Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Time to give props to Teresa Heinz Kerry, who took time out from the usual political issues last night to give a shout-out to caregivers of all sorts. Teresa spoke eloquently about her vision for a future where women are seen as men's equals, and she heaped praised upon her own mother. It would have been simple and natural for her to praise the nation's mothers, but she went a step further:
... we must, and we should, recognize the immense value of the caregivers in our country-those women and men who nurture and care for children, for elderly parents, for family members in need. These are the people who build and support our most valuable assets-our families. Isn't it time we began working to give parents more opportunity to be with their children, and to afford to have a family life?
The sentiment warmed my heart, and the gender-neutrality of it all gave me hope. Can we elect her to something? (Read the transcript here.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

As is so often the case Daddy Types is on the scene well before I am ... this time in reference to an article in the Australian press about how new dads are poorly served by the usual mom-centered pre-natal education (usually the whole Lamaze thing). It seems that fathers could use a little information about exactly what the heck everything will be like for them.

Now the nay-sayers (see comments to Greg's original post for an example) will say that dads really don't want to sit through a class version of "What to Expect When You're Expecting -- The Mars Variation." They'd really rather not sit through any classes at all. And while that's true for a lot of guys, there's a group -- a growing group -- that would really like all the knowledge they can get.

This was the genius of Hogan Hilling's recently resurrected Proud Dads groups: a hospital-based support group for guys. The problem that Hogan faced, I think, was that his sessions were aimed at guy who had long since left the maternity ward, when corralling them is much harder. Designing a dad-only companion to Lamaze requires walking a fine line: you don't want to insult the intelligence (or the experience) of the men who might be there, but you don't want to skip anything important, either. I know there are other programs out there operating in a limited fashion to help prospective and new fathers, but I know very little about them. Can anyone (Hogan?) who can lend a hand in explaining why there are so few opportunities for this sort of thing and how the tide might be turned?

Monday, July 26, 2004

I know I shouldn't even go here and validate Cathy Seipp's bizarro worldview in which women can't park, men can't raise children and guys with beards are to be viewed with great suspicion. But I will. She gave an interview last week with the equally nutty Men's World Online (links to CS's blog and MWO homepage omitted for philosophical/technical reasons) that included this great exchange between interviewer Bernard Chapin and Seipp:
BC: When thinking about the topic of stay-at-home dads, a bigger question must be asked and it is reflective of the black underbelly found in most radical social engineering projects. Is it possible for a woman to respect, and find attractive, a man who does not work or contribute materially to their family’s well-being?

CS: No.
There you have it. Catherine Seipp says it's impossible for a woman to respect an at-home dad. Given that Cathy speaks for herself -- and clearly not any of the women I know -- this is probably just as well.

Thanks to all who responded publicly and privately to my last post. I owe a lot of people a lot of beer ...

Friday, July 23, 2004

Just in case you need *another* reason to travel to suburban Chicago the weekend before Thanksgiving, RebelDad has volunteered to run a session at the ninth-annual At-Home Dad Convention. I'd like to talk about the topic for a moment here, and it's a bit, you know, personal. Please shoo the children away.

I offered to run a session about at-home dads and sex (or lack thereof). Sex (and lack thereof) is a hot topic nowadays. Two big magazine pieces last year in The Atlantic Monthly and the mag-I-love-to-hate, New York Magazine tackled the issue of married couples having little or no sex. And researchers say we married people are doing better than singles. Apparently, there just ain't much sex going on. (Even the fertility rate is down. More people die in this country than are born on yearly basis. You can look it up.)

So I'm looking for ways to reverse this trend, since most convention attendees (and, probably, a good number of their wives) would like to have more sex. RebelMom is doing some research, and I'd like to throw the topic out for discussion (either in the comment section or privately over e-mail). If you're having enough sex, let me know what you're doing right. And if you're not, let me know what you think would help. Convention beers (and anonymity) to those that help.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

As I was about to say, before the ether snatched away my post ... I found the Scholar and Feminist Online issue this summer particularly interesting because it deals with the subject of 21st century family life through the lens of an ally of the at-home father, not the at-home dad himself (unlike most of the stories I post here, which -- usually -- struggle to get our perspective).

Noteworthy is this panel discussion on "Doing it All". In it, there are some moments of great wisdom and some moment of great (and sometimes troubling) truth about the way young, progressive women see men. Here's some of the great wisdom (from Carrie Fernandez, the senior communications manager for the American Foundation for the Blind):
What's more, is that none of these [family friendly] policies mean anything in the long run until we change the culture and gender stereotypes ingrained in our culture to make those policies really mean something for most families.
And a troubling question posted by an audience member:
And the simple fact is that most 30-year-old men don't know how to properly do the pan. And they don't realize that just having it sit in the sink overnight and saying they are going to do it in the morning is [not] an adequate answer.
Far be it from me to defend all 30-year-old men, but I'm fairly certain we can wash dishes (I'm a soak-in-the-sink kind of guy, but that's laziness, not inability. It really *is* easier to clean in the morning). I know that men still lag behind women in terms of household work, but the gap is closing. But there was little acknowledgement of that. Indeed, the panelists seemed to think we'd have to wait until the next generation of boy grew up before men could get the whole dish-washing thing.

The general assumption that we can't do housework impacts not only society's ability to take men seriously as dish washers, but as childrearers, too. The audience for this discussion looked to be a hip crowd that cared about gender equity, but no one seemed willing to question the old stereotype about men being doofuses when it comes to household tasks.

OK. That's it for the serious posts this week ... I'll be much more down to earth in tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Blogger ate my post on Young Feminists and the Family, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow ... too much deep thinking to repeat at this hour.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Now all we need is our own newspaper, like the Moonies have: at-home dads now have a corner of the comics page. A gentleman named Todd Schowalter has created a new strip, Barcley & Co., about the (hopefully) comic life of an at-home dad. Some samples are posted here. I think it may be too early to pass judgment on the quality of the humor -- not the standards of the genre have been especially high lately -- and I'm curious to see where this gets picked up.

It's worth noting that Barcley will not be the first at-home dad to inhabit the funny pages. That title goes to Stuart of Dykes to Watch Out For. Unfortunately, the strip is unlikely to get wedged between Garfield and Blondie in your local paper ...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

This is the slow season for blogging, and I'd feel more guilty if there were other at-home dads posting away at a furious pace. But everyone seems to be taking it easy, so no angst here.

Michael at Daddy Designs has helped kick me into gear a bit with a link to an overwhelmingly pro-dad story in the Tallahassee Democrat. The story lays out all the ways in which an active father helps his children, and it's a convincing bit of reading.

Also, look for some re-jiggering of links to the left. Gotta finally add the must-read Daddy Types to the "links" section, and I need to stick in a link to GamerDad, who, in addition to knowing a great deal about video games, also has a family blog.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Leave it to those nutty Californians to try out one of the best ideas around for the promotion of work-family sanity (and, in a small way, one of the best ways to take a trial spin at at-home fatherhood): they've instituted paid family leave. Under a law that went into effect right before the holiday, residents of California can get 55 percent of their salary (up to $728 a week) for six weeks to care for a new baby or a sick relative.

This is revolutionary. A decade ago, there was no national right to take any time for family reasons. Now, the largest state in the union thinks paid leave is sufficiently important to make it a reality (in the midst of a budget crunch, no less. I know that the money doesn't come from the general revenue of the state, but from the state disability fund, but it's still impressive to see this sort of entitlement to appear at this point in time).

Paid leave is a crucial plank in the Rebel Dad Plan to Change the World, mostly because if not for my former employer's policy, I'd never have ended up an at-home father. The economic penalty for staying out of the workforce for more than a week or two is simply too great now to expect fathers (or mothers) to take advantage of their 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act time for a new child. But offering some money during that period can soften the blow.

Of course, I have no doubt that, like the FMLA, little of the California leave will probably be used for paternity leave. But even a modest bump in the number of men that get the chance to spend an extended period of time with their newborns will translate into more men playing more of a role in the childrearing.

The Christian Science Monitor, in this piece on the California law, wonders aloud whether Californians -- who invented such nationwide crazes as skateboarding and barbecue sauce on pizzas -- will again be on the cutting edge. Their take? We may be inching closer. The point out Teddy Kennedy's Healthy Families Act, introduced last month, as evidence that the debate has gone national. (The Monitor notes that US Chamber of Commerce -- the powerful lobby that represents US businesses -- has pledged their undying opposition to the effort.) The US (outside of California, of course) has the worst leave policies in the developed world. That makes this battle all the more important. Paid leave on a national level will be a fight -- a long fight -- but the debate is long overdue.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A few quick hits on some unrelated topics. First off, Greg pointed out an interesting piece in the NY Times Magazine with a number of interesting facts from a Reach Advisors survey (read more about it in this Businessweek story.) Greg mocks the tone of the story (something akin to gee whiz! Gen X kids are parents now! And they're not screwing it up!), but it has some useful comparisons. Rebel Dads are more common. More of us are doing household tasks than our boomer dads, and we're spending more time with the kids. (So no more with the whole "slacker" crap. We gave you the Internet. We're good parents. Tony Hawk has been labeled an "icon of the family man.") (By the way, I asked Reach Advisors for a copy of their research. They were nice about it, but no dice ...)

I'm not the only one with a new outlook on Caitlin Flanagan. While the lefty blogosphere has reacted with suspicion to Flanagan's New Yorker piece, the righty anti-feminist women over at the Independent Women's Forum are all pissed off at her. That's a good sign!

As a blogger, I can't help but point out the Instapundit "Indeed" tracker at Please let me know of any irritating blogging tics I may have developed.

For the record, it looks like the at-home dad section of continues to grow. We've almost doubled (to 412) since the beginning of the year. My group still isn't off the ground yet, though. Is this working for anyone?

Read this poem from Laid-Off Dad. Laugh like hell.

Finally, the final details of the At-Home Dad Convention are being worked out. It's the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Block your calendars now. I owe a good many people beers, so I hope you all make it.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Have a wonderful holiday weekend. There's jack to blog about out there, which isn't a terribly bad thing, what with the public pools now open and the weather so nice.

By the way, Caitlin Flanagan gets pinned down on the subject of men by Jeffrey Toobin in a radio interview on WNYC. (Thanks Greg!). Here is my rough transcript of part of this:
[Toobin brings up] the relative absence of men in the discussion, particularly at home ... especially men taking equal responsibility for some of the issues we're talking about: child raising, home making. That doesn't seem to figure in your take.

[Flanagan, saying that tasks aren't split as equally as some men believe] If you get the mother alone, she says, 'I'm the one who feels like I'm doing the lion's share of all this.' A lot of women feel for lots of complicated reason that no matter how equally they're sharing the work of the household and particularly the work of the children that the hardest past of it or the most essential part of them is still falling on them.

[Toobin] Is that immutable?

[Flanagan] I think women do have an interest in issues of housekeeping and homemaking ... they have an emotional investment in homemaking and housekeeping that most men don't have.

[Toobin] Should we give up on them, then?

[Flanagan] I think men are really willing to help out around the house. I think that's really being solved. I don't think we'll ever get them to be really womenly about that. ... There will already be a little tension.
It's hard to argue that some men -- even those in more egalitarian relationship -- are probably not doing as good a job of pulling their weight as they could be. But Flanagan seems to either a) miss the point or b) ignore the fact that men are doing more than ever before. And a quickly growing minority of us are doing a *lot* more around the house. In short, gender roles aren't immutable, and they're less stiff than ever before.

Flanagan seems to believe differently, and that's what continues to chafe. Near the end of the interview, she lets loose with this, about kids: "They're a part of our hearts and conscience's in a way they're not a part of men's hearts or consciousness." That may be right in some cases, but I hate to see it stuck out there as an iron law of nature.

Finally, let me put out my own iron law out there: no one has an emotional investment in housework. A clean house, maybe, but not the act of housecleaning. That's the real myth. Break out your copy of Free to be You and Me and follow along with me:
"Your mommy hates housework,
Your daddy hates housework,
I hate housework too.
And when you grow up, so will you.