Monday, August 30, 2004

Let the contest begin. Again, get your letter published, and I'm buying. Here's my entry:

Dear Ms. Chan,

In “The Parenting Skills You Really Need … For Your Marriage,” Fernanda Moore asks “would a cranky toddler and a cranky 34-year-old scientist respond to the same things”? She goes on to answer her own question in the affirmative, finding that telling her husband to go to his room, asking him to “use his words” and speaking in terse semi-orders worked wonders on her marriage.

But jettisoning the idea of mutual respect between husband and wife doesn’t have the ring of sound marital advice, and treating a spouse like a three-year-old probably isn’t a wise childrearing move, either. I, too, have a toddler, and she gets sometimes gets treated like a toddler because she’s learning boundaries and can’t always talk through her feelings. As she grows up, I hope to teach her – by example – that adults gain the option of choosing discussion over discipline.

Finally, Moore’s piece is the latest to push the idea that men are utterly unwilling to do anything around the house without being goaded, guilted, tricked or otherwise forced into it, a dated stereotype that ought to be on the way out. More fathers are finding more ways to be involved than ever, a transformation that has nothing to do with receiving “time outs.”

Rebel Dad

Friday, August 27, 2004

There's likely to be intermittent hype here over the next few months for the annual At-Home Dad kConvention in November. This is in part because I've had a wonderful time over the last couple of years and partly because, as a speaker, I now feel I have a vested interest in its success. In addition, I'd love to meet some of the readers here, and it's as good a venue as any.

That said, Peter Baylies has posted the preliminary agenda here. (Warning: This site comes out fine in Internet Explorer but HTML gibberish in Mozilla. No idea why.) I'm particularly excited about the keynote speaker, Kyle Pruett of Yale, who is probably the world's authority on at-home dads. Should be quite a day. Those interested in the fellowship of the whole event would be well-advised to stay over Friday and Saturday nights.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

There's a lively discussion in the comments to yesterday's post on the gawd-awful Parenting magazine piece on using toddler discipline tactics on your husband. A few folks have brought up a letter-writing campaign. Sounds like a great idea.

Unlike politicians, who actually take mass-mailings of identical documents as a measure of interest group strength, a bunch of carbon-copy letters are likely to be instantly trashed by some junior Time Inc. staffer. With number of individual, thoughtful letters, however, one is likely to slip by and get in the magazine.

So here's the challenge. I'm going to write a letter to the editor (I plan on using this e-mail address:, and I'll send along a hard copy to editor Joyce Chan). I'd love for you folks to do the same. If your letter gets published, I owe you a convention beer (fair warning: it may be the 2005 convention. These publications have LONG lead times). Let the letter-writing commence!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Over the last couple of weeks all sort of people have been asking me the same question: "What do you think of that stupid Parenting Magazine story?" And my answer has been that I hadn't seen it. My subscription lapsed, and, in the interest of keeping my blood pressure low, I didn't re-up. (Longtime RD readers will remember my pissed-off letter to the editor of April 2003. I just couldn't take it anymore. I have a subscription to Parents now, which has a dad's page and doesn't appear out to marginalize half the nation's parents. I'm much happier.)

But I've bowed to the perverse pleasure of reading really bad stuff and purchased the magazine, which runs this on its cover: "Rewards? Time-outs? Strategies that work on husbands too." (Parenting isn't available online in any meaningful way. You'll have to buy/borrow/steal your own copy.)

Let me start by trying to undermine the article's purpose. (I'll get into the usual Rebel Dad stuff in a moment.) This is some of the worst marital advice ever offered in print by anyone, anywhere. It is written by Fernanda Moore, a journalist, not a therapist, and it never escapes her entirely first-person take on events. There are no actual marriage counselors quoted, no experts to back up her five-strategy approach, no examples from other parents. This is good; I'd hate to think that there's an institutional backing for her advice.

Among Moore's successful tactics? Telling hubby to "Go to your room," and "use your words," among other things. In short, the article proposes you treat your husband like a kid. A young kid. A toddler, really. (This stuff wouldn't work on teens.)

Here's a public service announcement from me: if you order your significant other to his or her room, he or she is unlikely to act like Moore's husband who a) goes to the room and b) returns waving a white flag an hour later. He or she is more likely to act out in extreme anger and make the situation worse. (Moore's husband, by the way, returned home at 7:30 p.m. after telling his wife he'd be home at 7-ish. That was the crime. Seriously.)

But the element of the story that really irks me is Parenting's decision to continue to push the outdated and dangerous idea that men are incapable of doing anything around the house. The magazine has completely given itself over to the elevation of motherhood above parenthood (count the number of headlines addressed to "mom" to see what I mean), and that's leaving kids shortchanged. Lately, I've been blaming the uncaring American workplace -- not societal stereotypes -- for the daddy disconnect between guys who say they want to be involved and the (lower) number who are. But it seems the stereotypes keep getting a good airing, and Parenting is doing its part to drive a wedge between men and caregiving.

Mothers may giggle at the breeze, just-between-us-moms tone of the mag, but if a wife is serious about having dad to play a role in the lives of his kids, she'd be well-advised to send Parenting right to the recycling bin.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Let's face facts: a good number of the stories I note in this space are about middle- and upper-class men making the laudable decision to stay home. There's scant media attention to men on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum who are seeking to be active, involved fathers.

That's what sets the cover story in Sunday's New York Times Magazine apart. In it, longtime Times reported Jason DeParle chronicles the fatherhood of Ken Thigpen, a one-time drug dealer who now dotes on his two-year-old during the day and delivers pizza in the evening to fight economic disaster. Though the story never comes right out and says it, Ken is an at-home dad. His pizza gig runs in the evenings, and he is the primary caretaker for most of the day, while his child's mother is working at a nursing home.

It's a complex story (and long) and is excerpted from a new book by DeParle, but it raises some interesting points about welfare reform and life near the poverty line. The fact that DeParle takes on fatherhood is noteworthy. Despite growing attention to the question of how to make socioeconomically disadvantaged men into better fathers, I haven't seen much on how service groups or social policies are working. DeParle doesn't claim to offer a scientific perspective on the question, but his anecdotes describe what success could look like, even if it's not clear what sets Ken apart in his willingness (and passion) to be a good father. Such attention to the question of how to get fathers involved is welcome, and the story is a reminder that getting professionals to consider active fatherhood is only part of the solution.

Monday, August 23, 2004

One media mention and a couple of blog-specific notes today: I wanted to start with this short-but-sweet piece on the Austin, TX dads group, which is 80 guys strong. Not a bad showing at all for a relatively small city. I was happy to see someone run the economic numbers: factor in the cost of day care, commuting, meals at work, etc. etc and suddenly, staying at home isn't such a crushing economic blow.

Regarding the blog: the redesign will happen -- thanks to all who offered comments. I have a request for clarification, though. Some of you asked for some perspective on the RebelMom side of things, and I am happy to give my wife a sounding board. But since this is a site mostly about analysis, and not our personal lives, I was wondering what -- specifically -- you folks were interested in seeing her tackle.

Also: I'm considering separating the links into those that are very much live (such as DaddyZine and Blue Sloth), those that are dead but not gone (the wonderful Being Daddy) and a middle category for those showing the telltale signs of abandonment (Fulltime Father and At Home Dad ... Mike and Pete -- what gives?). If you think you're on the bubble ... start posting.

Finally: favorite family thinker Ann Crittenden's new book comes out today. It's titled If You Can Raise Kids, You Can Manage Anything. I'm going to pick up my copy today.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

As I am frequently too lazy to do any real reporting, let me thank Amy for the wonderful work she has done getting to the core of what University of Texas prof. Gretchen Ritter really thinks. (Last week, I pointed to an op-ed she wrote arguing that at-home moms were generally a bad thing.) Amy queried her on her view of at-home fatherhood; here is the back and forth (as posted in the comments section of last week's entry):

AMY: "My question for you: Would you say that the stay-home dad movement is also harmful? While it doesn't carry the gendered-role freight SAHMhood does, and doesn't have quite the same revival-tent air that the current Passion of the Mother does, it also requires a father to largely give up his career and public life 'at least temporarily', and it raises the other problems you note with SAHMhood."

RITTER: "You've divided the issue exactly right as far as I can tell. There are two different things that I take issue with on the stay-at-home mother movement - one concerns gender roles, and the other concerns the absence of balance between work, community, and family. The stay at home father trend certainly is a positive thing on the first issue - it suggests that men, too, can be engaged and accomplished caregivers. As for the second issue goes, I do think that all adults should try to contribute across these three realms, but it does not necessarily need to be a one third, one third, one third proposition at any given moment in time. What's most important is that we make a life time commitment to care for those who are dependent upon us, but to also give our talents & skills to the public."
Amy's offers some analysis on the end of Ritter's note: "The last part of the reply is a bit waffly, I think, but I suspect it translates to "Apart from the gender-role business, being an SAHD is as harmful as being an SAHM -- both to themselves and to society -- if SAHDs cloister themselves with their children to the extent many SAHMs do, taking no interest in the world outside Kinder, Kuche and Kirche."

Following Amy's line of thought gets the root of why Ritter so effectively pissed so many people off. Let's be honest: at-home parents spend a lot of time "giv[ing] our talents & skills to the public." We do it through volunteering, through community organizations and through -- hello! -- childrearing. Degrading the importance of those activities, particularly the challenge of raising thoughtful, caring kids, doesn't make for a particularly compelling argument about what is best for society.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I spoke with the fine folks at Spike TV today in an effort to figure out what their pollsters were smoking when they found that a whopping 22 percent of men were at-home dads. The response: "We're not releasing anything more than was in the Time story and the press release. Sorry."

As several of the comments to the earlier posts on the subject have made clear, a great many of the numbers released make absolutely zero sense, and despite my initial enthusiasm for the poll results, I may have to write the findings off as utterly unreliable. (I've called the polling company, too, but haven't received the courtesy of a reply.) Sad as it is to report, this kind of thing makes me pine for the Census Bureau, which isn't afraid of getting things wrong in a clear, unambiguous way.

Needless to say, anyone who can get more details than I won't have to pay for drinks at the annual At-Home Dad Convention this fall.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Things that make you go hmmmm: readers aren't altogether down with the Spike TV poll on men that found 56 percent of guys would consider at-home dad-dom. RebelMom peer Elizabeth pointed out a graphic from the Time magazine story about the Spike survey that shows the Spike folks found that 22 percent of fathers are at-home dads.

I'd love to celebrate the number, but I have no idea where it came from. Depending on the mood of the Census bureau, at-home dads are either less than a percent of the population of dads or up around 13 percent. No one has ever suggested we're close to one in four.

It makes me wonder about all sorts of things, and I'll try tomorrow to get the actual numbers. It could be that the polltakers introduced bias somehow (did they call only home numbers between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.). They may have stated the question over-broadly ("Have you ever served as the primary caretaker for your child?")? But it's damn hard to imagine the 22 percent of the dads out there are doing the at-home thing.

Theories on why the number is off (or why I am wrong) are welcome.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Our kind of men are now a majority: a new poll (commissioned by those sensitive new-age guys at Spike TV) has found that 56 percent of the men they polled would consider being an at-home dad.

Fifty-six percent: Let's let that sink in for a moment.

This is amazing news. When said last year that 40 percent of dads would do the at-home thing, I was nearly speechless. Spike is suggesting that the actual number of guys who would take the gig is actually 40 percent higher than even the careerbuilder study. (Let me lay out the caveat: I haven't seen any raw data -- I'll ask for it tomorrow -- so I don't know how the question was worded.)

You want the bad news? The same study found that 57 percent of those polled -- a number statistically identical to the would-be at-home dads -- "support equal partnership in marriage." I have a hard time squaring the high at-home dad number with the lower-than-expected "equal partnership" finding. My best guess is that the two groups are pretty much the same, and that the at-home dad question must have been broad enough to catch pretty much any man who believes in equity at home. But I'll post more as I learn more.

The other reason this study is important? Spike's PR wizards managed to place the study in this Time article, ensuring that millions of people will hear about it. The story seems to begin as a piece about the over-extended superdad, as I read further it became less and less lucid. This can be excused; the Spike study was all over the map, and the story reflects the confusion. The upshot seems to be that men are increasingly feeling pulled between family and work (66 percent say they'd risk bad blood at work to take a month's paternity leave) but doing nothing about it (dads are actually 18 percent *more* likely to work more than 40 hours a week than their childless counterparts). Work hours remain up, job security is shaky.

The upshot from my point of view is that the gut-level social resistance to the idea of caretaking men is fading rapidly, but the relatively modest number of at-home dads suggests a widening gap between those who would stay home and those who do. Instead, the resistance is coming from more practical -- if more difficult -- concerns: the modern workplace, the financial realities of the modern economy, circa. 2004. I actually take this as good news. Dads will have to expend less and less energy engaging the squishy business of altering stereotypes. Instead, anyone interested in the promotion of rebel dad-dom in the future will have increasingly solid targets: Paternity leave without a loss of job security. Respect in re-entering the workforce after caring for kids. Better flextime options. In short, the removal of the barriers that keep men (and women) at the their desk, no matter what.

Let me leave you with the strangest bit of the Spike survey: 56 percent of men said they'd consider being at-home dads. The exact same percentage admitted to having visited a strip club. Hmmm.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Since I have absolutely nothing to say, let me flag some at-home dad blogs I've stumbled across lately (which will be appearing relatively soon on the left rail of the site).

We have Philip at The Blue Sloth, who is nice enough to post comments over here and lend to the discussion. He takes the time to cut Catherine Seipp down to size today (a noble calling!) and he's a prodigious poster, so I have some archives to read, too.

I should flag Daddy Fu, which pitches itself as "Wee Little Adventures of a Stay at Home Dad & Other Amusements."

There's also the I'm Not a Slacker blog that is, ironically, showing some signs of blog abandonment. But I'll keep it on my watch list ...

By all means, if I'm missing an at-home dad blog, let me know.

UPDATE: Tom Nugent just let me know about his blog Not In Kansas Anymore.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Interesting new salvo in the 'mommy wars' that's been under discussion for the past couple of days in one of the at-home dad listservs concerning a month-old opinion piece in the Austin American-Statesman (reg. required).

The story -- a full-out attack on at-home motherhood -- is worth a read because it comes from the somewhat novel perspective of an academic, rather than a working mother taking potshots at her at-home peers. Much of the column demands eye-rolling, but one of the points made by the author, University of Texas women's studies prof. Gretchen Ritter, has much value: the idea that it's not good for children to grow up with the idea that childrearing is somehow a gendered job, suitable only for females. Huzzah to that, I say.

But it doesn't follow that the prescription is (necessarily) fewer at-home moms. Boosting the number of dads on the playground and schoolyard pick-up zones would solve the problem just as well, without demanding that women (or anyone else) chuck the caregiving job. Ritter kind of acknowledges as much at the end of her piece, but by that time it's too late. She has set herself up firmly against at-home motherhood.

She also ticks off a bunch of other concerns: at-home mothers somehow prevent dads from being involved (how a two-income family actually creates addition dad time isn't explained), that children are over-scheduled (a problem that isn't limited to children of at-home parents) and so on.

Look, I think that there should be more parental involvement generally. I'd love to see a work world where men and women could have a lot more balance. I dream of the day when women aren't punished by the marketplace for having kids and where boys don't grow up thinking that caregiving is a job for moms alone. But the way to get there isn't to convince the world (as Ritter says) that "Full-time mothering is also bad for children" and "the stay-at-home mother movement is bad for society." the solution, sadly, is a lot more difficult than demonizing a group of dedicated caregivers.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Belated Cathy Seipp update: Ms. Seipp, who you may recall wrote a bizarre, impassioned rant against fathers who, well, father, took to the airwaves to further promote the avant-garde idea that "Men in charge of small children are like women and parallel parking: Attention must be paid or something's going to get dented."

She appeared on Glenn Sacks' AM radio show in LA (click here for a rebroadcast). I can see how Seipp thought this would be a good idea. Sacks -- like Seipp -- is often reflexively anti-feminist. But Sacks' worldview doesn't quite match Seipp's. He operates from a position that men are often oppressed (by the courts, academia, etc.) and Seipp's unhinged position that men can't raise kids clearly pushes his buttons (plus, Sacks put in time as an at-home dad). The show is worth a listen just to hear Seipp's work read aloud with gleeful sarcasm.

Here is Cathy's response. Read it after the interview and marvel at her inability to understand Sacks' sarcasm and/or her willful decision to miss his point. But getting the point has never been a strong suit.

At any rate, don't tell Cathy that the left-wing nutcases are now running Fisher-Price. I just came into possession of the Loving Family Dad and Baby, a wonderful dollhouse man who comes accessorized with a) a baby and b) a baby-carrying backpack. I know that little plastic people should not be role models, but better this sort of commercial crap than the Bratz dolls.

Finally, thanks to all who offered suggestions on the site's direction. I'm still weighing my options, so you can still proffer your opinions. (Again, the e-mail is

Thursday, August 05, 2004

An open letter to readers:

I need your help. In the coming months, I plan on revamping both the look and the content here at in an effort to make the site about more than just one guy's musings and a collection of links. I'd like to add more information about at-home fatherhood -- how to navigate the ins-and-outs of becoming a rebel dad and how to make the most of the experience once the decision has been made. I have a sense of some of the elements that would make this site more useful, but I'd love to get the judgment of others.

Along those lines, I'd love feedback on what *you* would like to see here. Is there information you've searched for in vain? Are there at-home fatherhood questions that remain unanswered? Are there resources that I ought to be providing?

I've appreciated the support of everyone who has read, e-mailed and commented over the nearly two years that has been live, and I look forward to more dialogue as the site's reinvention moves forward.

Thanks in advance,
Rebel Dad

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

One of the reasons that the Census Bureau's low-ball figure on the number of stay-at-home dads frustrates me so much is that it automatically excludes millions of men who work contorted schedules in order to serve as primary caretakers of their kids (or, in millions of other cases, in order to live a rich family life). I'm not the only one feeling that way. Flextime is a big deal, and getting bigger.

Case in point: this AP story on the practice, which makes clear that the men who take advantage are generally great and home and better at work. It's a win-win for everybody. Or it should be. Read low down in the story and you get to the caveats: it's a rare workers that thinks he (or she) can go to a flexible schedule without career suffering, and that men who take advantage of such policies are often looked down upon. But like so much else in life, I would expect that to change as more and more men use flextime and it becomes less stigmatized.

Heck, even our uber-macho commander-in-chief understands the logic of giving workers more options in the way they divvy up work and family. Dumped into the media void that enveloped anything *not* related to the Democratic convention last week came the annoucement that Bush is examining flextime proposals for the campaign season. (Details to come -- I'll keep an eye as they evolve.) That means that kids are at least in the mix in this campaign, with Kerry's child care proposal already out there, too.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Rebel Mom and I have just returned from a quick getaway to Santa Fe, which is apparently a magnet for at-home dad types. It was a rare person we met who didn't have a good at-home dad friend (and, in one case, had a good at-home dad herself). Someday, I'd love to delve deep enough into the demographics to figure out where we're all hiding ...

While I was off having fun, at-home dads were getting the New York Times treatment. The subject was the increasingly well-trod angle of the at-home dad returning to work (see takes from the Wall Street Journal and the Charlotte Observer). But the author, Julia Lawlor, does a good job with it, really nailing many of the angles and getting some academic rigor by talking to Yale's Kyle Pruett.

The headline alone ("When Stay-at-Home Fathers Return to Work (Elsewhere)") is enough to make up for whatever other minor sins may lurk in the copy -- I had to laugh at the parenthetical "Elsewhere." In fact, the only part of the article that made me uncomfortable was toward the end: "It is best not to introduce the subject of being a stay-at-home father in a job interview, said Wendy Alfus-Rothman, an executive coach in New York, but there is no reason to be defensive if it does arise." The unspoken "truth," echoed in the other articles: being an at-home dad is a liability.

But I put "truth" in quotation marks. Rebel Dad believes that running a household is due to get a serious boost in status -- from those in the workforce. This is the next great trend in business management. If you don't believe me, check out Inc. magazine story from last month that says that Sun Tzu is (or should be) out as the manager's Bible and that "Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House" is in. The article makes perfect sense to me, and I suspect it'll make damn good sense to the would-be Bill Gates' of the world. For more convincing, Ann Crittenden (of "The Price of Motherhood" fame) is about to release a new work titled "If You Can Raise Kids, You Can Do Anything" that promises to hit the same notes.

Caregivers as super-managers: you heard it here first.
Back from vacation ... will start posting again this evening. (Don't worry -- nothing on politics. I've love to go into the finer points of whether "shove it" is wise/appropriate language for a first lady, but I'm really outside of my element. I'll be talking fatherhood again. As usual.)