Monday, June 07, 2004

Normally, I would love to laud Working Mother magazine, which usually has a level-headed take on the whole work-family balance thing. But an alert reader (thanks Dayv!) sent me a bit of the June 2004 issue that's fodder for the dartboard. It's not available online, sadly, so you'll have to take my work for it.

The story is on "Trusting Dad." The question the story tries to answer is "can you trust your husband with the kid?" And the answer to that question, apparently, is "no." The story details the lists moms must make for when the child is left in the care of dear old dad, and features some nice horror stories about how we're bumbling morons who generally don't pack enough diapers. If there's optimism expressed, it's that "by the time the second or third child arrives, the instruction lists shrink or disappear altogether." And the story ends on the encouraging news that one of the bumbling fathers now has the kid-care drill down pat.

(Bonus points for dad-bashing: a sidebar quoting kids talking about their dads includes this line from a four-year-old: "Daddy doesn't mind when I eat the dog's food." Funny? Yes. Typical? No. Offensive? You betcha.)

It's broken record time: this is a stereotype that is rapidly becoming out of date. More dads are more involved and more educated about their kids, especially fathers in dual-income families where childcare is shared more equally. Studies bear me out on this. If New York magazine, which sometimes seems to have story angles beamed to them directly from other planets, had run this story, I would have shrugged and ignored it. But this is Working Mother magazine. These are our sisters in arms.

You could certainly run a very useful story about how to get men up to speed on childrearing tasks -- an effort that the American Academy of Pediatrics is now pushing full-force -- without mocking men's efforts. And there were the seeds of that kind of piece within the Working Mother story, which is a good thing. But given that the ain't-men-dumb current dominated, I'm not sure what the brief article accomplished, other than perpetuating an equity-destroying myth that men make lousy caregivers.

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