Sunday, October 31, 2004

Knowing is half the battle: please get your blood pressure meds refilled, dads look poised to take another hit in the media. Amy was nice enough to point out this thread about a 20/20 request for interview subjects for an upcoming show on lazy husbands. Here's the posting:
ATTENTION WORKING MOMS: Does your husband pull his weight around the house, helping with the chores and kids? Or do you make up the slack, alone? Is getting your man to do housework like pulling teeth? And are you becoming resentful because of this? If so, "20/20" wants to help. We're looking for couples who are willing to go on TV and discuss these issues (preferably in the Bay area or NYC area). We've recruited a nationally-renowned expert (author of The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men To Do More Parenting and Housework!) who will help divvy out the chores and give insights into how to make the house run smoother and happier for both husband and wife. If you?re interested in participating, please email: Please include a brief background and phone number.
This is agonizing, because -- let's face it -- I happen to think that men should pull more of the weight around the house. But (again), getting guys to do more around the house starts with getting fathers to recognize that there are benefits to picking up more of the household slack (better sex, better relationship, better kid time, etc.). Maybe the 20/20 piece will reflect that more subtle understanding, but I fear not. This is TV, where the more boorish the dad is, the more compelling the piece will be. (I am not entirely without optimism: the "The Lazy Husband" guy (Joshua Coleman) apparently understands the issue, though starting off by labeling dad as "lazy" is probably counter-productive.)

I don't think whining to Ms. Varney is a great bet. But I'll throw this out to RD readers: if you're an at-home dad who thinks your wife should be pitching in around the house more, shoot Varney an e-mail and let her know you're interested. Maybe that will blow -- at the very least -- the silly gender assumption.

ALSO: I'll be back in the posting groove this week, blogging as a distraction from my generally unhealthy political-junkie tendencies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Things are still plenty nutty around the Rebel Dad world headquarters, so posting remains intermittent. On the bright side, my hits have been up for the last couple of days, which suggests that everyone is perfectly happy without new content.

And the at-home dad landscape remains largely unchanged, perhaps because no media outlet has space for anything but election stories and breathless Red Sox coverage. In fact, the best I can do is yesterday's Dilbert on what a moron you'll sound like if you ignore your family.

Also ... it's worth pointing out Half Changed World's take on at-home dad books. She reviews Peter Baylies's new one, too, and I hope to get my thoughts on Peter's labor of love one of these day, too.

Friday, October 22, 2004

It's been a quiet week, and what little free time I've had has been eaten up by baseball. It's a seasonal thing. It will pass and posting will grow more frequent. If you see anything on the at-home dad horizen, by all means let me know.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

If this post is disjointed, it's because I'm writing it during the commercial breaks in the latest installment of the greatest baseball rivalry of all time.

But ... I've been trying to figure out what the heck happened to Mothers Ought To Have Equal Rights, a neat little effort spearheaded by Ann Crittenden that was pushing for a number of common-sense policies to make life in America more family friendly. The group has been awfully quiet, though, lately. So poking around to see what they're up to led to me the brand-new "It's About Time" Coalition, of which M.O.T.H.E.R. is a member.

The Coalition is a spinoff of the nice people at the Time Day organization, who are pushing for a thoughtful agenda of paid family leave, paid sick leave, overtime caps, pro-rated benefits and an Election Day holiday. (The group also points to The Project on Global Working Families, which has found that the U.S. is one of five countries in the world without paid maternity leave. We're in the minority on paid sick leave and vacation leave, too.)

That's the good news. The bad news is that the group has aspirations of getting their agenda to be a voting issue -- next month, if possible. But the presidential candidates have paid no more than lip service to work-life balance issues, and the new coalition, in the week since its announcement, has generated exactly one media mention, according to Nexis. And I have found no discussion on the web. Despite the quiet that greeted the coalition's establishment, I wish these folks the best of luck.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The freshest and most official government stats on at-home dads are now out, and -- as in years past -- they're pretty much wrong. (Thanks to Half Changed World for finding the numbers in the Census haystack.)

The bad news is that our numbers are down to 98,000 in 2003 from 105,000 in 2002. As Elizabeth points out, this is a statistical non-event. Here is her mathematically positive take:
One way that statisticians deal with this kind of noise is to pool the findings from several years. So I compared the average number of SAHDs for 1994-1996 to the average number for 2001-2003, which suggests a whopping 50.8 percent increase. Just comparing 1994 to 2003 produces a 28.9 percent increase, also quite impressive.

All the past criticisms of this number still apply. Here are the guys it excludes:

* Any dad who has made any money in the previous 52 weeks.
--> Shift workers
--> Part-time or temporary workers
* Any dad who has done the job less than 52 weeks.
* Any dad who has looked for work at all in the previous year.
* Single fathers (the stats look only at married family groups)
* Gay fathers
* Any dad who lies about why he's out of the labor force (only dads who say they're caring for family are counted. Embarrassed fathers who give another answer -- like part-time schooling -- are out)
* unmarried fathers (sorry Ken)
* And (again thanks to HCW for noting this) any dad whose wife was "out of the labor force" for as much as a single week. This could include women who are *on maternity leave*, which cuts out 60 percent of otherwise-meeting-the-definition at-home dads.

So where does that leave the actual number of at-home dads? Way, way higher than 98,000. Just adding in the at-home dads whose wives were at home for a period of time boosts the number to 157,000. But the big problem is that guys like me (and heavyweights like Hogan Hilling, Peter Baylies, Jay Massey, Austin Murphy) aren't counted because of our limited work situation. How much higher? Who knows? Surveys by private groups tend to come up with a percent of at-home dads in the teen range; the Census figures show it closer to 0.5 percent. All that is safe to say is that the government is severely undercounting at-home dads (and at-home moms).

Friday, October 15, 2004

Two items I missed in yesterday's roundup: the Dads and Daughters horrific-advertising awards that I wrote about in May are off for this year. The group will launch the effort again next year. When the nominations open again, I'll let you know. Keep an eye on your TV for particularly dopey commercials.

Also: congrats to Nate from Polytropos on cementing his status as an at-home dad.

Finally -- less than a week left to get the early bird discounts for the at-home dad convention. I'll be there (you'll know me by my Rebel Dad gear).

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Around the horn today, starting in California, where the San Jose Mercury News ran this column about the former number 2 at Cisco who stepped out of his high-powered Silicon Valley life and back into family life. It's a great piece on how it's never too late to come home again. (Read it next to this Washington Post story about staying at home during the teen years.)

Moving to the blogosphere, a chipper ABC employee has asked me if I -- or any of you -- would like to be on "Wife Swap." I don't feel special. Being Daddy, Daddy Types and Blue Sloth (among others) have all received similar pitches. Best response so far has been from Zero Boss.

On the subject of Being Daddy, Brian has a incredibly great post on the idiocy of "cool" parenting. It's a must read. Even Daddy Types says so.

Also: bucking the women's club that parenting magazines often seem to be is a writer named Gary Drevitch. He has a blog, too.

Finally, an alert reader sent along this link about guitarist Ottmar Liebert, who speaks in this NPR bit about the challenges of working from home with a small child.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I missed Sunday's 60 Minutes on women fleeing the workplace for home (anyone got a tape I could buy/borrow?), but Hogan Hilling was good enough to send me the link for the corresponding story on the CBS website.

I know it's about women and work-life balance and this site is generally about men, but bear with me. What happens to women in the workplace has a lot to do with how society is prepared to deal with involved fathers. Those fighting for a flexible workplace that respects family commitment are mostly women, but fathers have reaped many of the benefits. So this is important stuff.

The story followed the same bouncing ball as Lisa Belkin's New York Times Magazine piece from a year ago: high powered women who are stepping out of the work world to spend more time at home. In many ways, the 60 Minutes piece hits many of the same bumps that Belkin's narrowly focused story did. The women seemed suspiciously upbeat about their choices. (I have no doubt that they enjoy their current roles. But the utter lack of ambivalence about chucking careers suggests a certain sugar-coating. Ambivalence about the path not taken is the common thread running through the experiences of the at-home parents I speak to.)

In addition, the men are completely absent. Not only is there no discussion about the identical trend happening on the at-home dad side, there is no mention of the husbands of the opt-out women from the story, either. That's too bad; such a look would probably explain a lot. I suspect that the guys are uber-successful, financially, removing the economics from the decision to stay home and skewing the storyline.

That said, the 60 Minutes piece had a strong contrarian voice, and it hit (though didn't hammer), the fundamental truth about work-life balance: real flexibility is key. The story details the headaches of part-time work that never really ends up being part-time. This is critical. Too often, lip service is paid to the idea of part-time work or flexibility. Company policies go unused, and workers that do manage to rearrange their schedules often find that while hours (on paper) may be cut, expectations aren't, setting up a disconnect between the family-friendly policy and the reality in the cubicle.

Another interesting aspect of this discussion: the San Diego Union-Tribune tackled the mommy wars story with this profile of a linguist, Jocelyn Ahlers, who says that working-outside-the-home moms and today's at-home moms have much in common. What's more, she argues that they both should take an interest in promoting the same policies:
In Ahlers' view, these two camps shouldn't be fighting over which side has the better mothers, but instead be linking forces to demand that policy-makers provide more support for the work of motherhood, as she says European nations do with their more- generous leaves and parental resources.

"People are so blinded by cultural models of behavior, the prototypes like June Cleaver and Hillary Clinton, that they don't question the parameters of the debate," said Ahlers. "They don't see the bigger picture about why does it have to be a choice? Why can't it be balanced, with societal support?"
It's a thoughtful call for a truce and a more balanced view of, well, balance, than even 60 Minutes was able to come up with.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

There's a great deal to blog about this week and a great deal of real-life stuff to get done, too. And the playoffs, too. Will post once I figure how to balance it all.

Monday, October 11, 2004

A strange little piece about involved fathers showed up yesterday in the New York Times, and it's hard to know exactly what to make of it. The bitwas about the growing number of dads going to the pediatrician with their kids. But it was a weird trend story in that the author, Anemona Hartocollis, seemed uninterested in really figuring out if this was actually a trend.

She focuses first on an Upper West Side pediatrician who claims that dads outnumber moms some days. That's an impressive (if dubious) claim, and there's no real good rationale given for why. (Hartocollis suggests that it's a post 9/11 family bonding thing, which strikes me as a stretch.) Then, the pediatrician lets loose with this: ".. '10 years from now it'll make it to the East Side, and in another 10 years it will make it to the rest of the country.'" The author then dutifully finds that on the Upper East Side, very few fathers come in with their kids. Brooklyn Heights, according to the story, represents the middle ground: a quarter of the kids come with their dad (and a quarter with their nanny).

Here are the problems: 1) parenting trends do not emerge from the Upper West Side, cross over the park and then seep from the Upper East Side into society. And we should thank goodness for that. 2) These neighborhoods are hardly representative of NYC, let alone the rest of the country. Look, I live in the protective, fantasy-land bubble of a professional-class DC neighborhood, yet even here, there ain't a line of nannies at the pediatricians. For Brooklyn Heights to symbolize the "middle ground" is delightfully insular and absurd.

But my overarching complaint is that the dads-at-the-pediatrician story is an important one. This is not a new issue, and it's on many radar screens. Heck, there is an official push for more father involvement being driven by an American Academy of Pediatrics campaign. But none of that was mentioned, acknowledged or explored. Instead, a thousand words of some of the most valuable real estate in journalism (Sunday NYTs reach 1.6 million folks) was wasted.

(Thanks to Elizabeth at Half-Changed World for the link. Her thoughts are, as usual, worth reading.)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Special Holiday Edition of Rebel Dad dedicated to answering the question of what John Kerry meant when he said during Friday's debate that "I've even scaled back some of my favorite programs already, like the child-care program I wanted to fund ..."

I highlighted his proposal when it came out and find that the bare bones of it are still featured on his web site. Did his statement in the debate mean that the proposal he talked about in June had already been watered down? Or has he taken his proposal from this summer off of the table? No post-debate covered I've seen touched on the point.

Anyone know? Anyone care? I'll probably try to call the campaign in the next couple of days, but I fear that won't get me far ... suggestions welcome.

Friday, October 08, 2004

We're making progress (at least in the UK). More than a year ago, I wrote this post flagging a report from Pregnancy & Birth Magazine that showed that a third of dads would be willing to stay home with the kids if economics allowed. (Orginial links have largely died. Click here if you're curious enough to pay.)

I was excited by the results, thinking that it suggested that the old dads-don't-really-want-to-stay-home argument was getting more and more bogus and that caring for kids was increasingly socially acceptable (despite what you may have read elsewhere).

Now, Pregnancy & Birth Magazine has released its 2004 numbers for what appears to be the same sort of survey. And would-be at-home dads are even more prevalent. According to this story in the Daily Record, this survey found that this year "... almost half of dads claim they would give up work to be stay-at-home fathers, if they could afford it."

Given the caveat that this probably ain't the most rigorous survey, scientifically, I'd still like to celebrate a couple of points. 1) Getting almost 50 percent of guys to express interest in being a stay-at-home dad is mind-boggling and suggests that, indeed, the idea of separate sphere continues to fade. 2) A year ago, the number was down around 33 percent. That's a heck of a gain in a year and suggests that the men-ought-not-stay-home canard is not only fading, but fading fast.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

With a headline like this -- "Executive Women Love to Work - Househusbands Wanted" -- I'm helpless not to link. The press release that runs below that headline is mostly about working women, but I have to love the "househusbands wanted" bit.

Here's the worth-examining stats from the release, pulled together by a marketing firm:
Women executives are doing it all. Although nearly 80% of the women disagree that it's a woman's job to be the primary caregiver and homemaker, 83% admit they are the ones most often performing the tasks associated with these roles. They also are significant household financial providers, with 51% serving the primary role and an additional 42% play a substantial role.
It's s hard to draw broad conclusions without knowing more about the corporate executive surveyed, but the math suggests there's a lot of guys who could be pulling more weight. According to this survey, at least half of primary breadwinning women are also doing all the heavy lifting at home. I wonder if that's an actually an improvement over years past?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Dear Advertising Companies: We men do a lot of the cooking nowadays and would like to be pitched commercials for products other than prewrapped hotdogs. We would like to be featured in gauzy ads, cooking in a spotless kitchen, surrounded by perfectly polite children (just as women are presented).

But don't take my word for it. Some New Zealand marketing guru penned this piece on how men are the primary grocery shoppers in more than a quarter of New Zealand homes (up from 16 percent in 1997). The piece, aimed at advertising execs, goes on to consider how and why more ads should be aimed at guys.

This is an invitation, of course, to a number of new stereotypes and unfortunate commercials. But better that, probably, than the marketers ignoring us. As I've argued before, ads can be an window to real social standards. Getting a few more commercials featuring dad at work in the kitchen would go a long way in convincing folks that the kitchen (like the boardroom) isn't a gender-specific area.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Another reason why I'm Rebel Dad: I'm not rich enough to challenge Branson for the title of Rebel Billionaire.
Free (but well-deserved) P.R.: Tim Nabors from the Cincinnati dads group and Bill Beagle from the Dayton group appeared on their local NPR talk program last week. It's a good, probing interview.

I happen to love radio when it comes to the subject of at-home dads. Getting fathers to talk, uninterrupted and in their own words, gives a wonderful perspective on who we are and what we do. TV tends to be superficial and print, despite the potential for depth, just can give the same voice.

So give these guys a listen. The Cincinnati group is one of the largest and most active in the country and the Dayton group, as far as I know, has more fun than any other SAHD group on the face of the Earth.

Note to other dads out there: if you get yourself out in the media, please let me know. I hate to let anything slip through the cracks.

Also: I've been contacted by a reporter looking for stories of men who have taken paternity leave (especially FMLA leave). If you're interested, please post (with e-mail) to the comments here or e-mail me directly.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Everyone else seems to be talking about it, so why shouldn't I? I usually avoid writing about fathers in TV shows, partly because I haven't the time to rail against every lovable-but-confused father figure bumbling around in sitcom land and mostly because I recognize that "Malcolm in the Middle" isn't intended as social criticism.

But please allow me this one comment on the destined-to-be-popular "Desperate Housewives," which is obviously set a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The women are portraits of unreality, but the men are even more so. There is a hint -- the faintest echo -- of modern motherhood in there (a regretful mom who stepped out of the work world, the pressured-to-be-perfect Martha-Stewart-wannabe mom). But the men in the show are all straight out of the Donna Reed show. Present (sort of), but not accounted for. It's enough to make you pine for Bill Cosby. Or even Jim Belushi.

Friday, October 01, 2004

As Homer would say: Mmmmm ...donuts. The only real dad-related news to have crossed my desk lately is this piece from a Pennsylvania paper on the local elementary school's "Doughnuts for Dads" program. Now, this is clearly not new or unique ("Donuts for Dads" returns 472 Google hits. The more stylistically correct "Doughnuts for Dads" returns 222 hits), but it is an important trend.

I've long been frustrated by the difficulty of getting dads together for any reason. The social networks that mothers tend to form -- in my experience -- are far tighter than those that fathers form, and information about kids tends not to flow to dads very well. Doughnuts for dads offers a forum to bring the discussion right to them. That discussion is probably focused on the school -- what the kids are doing, ways to get involved -- but the potential is probably greater. If I were to form a fathering support group/bull session/poker game, I can think of few better places to get it off the ground. If I was pushing a dad-focused reading program, "Doughnuts for Dads would be a great place to buttonhole fathers. (California-based Project DADS, incidently, did use "Doughnuts for Dads" for that very purpose.)

I'd love to hear more about strategies -- food based or otherwise -- that are harnessing the power of involved fatherhood. Any stories out there?