gander at this nice letter they sent along to Time magazine. What more could I possibly add.

And I don't mean to ding Full Time Father twice in two weeks (still I owe Mike lunch), but he takes a rather narrow view of the good news that the Senate has approved $6 billion for additional child care as part of the ongoing welfare reform efforts. FTF sees this as incentivize parents to leave their kids in paid care, I see it as a reality of working today.

I am lucky that I can stay home, and a huge chunk of why I can is economic. Most working parents don't have that choice. They can make staggering financial sacrifices and stay with their kids, or they can work in a work world that is hostile to families (see item one, above) to keep the family afloat, fiscally. And if you make that second choice, your day care choices are probably either staggering expensive (when we were looking at day care, it was upwards of $1,000 a month) or worryingly poor in quality. Dumping more money into that system -- especially one that requires "workfare" -- can't help but serve as a net benefit for kids.

I don't have my almanac of family-friendly nations and their policies in front of me, but it seems to be that the countries with the best quality, best funded day care centers are also the ones with the best work/family balance and the most parental involvement. Not a bad model to aspire to.
Was on vacation for a couple days ... back now. I'll get to posting in the next 24 hours or so.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The fine folks at the Albany Times-Union are the strong contenders for the Rebby, the my imaginary award for the best journalism on at-home fatherhood and/or work family balance for their three-part series on modern child care.

They kicked off the series with this piece on at-home dads last Sunday. The story hits a good many strong points -- including touching on the impact on women -- and quotes Armin Brott, who doesn't seem to show up in fatherhood stories as often as I would expect.

The second two stories in the series (Tuesday's article on the "family scramble" and Monday's bit on patchwork arrangements) are also noteworthy, for two reasons.

For starters, they acknowledge that making parents equal partners is a tough decision in today's work world, and creativity and sacrifice are key components of achieving a satisfactory balance. But the other unspoken point is that childcare is a family issue -- not solely a mom issue. Over and over again, the series hammers home the idea that it is right and normal for childrearing duties to be shared. This shouldn't be a blockbuster, stop-the-presses kind of realization. But in a world where Parenting mag brags that "We Know Moms" and Time's "Case for Staying Home" is made exclusively to women, the gender-neutrality of the Times-Union series get a standing ovation here.