Friday, April 29, 2005

Dad Season is like Christmas: it starts a little earlier every year. Enterprising reporters are already beginning work on their Father's Day stories (ABC News is looking for NYC-area dads, etc.). If you've been reading for a while, you know that I struggle to keep up with links to the flood of the Dad's Day SAHD stories. Most of those stories are disappointingly cookie-cutter: a few anecdotes showing dad playing with child, a few lines about why he became an at-home dad, a quote from Libby Gill or Bob Frank.

The site is now being hit by journalists every once in a while, and to help reporters brainstorm new father-related topics, I'd like to create a "Top Ten Stories" list. The list would contain new ways to approach at-home fatherhood stories (and stories in general) and will to be posted May 18 -- a month before Father's Day. I'll be wracking my brain to come up with some ideas, but I'll need your help. Leave your suggestions in the comments here and I'll pull together the best for the final list.

Some ideas:
* Working Dads: The Families and Work Institute says that the time dad spend with the kids is up an hour a day (to 2.7, compared with mom's 3.4) over the past 25 years. This is being driven by working fathers. I'd love to read a story about guys who have stepped off the fast track to be home at 5:30 p.m. every day.
* New Father Programs: There is a slow growth of hospital-based new father programs. I'd like to see an overview of those that goes beyond a profile of a single class to look at the ways men are becoming more involved around (and after) birth.

I can't wait to hear yours ...

Friday, April 22, 2005

How to enrage at-home dads: 1. Produce a piece for national TV, on, say Abe Lincoln. 2. Refer to childrearing by men as "babysitting." 3. Question the very ability of men to do the job at all.

This from CBS Sunday Morning, which, long ago, did a very nice piece on at-home dads. But that's apparently a distant memory:
"On Sunday mornings, Mary would go to church -- Lincoln would come to work -- if you'd call that work -- and he would bring the boys. And the boys would raise hell."

And Lincoln would read the paper.

"This is so typical of a man babysitting, let me tell you," [CBS News Correspondent Cynthia] Bowers laughed.
This has the guys over the Yahoo! group a bit steamed, and I can't say I blame 'em. We ain't babysitters. We're parents. (And a little a little hellraisin' every once in a while never hurt anyone.)

Also: Miriam Peskowitz and The Truth About the Mommy Wars -- the subject of yesterday's post -- gets well-deserved props over at Mothers Movement Online. Check out the Peskowitz interview, which includes a serious discussion (!) of at-home dads:
When fathers are part of families, they?re crucial. That?s why I call it both a motherhood problem, and a parent problem. It?s coming down more harshly on mothers because so many of us tend to be the primary parent, yes. But we need to include the experiences of fathers who parent; they?re very isolated, need friends, and have important insights. (I?m very critical of books like "Perfect Madness" that write off this generation of fathers and say they don?t want to parent; they haven?t done their research.) I?ve noticed that because men tend to feel anger as anger (not like women, who tend to turn anger inward into shame), at-home dads really notice the loss of prestige when they decide to parent, and they are very vocal about it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

in the debate over media bias, there seems to be one form of bias that everyone, regardless of ideology, seems to agree on: the media are biased in favor of conflict and eager to tag any dispute with a "-gate" tag and gathering damning quotes from the combatants. And parents aren't free from that. I have, a great many times, blogged here about the overblown "Mommy Wars" stories.

So I was thrilled to hear that there is an entire book debunking the idea that working moms and at-home moms are at each other's throats. The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars by Miriam Peskowitz is out now on Amazon. Haven't read it yet (who do you think I am, an inveterate book reader like Elizabeth from Half Changed World?), but I'm loving the concept. It has to be better than Judith Warner's "Perfect Madness," which managed to get a giant MSM wet kiss. And I'm loving the author's thoughtful blog, Playground Revolution which has been focused of late on the interesting issues coming up on the book tour.

Let me leave you with an excerpt:
Mommy Wars reports insist on two essential kinds of mothers. Parenting choices last forever, the reports presume. Stay-at-home mothers never return to the workplace. Ardent working women committed to their jobs never up and quit because they get no support.

In real life, mothers move into and out of the paid workplace. Most mothers?upwards of 60 percent?work less than full-time. Not so in the world of the Mommy Wars, where the problem is never with the workplace?it?s just that these two types of mothers don?t get along. They never switch places; they never show empathy, only judgment. Neither group, we should suppose, gets along with the 18 percent of women in America who don?t have children. If only these different moms could love each other, well, the frustrations of motherhood would be solved. Lots of newspaper dailies and magazine issues are sold on this premise, and daytime TV pitches us the Mommy Wars like makeovers and insta-therapy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

We're gonna get the Hollywood treatment. Tom Perrotta's book Little Children is being made into a movie.

Little Children, you may recall, is the story of two at-home parents who have an affair after smooching at the playground. Kate Winslett is set to play one of the smoochers.

I know that this site is sometimes visited by would-be at-home dads, so I would like to again make a public service announcement here, for the benefit of those men: a) stay-at-home fathers don't actually kiss stay-at-home mothers on the playground and b) your local stay-at-home moms probably do not look like Kate Winslett. Or any of the Desperate Housewives. There are lots of benefits to being a SAHD (including more sex with your *wife*), but Kate Winslett kisses are not among them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I keep meaning to post on this Sue Shellenbarger column of a couple of weeks ago, but I am having a hard time getting a handle on the facts. The general theme -- families are using more and more paid care -- is fair enough, but she goes on to talk about some new research that sheds some light on the is-daycare-bad debate. Then she drops this in (ital. mine):
In very young children, even 10 hours of nonmaternal child care a week is linked to a weaker attachment, or bond, with the mother at 15 months old. But that is only if the mother also is highly insensitive, or unresponsive, to her child's needs. Child care wasn't linked to poorer bonding when mothers were sensitive and engaged. Researchers found similar results when they looked again at the same children at three years of age.

The NICHD study defines child care as care by anyone other than the mother.
Excuse me? Shellenbarger wrote the column a couple of weeks ago, before this research was presented, and I've since scoured the 'net looking for the original attachment research (which sounds pretty flimsy) as well as any evidence that the NICHD study defines dads as child care providers. I still can't find the research, but I know that the NICHD study has plenty of data on caregiving dads. Why the researchers would define "child care" in such a way is well beyond me. Those who are smarter/better versed in the literature are welcome to chime in ...

(Credit where it's due: Mike of the abandoned Full Time Father flagged this.)

Friday, April 15, 2005

The pile of items is growing, so let me get the easy/important ones off my plate. As Father's Day approaches, I'll be trying to post more as the eyeballs grow, and Rebel Dad Radio will make a re-appearance, perhaps as early as next week. I have a growing pile of audio that needs to be dealt with, too.

1) The National Partnership for Women & Familes contacted me this week. They're putting together an FMLA report and are looking for men who have had negative FMLA experiences (or who have been discouraged from taking the leave) in the workplace. Obviously, I passed them along to Russ, who wrote his maddening tale earlier this year. But anyone else willing to tell their story should contact me.

2) If you had ever been curious what Rebel Dad (or the Rebel Family) looked like, tune into PBS's To The Contrary this weekend. We'll be featured (I think) in a piece about flexible schedules. Check you local listings ... Update, 6:02 p.m.: TTC has taken down the flex time promo from the site. Looks like Rebel Dad TV will have to wait.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

There has been a mini-explosion in at-home dad profiles in the media, which is a bit surprising. Father's Day isn't that far away, and Father's Day typically means a thousand at-home dad stories are written to capture the glamour and brilliance of SAHDs. But they're ahead of the times in Sauk County, Minnesota, where the local paper ran this piece.

They're also ahead of the curve in New Symrna Beach, Florida. The story from the Daytona Beach News is significant in that it wraps up three related concepts -- at-home fatherhood, men in early education and family leave -- into one story. I especially enjoyed the men-in-early-ed part of it ... it's something I seem to read about rarely.

Monday, April 11, 2005

At-home dads the world over: the Australian version of 60 Minutes ran a lengthy segment on at-home dads, which was brought to my attention by lifeasadaddy, a fine blog from down under. (Text is here. Video is here.)

Lifeasadaddy wasn't too impressed with the piece, and I have to agree with him. It's great to see male caregivers painted as normal and increasing in numbers, but there was a lot of what sounded almost like baiting the men interviewed to fess up to feeling less of a man because of their choices. I don't want to imply for a moment that guys who step off the fast track don't feel regret for lost work opportunities, but for nearly all of us, that regret is far less than the regret we'd feel if we lost the family connection.

And as an aside, I was left underwhelmed by the lack of rigor of the piece. Zero stats, zero experts, zero effort to understand the macro trend.

But hey, publicity is publicity ... right?

Friday, April 08, 2005

A year ago, I posted the following quote from Susan Faludi:
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.
She was referring to the "new" Brawny Man, but her comments were clearly meant more broadly. I, being a perpetual optimistic, commented at the time that I thought that us sensitive guys were here to stay. Suffice it to say that Faludi has a far better Ouiji board than I: the Washington Times just threw this dumb-as-can-be manly man story out there. The story is based on a survey concocted as a marketing tool for Dodge trucks, which makes it suspect, and the questions asked go well beyond the silly ("90 percent of women said they prefer low-maintenance, easygoing guys."). Here's the lead quote from the story, from Carrie Lukas, director of policy at the reliably kookie Independent Women's Forum:
It just shows that there are some things that you can't change and that, while feminism for a long time has been pushing us towards androgyny with little girls with trucks and guys with dolls, women tend to have feministic traits and guys the opposite. If anything, it shows what feminism hasn't been able to accomplish.
What a crock. Feminism has mostly failed to keep truck companies from relying on increasingly outdated stereotypes. But I don't think that's high on anyone's agenda. What has been accomplished is the creation of an environment where kids (and adults) are increasingly free to do what makes 'em happy, Ozzie and Harriet be damned. Men can raise kids, girls can play competitive sports, women can run a boardroom, boys can cook. And that freedom to escape the straightjacket of stereotype is only going to grow, no matter what Dodge says.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A few quick hits this morning, but things are coming back into control. There was a pleasant surprise when I opened up my Washington Post Magazine on Saturday morning and found that the mag's "First Person Singular" space -- used to profile the famous and the interesting -- featured an at-home dad named Scott Anderson. I can't say his story is particularly different from a lot of dads, but it is refreshingly honest.

I've also had a lot of reader mail to help me out ... Dayv shot me out this BabyCenter piece on how to "end the chore wars" -- i.e. get your husband to do more around the house. Dayv thought it all a little silly, and I have to agree. Men are capable of cleaning. Women can parallel park. Can we move on?

Finally, I wanted to thank Mark, who has been a good sport in the comments threads, for sending me the text of a now-expired Chicago Tribune story on paid family leave. The upshot is that Illinois is considering pull a California and offering government-overseen paid leave, funded by a $1.50/worker weekly levy to be shared between worker and employer. Go Illinois ...

Friday, April 01, 2005

I need to get this up before the link expires ... Check out this New York Daily News piece from last Sunday. Nice bit of work in one of the nation's largest papers.