Thursday, September 30, 2004

Attention Would-Be Convention Goers: the official information for the 9th Annual At-Home Dads Convention is now online. I'll be getting in Friday afternoon/evening and leaving early Sunday. I look forward to seeing you folks there.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Link-Heavy General Update Day: the political hot-potato of spending on fatherhood (and marriage) that i talked about earlier is apparently off the table, according to Elizabeth at Half Changed World. Her informed take on the subject can be found in the comments to Monday's post.

In the Ann Crittenden department, Half Changed World has now offered her review of Crittenden's latest -- If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything. Hard to argue with any of Elizabeth's points there ...

Finally, Daddy Types offers the encouraging news that "partners and husbands" are welcome at Strollercize, the first name is baby-related fitness multitasking.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Where's Casey Kasem when you need him: a little ditty called (creatively) Mr. Mom by country music quartet Lonestar is up to #14 on the Billboard country chart. The song has raised some eyebrows on the stay-at-home dad message boards (and At Home Dad tackles it here).

I'd love to write that the song is a catalog of the joys and headaches of being an at-home parent, but there's not a whole lot of joy in the song. The message, if you read the lyrics, is pretty clear: parenting sucks, and all y'all had better pray that you keep your jobs. The song is apparently a "thank you" to at-home moms. You can translate the thank-you thusly: "We appreciate all the gawd-awful crap you put up with, honey. Keep it up! We'll be at work!"

I'm not moron enough to take a pop music tune as serious social commentary or a reflection of reality. It's clear "Mr. Mom" is neither. Setting aside all the silly stereotypes, there's one element that really sticks out in my mind, hearing the song. Nowhere is the idea of spending time with the kids presented as fun or meaningful, even in passing. Even the original Mr. Mom (the movie) had enough heart to recognize that ...

Also: Peter Baylies (aka At Home Dad) is publishing his labor of love, The Stay-at-Home Dad Handbook, next month. I'll let you know when it hits shelves, but bots are standing by to take your pre-release orders.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Those looking to fatherhood as a political cause have never had much to get worked up about. So I was intrigued when my usually content-free weekly e-mail came from on Friday. In this edition, Ken Canfield, the head of the National Center for Fathering, encouraged me to support the "Bayh-Santorum fatherhood bill, which provides critical resources to states for training and promoting responsible fatherhood."

Fair enough a goal, I suppose. But the next part was really interesting: "Ironically, the Children's Defense Fund is emphatically opposing any fatherhood legislation ..." I thought that was weird. Why wouldn't CDF be happy about "responsible fatherhood?" So I checked around, as best I could. I'm in over my head here; react accordingly.

I think Canfield is talking about S. 2830, which is being pushed by Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum. That fatherhood bill has a lot more to say about marriage than dads (it's titled the "Healthy Marriages and Responsible Fatherhood Act of 2004"). The bill talks money, but only in reference to marriage. And when the text does get around to fatherhood programs, the main strategy to improving fatherhood is ... marriage.

Now, there's lots of text in there about how important dads are, and how important stability is and how bad domestic violence can be. But the reason (I suspect) that the Children's Defense Fund is opposed to this is the same reason that women's groups have been leery of "marriage promotion" for years (see this old-but-still-applicable treatment for more detail than you can shake a stick at): namely, incentivizing marriage isn't always a good thing. Marriage makes it harder for women and children to escape a violent or unhealthy household. That's not to say that marriage isn't a good idea, but government is playing a dangerous game in trying to make bad relationships into good marriages.

The spending on "parenthood promotion" -- highlighting parenting education, the importance of child support, mentoring -- makes more sense, but that's clearly not the thrust of the bill. Nor is it terribly clear how the government can get the word out about "good parenting practices" to fathers. We're talking $100 million in programs, when there's basically no track record of success.

I know there are a great many similar policy battles on this subject swirling about at present, and I haven't been following them, so the well-educated are welcome to use the comments space to set me straight.

For a more moderate last word, let me flag this bit from Jason DeParle's thoughtful NYT Magazine story:
The truth is that no one really knows how to help poor men become better fathers and husbands. The debate is in its embryonic stage, as the debate about poor women was 20 years ago. It took a succession of efforts, most of them failures, before welfare-to-work programs started to work. Why not let 1,000 flowers bloom, or at least a good half-dozen, and rigorously test them -- marriage versus Marriage Plus, counseling versus training?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Lots of stuff to post, but diminishing time in which to post 'em this week. Check back as I go through my backlog.

But ... I wanted to throw one study out there. This piece of work from Penn State takes an interesting look at "girls' sex-typed activities" -- whether they're girlie girls or tomboys. Of interest to stay-at-home dads: "neither girls' nor their parents' attitudes about appropriate roles for women and men predicted the girls' involvement in any activities ..."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

OK, OK ... it's time to turn the attention to a parenting magazine that believes in thoughtful, in-depth explorations of modern parenthood: Brain, Child, which ran a thoughtful, in-depth and disappointing look at at-home dads (sort of). (Thanks to Matt for the link. I am late to the party on the commentary. See this dead-on post from Half Changed World for additional insight.)

The article is a long one, and it asks an interesting question: where the hell are the men in all these stories about women and work-life balance being written by Caitlin Flanagan in the Atlantic and Lisa Belkin in the NYT Magazine, among others. It's a good question and one I've asked before. The author has all her facts right, and she talks to some of my favorite thinkers: Crittenden, Pruett, Baylies, Hilling.

Sadly, the conclusions are, by and large, wrong. The answer to "where the hell are the men," is "work," and the author, Stacey Evers, spends most of the article arguing that at-home fathers are a) extremely rare and b) likely to stay that way, barring a "seismic ground shift."

This post could go on a long, long time, so let me take brief aim at just three of Evers' myths:
1) At-home fathers are rare: The story goes into great detail about the Census numbers from last year that cut our numbers from around two million to 105,000, explaining that once you cut out all those dads who are part-time workers, shift workers or flextime guys, the number of at-home dads dwindles. (See here for my take on the numbers.) Of course, the number of dads working reduced or flexible schedules to be more involved is jumping, but Evers seems much more fascinated by the small and virtually meaningless 105,000 number. Her message: this group is too small to bother with.

2) Men make too much to stay home: Look, women continue to get the short end of the stick in the workforce. No question whatsoever on the wage gap issue, and Evers makes that completely clear. But in emphasizing that men on average are better wage earners, she forgets that few marriages conform to a national average. Here is a better stat: in dual-earner couples, 30 percent of women outearn their husbands. If Evers personal-finance argument was true, at-home dads would indeed be outnumbered by at-home moms ... by about two-to-one, not 56-to-1 (the current ratio). We have a long way to go toward income equality, but we're way closer to that than to caregiver equality. The two don't seem to be very closely linked.

3) Men are locked into the provider mindset: Again, a lot of men are indeed still slaves to the workplace, but the number of men looking for more flexibility for family reasons is jumping. Longtime at-home dads (Hilling, Baylies) will tell you that respect for what they do has grown in quantum leaps over a relatively short period of time. Evers gathers quotes from businessmen, lawyers and a CEO (for Pete's sake!) who claim at-home dads are stigmatized by their inability to provide, but the reality on the (play)ground is that those social stereotypes are fading. The story seems to be stuck in Mr. Mom land (1983).

There's a lot else not to like here, and HCW hits much of it in her post. It's too bad, really, given the time obviously spent on the article. And I know a lot of the people she spoke to -- I can't imagine Hogan and Peter sharing the story's pessimism.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Positive Reinforcement: OK, so I've aimed slings and arrows at Parenting for ignoring and mocking fathers. Some have questioned -- in comments and in private -- whether any parent-oriented magazine can make any sort of effort toward men. The answer is yes.

Parents this month (October) makes a stab at at least making fathers feel included. In addition to their traditional dads page, they've run a piece on "Smart Daddy Tricks," culling child-care tidbits from fathers. And ... in their tiny "overheard on our boards" segment about the website's message board they ran an e-mail from a dad lamenting the lack of changing tables in men's bathrooms. Finally, they ran a mom-focused martial advice story ("Are You Mad at Your Husband") that is a) written by a ... guy and b) has actual advice. Now, I won't say any of the above make for gripping or enlightening reading, but someone at that pub obviously is interested in taking dads seriously. (Full disclosure: I have worked for Parents in the past on a freelance basis and may again in the future. But I don't think that colors my analysis.)

Parenting is positioned as the slick, hip player in this media space, with sassier writing ... and a total avoidance of serious dad issues. Parents is proving that it doesn't have to be that way.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Equal Time: I received a very nice letter from Fernanda Moore, the author of the Parenting article that got me all worked up last month. She was furthermore nice enough to allow me to post parts of the her response, with the understanding that this is part of a civil discourse.
Hello to everyone...

Just for the record: Parenting magazine assigned me the piece, along with the topic. I chose to make it lighthearted instead of earnest (obviously one does not give one's husband a time out in any serious way.) ... I'm sorry if I offended anyone, it was certainly not my intention (and the piece was supposed to be light, not serious, and dopey, not intellectual.)

I have had a most pleasant dialogue with Fernanda, and I should apologize if I took the article with a tad more seriousness than the piece deserved. That said, the response makes two troubling things clear:

1) Yeah, it was a sassy, tongue-in-cheek piece, but the punch line was that it's funny to treat dads as if they deserve no substantive respect in the domestic sphere. I don't want to come off as humor-impaired -- I let Hollywood off the hook when it comes to stupid-ass domestic stereotypes -- but this should be lowest-common denominator stuff for a *parenting* publication.

2) The edit staff of Parenting picked the friggin' topic. This confirms my long-held suspicion that the magazine is targeted so specifically at moms that a little light-hearted dad-bashing isn't only tolerated, it's encouraged. Remember, this is a magazine that markets itself under the tagline "We Get Moms." (As Laid-Off Dad once said, that slogan must have narrow won out over the equally true "Dads Perplex Us.")

Friday, September 17, 2004

Under cover of darkness, I've made another revision to the blogroll at right. Let me know if you ought to be on the list but aren't. Basic criteria: be an at-home dad (self-defined) who blogs about fatherhood a perceptible amount of the time.

(An aside: I'd love to carve out a new list for wives of Rebel Dads. Obviously, we have Half Changed World. Any others out there?)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

What am I doing wrong? A loyal reader sent along a link to this CIO Magazine story on a guy, David Koenig, who has taken a hiatus from the long hours of the IT world to be an at-home dad for a few months. It's a wonderful bit about leisurely breakfasts with the kids, trips to the gym and driving range during school, then perhaps a soccer practice or two. "There is real value in being a bum for a change. You're never in a rush, and you can let the day take you wherever it wants," Koenig writes.

It's a great marketing piece for us at-home dads, and I'm thrilled with it. Of course, it's complete bunk. Who among us can let the day take us wherever it wants? I mean, for all the slings and arrows I directed at Austin Murphy's book, the often-frenetic lifestyle he wrote about felt dead-on accurate. But being a "'new older brother'" whose primary responsibility is taking the kiddies to Sox games? Would that I were as lucky as Koenig.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Government demographers have rolled out the results of a bold new effort to catalog the American life. The data from the first-ever time-use studies by the Department of Labor are now available. This is a grand step forward in the ability to measure how days are spent in this country and will be a trove of information. Eventually.

The problem with a first-ever data set such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics' effort is that there is nothing to compare it to, no historical baseline to check to see if we're doing better (or worse) than we were a year or two or ten before.

The main finding of the research -- at least according to the BLS's press release and the early New York Times account -- is that there remains a gap between caregiving done by men and done by women, with women working about and hour and a three-quarters a day caregiving, while men clock in at 50 minutes. Household tasks are similarly disproportionate. The Times notes that the study "does confirm that the old divisions of labor between men and women at least partly remain."

In a way, it's too bad that the message from this data dump will be that men continue to lag women in caregiving, a finding that no one, frankly, finds surprising. The impressive trend in other time-use studies that do have some historical context (namely work from the University of Maryland) is that men's contribution to household activities has more than doubled since the 1960s. Sure, we're lagging women, but we're closing the gap. The BLS data can't show that. I don't mean to suggest that the work they've done thus far isn't worthy of comment, but I'd be very cautious about making sweeping conclusions based on this snapshot.

(Thanks to Christine at Ms. musings for the tip.)
I haven't yet plugged Half-Changed World, a new blog by the wife of an at-home dad, so let me do that now. And now let me rip off a couple of her latest posts ...

... HCW just read a book that sounds well worth reading, Kidding Ourselves: Breadwinning, Babies and Bargaining Power. I haven't plowed through the book, but the author has a website that makes for some interesting reading:
... this book proposes a revolution in people's attitudes toward the sexual division of labor in the home. It proposes that we throw away the stereotypes that say men cannot be tender and competent as hands-on parents. It proposes that we also throw away the stereotypes about what makes a woman a good mother. A woman who earns most of her family's income while her partner does most of the child raising is a caring, loving, good mother, too.
There are so few good arguments out there for RebelFamilies that I love to learn about one more.

Also, HCW flagged this bizarre New York Times piece by Jenny Rosenstrach about the competition between mom and nanny. HCW does a great job of explaining why it's a strange and disturbing piece, and I don't have much to add. Suffice it to say that anytime someone suggests a "right" and a "wrong" way to parent or to feel or to act, they're probably reinforcing a set of stereotypes that will make it harder for novel work-family solutions to arise. I can imagine Rosenstrach's pain. But suggesting -- even with tongue (mostly) in cheek -- that mom must "outscore" any other care provider suggests a screwed-up view of modern work-family life that makes it harder on not only nannies, but dads, too.

Monday, September 13, 2004

You may notice something a bit different about the site. It has been redesigned by web goddess and RebelWebDesigner Elizabeth Gruenther Benker. There may be a few tweaks needed to make sure that all is well with the Blogger integration -- please let me know about anything that doesn't work for you.

If he's in the comics, he must be a superhero, right? The world's highest-profile comics-page at-home dad (Stuart of Dykes to Watch Out For) gets a strip to himself. And what is Stuart doing (other than watching the kid ...)? He's blogging, natch. (Thanks to Daddy Zine for noticing.)

Also: at-home dads are picking up steam down under. This is a nice trend to see; the Australians, like Americans, have lousy work-life balance laws, so breakout dads are as worthy of applause there as they are here.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Holy crap! Being Daddy lives!
It had to be said ... and thanks to Ann Crittenden for saying it. Her book, If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything is one of those works that definitely upholds common sense (parenting is damn good preparation for business) over convention wisdom (businesses should avoid mothers and would-be mother like the plague). Much of the book is devoted to painstakingly listing the strengths endowed by parenthood -- multitasking, patience, perspective -- and giving anecdote after anecdote from (mostly) women who have put those lessons to work.

The sheer volume of the voices in the book -- Crittenden interviewed more than 100 people on the lessons of parenthood -- makes the case for Crittenden, but it isn't until the last couple of chapters in the book that she really gets to the deep issue. It's probably fair to say that sensitive leadership qualities are increasingly "in" when it comes to business management theory, but practice still lags behind (modern American business is reflected in the culture by "The Apprentice." Donald Trump is hardly a new-school boss ...). In the last couple of chapters, Crittenden tries to tackle this, but it's clear that there's room to grow. In part, she says, women have to begin making it to the top and then changing the culture. And, in part, she suggests that parents need to start flaunting their parenthood more, offering ways to stick kid-raising skills on a resume.

But my bet is that businesses are a long way from rewarding parents, especially those that leave the workforce for family reasons. The best case scenario is that these parents not be particularly punished. And hopefully the book will help make that best case scenario more possible.

There are some small quibbles: Crittenden never really makes clear whether some parents (or parenting styles) are better preparation, and she lumps all parents in together. This is an unfortunate omission. I am sure that full-time at-home parents have learned different lessons that primary caretakers who also work outside the home. These different but valid choices no doubt give rise to different skills, and I'd have liked to see that drawn out.

As an aside, one of the stranger phenomena I noticed in the book was the sex division. Most of the people Crittenden spoke to were women, a fact that she justified by looking at the small number of at-home dads. But when it comes to the difficultly of getting back into the workforce, she relied on the Wall Street Journal story on at-home dads re-entering work life. It's strange that there hasn't been a push to look at the same problem from a mother's point of view. As much as I like to celebrate articles that emphasize that dads are caregivers, too, the equality bells go off when I realize that at-home moms being interested in paid work seems to be ignored.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Early this year, the Orlando Sentinel ran a story about the new, sensitive Brawny Man. It was an interesting bit about the rise of kinder, gentler masculinity, made all the more interesting by the reaction in the story from Susan Faludi (of Backlash fame) who made this prediction:
In the past where there have been efforts to show a caring man or a Mister Mom, the popular culture has a very low threshold ... They'll have one or two Mister Moms and the media will be filled with stories about how the sensitivity of the politically correct male has gone too far. Then we'll be treated to a wave of trend stories saying 'Real men are back.' So I predict next year you'll be doing a story on a brawny Brawny Man.
I wrote that I didn't share Faludi's point of view. Us new-era Brawny Men were here to stay, I said.

But I saw one heck of a backlash piece in the New York Observer. (The piece ran in July, and I noticed it a couple of weeks ago, but the link was broken, for some reason.) The title: "Stuff It, Emo Boy." The bottom line: sensitive guys were on the rise (the article calls it a "rampant spread") and a pain in the ass for Manhattan women to date. Now I don't have a lot of experience with the Observer -- it has kick-ass media commentary (see this wonderful piece on Caitlin Flanagan) -- but I don't know much about the rest of the publication.

The "emo boy" story is long and littered with cutting comments from women disgusted with their emotionally in-touch boyfriends. There are a few folks thrown in there to argue that guys like this are what women keep asking for, but the article doesn't pretend to stay above the fray. I don't want to pretend that every new-age man is a riot to be with or that "bad boys" aren't worth dating. But the three authors take it a step further: they clearly believe that sensitive guys -- up to and including model husband/rock star Chris Martin -- are a menace. That Gwyneth must have a rough life living with that stroller-pushing wussy.

Fortunately, the times they are a changing. Thanks to Evan at Dads on the Couch for sharing a bit from his elementary school newsletter on how great it is that more dads are getting involved at school (and giving suggestions on further involvement). I can't seem to dig up the link, but I'll post it as soon as I find it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Two wildly divergent items to mention today. The first is a chat by the paper's resident humorist, Gene Weingarten. (Thanks to RebelGodmother for the link) In addition to penning a weekly humor column, Gene is known for discovering Dave Barry and for once trying to score leeches from me (OK, Gene is not known for trying to score leeches from me. But he nonetheless asked me about leech dealers. But that is another story.)

At any rate, he begins his chat thusly:
I have made an important decision about my life. I am going to become a stay-at-home Dad. I resisted this for the twenty-odd years in which my children were minors, but now that they are adults, it makes all the sense in the world:

1. Chicks dig it. Revealing you are a stay-at-home dad to a woman is like revealing you are a puppy breeder, a pediatrician, or a sexual-harassment plaintiff's lawyer. Serious benefit of the doubt.

2. It will not be a lie! I will be a dad, and I will be at home. The fact that I do not happen to have children to care for is immaterial.

3. Job stress is minimal.

Okay, just wanted to share that.
The other item worth pointing out is this bit from the San Jose Mercury News (reg. required) on Armin Brott, a.k.a. Mr. Dad. This is interesting to me because I don't think I've ever seen a profile of Brott in the years I've been reading about fathers. Brott occupies an interesting space: he is the only real non-academic authority on fatherhood, so reading about his story puts some things into perspective.

Two parts of the story are worth mentioning. One is Brott's opinion that things have changed for dads over time, but the change has been modest: "'I see a change, a perceptible change from 15 years ago when I started doing this. But not as much as I'd like.'" And the author of the story throws in this line: "Stay-at-home dads are no longer considered suitable for a carnival freak show." Ummm ... kind of strong language, but I think it's a compliment, so I'll take it.

Upcoming: I've finally finished If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything, by Ann Crittenden. I simply don't have the time to get my thoughts in order enough for a review today, but I'll work on getting it out later this week.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Media watch today: It's almost a mini-Father's Day posting here, with two articles in the last few days that profile at-home dads, and another that talks about a couple considering the choice. Let me start with this piece from the Sacramento Bee. The focus is a bit different -- the story is about a guy who is "retiring" (sort of) from at-home fatherhood. But it's a nice story from a man who was on the cutting edge at the time before this was a cutting-edge lifestyle.

Secondly, the Fredericksburg (VA) Free Lance-Star ran this report on a local dad. I like the kicker:
He reflects on his new life. It's not something he ever expected, but says he's lucky to have this time with Tyler.

"I think more dads should do it. It's fun. A lot of parents don't get to spend this much time with their kids. A lot of them drop them off at day care."
And let me give a huge shout-out to the small paper: this is the second time that the paper has covered involved dads. Check out this great piece from 2003.

Finally, my second-favorite personal finance expert, M.P. Dunleavey, put out this MSN piece on six women and their money woes. The notable part: one of the featured women is with child and thinking ahead:
Anna is starting to talk more frankly to her husband about his role in their finances; she may even bring up the idea that he could be a stay-at-home dad so they can save on pricey Washington, D.C., daycare.
This what I've liked about Dunleavey in the past. She seems to see at-home fatherhood as a natural, no-nonsense financial move. Of course, the decision on whether to be a primary caretaker is more complicated than just comparing salaries and doing the math, but it's refreshing to see the decision stripped of the gender-role mystique that usually goes into it.

Monday, September 06, 2004

In the interest of full disclosure: I've made some minor site updates in the past few days, including the obvious (at-home dad blog links are largely updated, with a couple I realized that I have yet to add) and the not-so-obvious (some small additions to the "About" section that does away with the already-eroding pseudo-anonymity of "Rebel Dad").

The additions are akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; web design and usability guru Elizabeth Gruenther Benker is in the process of re-designing the site, and we're talking about adding some of the content and functionality that has been requested, including a forum. More on that later. The upgrade is part of a larger effort to professionalize the whole Rebel Dad thing. And there'll be more on that later, too. This site was originally designed as a more-or-less personal resource, made publicly available for the heck of it, but the longer I have gone on -- and the more of you folks I've interacted with -- the more seriously I've taken it. Thanks for all your support.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Rebel Dad Readers Ask, and they Shall Receive.....(Actually RD, asks and he shall.) Rebel Mom here. Several readers asked that I start posting to the site, so I thought I'd introduce myself and before I start posting away.

I am a lawyer, a litigator, actually, with a diverse practice including complex civil litigation, representation of news outlets and victims of terrorism. I am a card-carrying liberal, if not radical feminist. I recently reduced my schedule at a large D.C. law firm to be able to spend more time with my family, and do yoga and paint(my hobbies). Rebel Dad and I have one daughter, three, and have been happily married for 6 years.

Rebel Dad and I do disagree on some family-oriented policy issues (he is for tax breaks for at-home parents, for example, while I am not). We have lively debates on these issues at home, and I am sure we will on this site. I'm always happy to field questions/requests for Rebel Mom perspective (but feel it's only fair for you to know my political bent as I do so). Thanks for asking me to participate and I hope you and your Rebel Moms find it interesting if not useful.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I'm all over the map today. Let me start with this survey from across the pond that has 11 percent of fathers saying they're at-home dads. Assuming that gender/work/family conditions are similar, this sounds like a much more plausible number than the Spike TV survey that broke a couple of weeks ago. Some time I'll break out all the different percentages -- I think I've now seen at least four estimates for the percentage of at-home fathers: 0.5 percent, 11 percent, 13 percent and 22 percent. Impressive range. We must be a wily bunch.

I need to the flag the blog of new commenter Jammer, who just started homo domesticus. Thoughtful, readable stuff.

Finally, the San Jose Mercury News ran This Q&A with their resident psychologist on dealing with being laid-off. Among the suggestions: heading the web for local at-home dad resources. Brilliant idea, I must say. We're a fount of knowledge.