Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Fair warning: the move to the new Rebel Dad digs is going slowly, especially in the Internet department (thanks to the &#@&$# at Verizon). Posting to resume as soon as broadband returns. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Shameless self-promotion: if you have ever been curious about exactly what the Rebel Family looks like, hunt around for a copy of last week's episode of the PBS show To The Contrary. Of course, now it's plain to everyone that my daughter's good looks come from Rebel Mom ...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Rebel Dad Radio 5.25.05

If I can get the technology to work, you'll get a new Rebel Dad Radio one of these days. My life is chaos right now -- I'm moving back into my house after a year-long renovation -- and so time is limited. But I did a mobile podcast into my Zen Micro yesterday, so all I have to do is pull it together. The audio quality will suffer a bit, but no one is under any illusion that I'm a radio professional anyway.

UPDATE: Show is now up, with a discussion of Desperate Housewives and the lastest from the Wall Street Journal. Sorry ... this is all the detail I can pull out for the shownotes.

Rebel Dad Radio 5.25.05 | 12:35 | 5.7 MB

RSS FEED AT http://feeds.feedburner.com/RebelDad

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

While my attention has been elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal has been quietly publishing a series of seriously pro-father articles. The latest was this column by Sue Shellenbarger on housework. She pulls up a rather wonderful study that showed that while men typically overestimate their housework contribution, women tend to underestimate how much hubby does around the house.

This could be a glass-empty kind of thing: men's share of the housework is at 39 percent, which ain't exactly equal, but it's better than what the wives estimated (31 percent). I love the story because it exposes a hole between perception and reality as it relates to a stereotype (guys can't/don't help at home) that everyone assumes is true.

While we're at it, check out this piece on dads being torn between work and home as well as the followup. If you put aside the poor-me complaints that mar the second article, these stories add further weight to an important point: dads are feeling more and more conflicted, too, with balance issues. This is a trend for the next decade, and I'm tickled pink that the Wall Street Journal recognizes it.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Desperate Housewives At-Home Dad Update: for what it's worth, smart, funny Chicago Tribune TV columnist Eric Zorn doesn't think the at-home dad storyline will last.

A plea for help from an erstwhile colleague. Please help if you can:
I'm looking for finding fathers to interview for a story I'm doing on dads' experiences in the workplace, when they want to be pretty involved with their kids. (i.e. taking time off to chaperone field trips, go to games, etc.) Are they viewed negatively at work; is there any backlash?
She's looking for folks in a traditional work environment -- not the work-at-home types. Contact Katherine directly (Katherine.Lewis @ newhouse.com) if you can offer any perspective.
Move over Michael Keaton ... we might be on the verge of the first real pop culture at-home father since Mr. Mom cemented the stereotype in 1983. In the season finale of Desperate Housewives, Tom Scavo -- frequently absentee father of four -- quit his job and announced that he would become an at-home dad.

It's one thing to have a failed sitcom (Daddio) about a SAHD. It's quite another when the top-rated show on television (even a gleefully over-the-top one) tackles the issue. I'm curious as can be about the way this develops. DH has gotten this rep as a kind of the funhouse mirror of motherhood: wildly distorted by nonetheless basically true. Can they pull off a dad-at-home subplot without resurrecting Jack Butler?

There is much to be posted this week, but I needed to get that out of my system.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

One month from today, we'll celebrate Father's Day. And nowhere will Father's Day get more attention than in the media. Almost every media outlet in every corner of this great land will send a reporter forth to get a new, fresh story on today's dads. But as it turns out, a lot of these new, fresh stories aren't all that interesting to me, who reads about fatherhood all year long.

So as a service -- and with copious reader input -- here are the Top Ten Father's Day Assignments of 2005:

1. The New Working Dad: There are more and more guys who are making family their top priority, even as they continue to work. Fathers are taking some flex time, and some -- like RD reader Bill -- are changing careers altogether.

2. Dad as Domestic: Reader Jen suggested a story on how fathers are doing more of the household tasks: the cooking, the birthday-gift-buying, the cleaning. So kudos to any reporter who can document the trend -- or show that Madison Avenue is beginning to take men seriously when it comes to household tasks.

3. The Great FMLA Debate: What better peg for Father's Day than to talk about expanding leave for parents. Check out this state-by-state report on leave policies. Is your state failing?

4. Paternity Leave: The big consulting firms say their paternity leave policies are increasingly popular. Are local employers in your area giving paid paternity leave? And how much happier are those employees?

5. Hubba Hubba Hubbies: Dads who are handy around the house have more sex. I really don't think it's possible to talk about this story enough. (Thanks to Hogan for the reminder.)

6. Back to School: 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. Any hospitals in your area offering new dad classes?

7. The Revolution is Being Podcast: Looking for a tech angle to father's day that doesn't involved flogging the dead horse of blogging? Profile some podcasting fathers. Exhibit A is current media darling Dan Klass from The Bitterest Pill. Or take a look at the iPodder.org family node, which I maintain, for others.

8. Shaking Hands, Kissing Babies: What's up with the wonderful (if politically DOA) parenting bills in Congress? Kennedy's "Healthy Families Act"? Woosley's "Balancing Act?" What better excuse for taking about progressive pro-family policies than Father's Day?

9. Media Glare: Bonus points to any reporter who points out that fathers portrayed on TV seem to be more and more divorced from modern fatherhood. From Ray Romano to the husbands of the Desperate Housewives to the rotating dads on Nanny 911 and Supernanny, it would appear that fathers today are more distant and less present than ever before. That, of course, is the opposite of the truth.

10. Don't Forget Mom: Stay-at-home dads get a lot of attention every year on Father's Day, but I'd like to ask the mom gets included in all those stories. The wives of stay-at-home men play a hugely important role in their families, and I don't want to see them disappear when the stories get written.
Media: want additional suggestions? Dads to talk to? E-mail me at rebeldad@gmail.com and I'll set you in the right direction.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Quick advertising observation: last night, I saw a Saturn that pitched the car as the perfect one for hanging with "the boys." The twist was that the guy in the ad was using "the boys" literally and talking about his sons. That's now the second Saturn ad focused on fathering. Coincidence?

(RebelMom pointed out that it is also the second one focused on fathers and *sons*. I wonder if the ad exec see the father-son bond as somehow a more powerful trigger than the father-daughter bond.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Quick Reminder: Only one week left to send me suggestions for my Top Ten list of father's day stories. Drop me a line or leave comments to offer your thoughts ...

Two interesting bits on men breaking down gender barriers have popped up in the last couple of days. This piece from Knight-Ridder details a father getting involved with his local PTA. It's a thoughtful story, touching on the historical mom-centric nature of PTAs (the National PTA used to be the National Congress of Mothers, according to the story) and some of the struggles dads face when they join. The dad-in-PTA isn't novel everywhere. My local elementary school and my local middle school both have men as their PTA presidents. But I've had enough conversations with enough guys to know that not everyone is so lucky.

The second story worth reading is this piece from the Clovis (NM) News Journal. It profiles Mark Marius, a stay-at-home father of three, who is the head of what was once called the Officers' Wives' Club at Cannon Air Force Base. Kudos to Mark for bucking stereotypes at a place where I'm sure stereotypes are still in force.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I have to admit: it was pretty weird to see the Boston Globe run a "whither fathers?" piece on Mother's Day. As much as I love writing about dads, and even though the piece tried to ask the question of whether today's fathers are responsible for their wives' desperation, it just didn't seem to fit quite right.

Read the first-person article -- it is pretty hard to abstract. Essentially, the writer, Scott Stossel, wonders aloud if all the headaches experienced by the mothers of Desperate Housewives and Judith Warner's "Perfect Madness" is linked somehow to absentee husbands. Disturbingly, he comes to the conclusion that yes, many men are doing a slack-ass job of supporting their wives, but that he is better than average.

I'm wary of being an apologist for all fathers, many of whom are indeed leaving mom twisting alone when it comes to childrearing. But contrary to what Desperate Housewives (or Judith Warner) would have you believe, men have never picked up more of the slack at home. Time with the kids is up, time spent on housework is up, and that's a point that was lost a bit in the piece.

ALSO: my friends at Mothers Ought to Have Equal Rights have emerged from a long slumber (or so it would seem from looking at their web site) to announce they are launching ... a blog! MOTHERS Book Bag is designed to support mommy-lit oriented book groups. I wish them the best of luck with that effort.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day to Rebel Mom ... and to all of you other moms out there. Enjoy your day!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Rebel Dad Radio 5.06.05

I'm back. After teasing for weeks (or is it months now?), I finally pulled together another Rebel Dad Radio. It marks the beginning of a new phase in the podcast: I'll be less regular, I'll probably have fewer interviews and I'll be generally calmer as a result.

The best way to keep me on the air is to bother me constantly: e-mail rebeldad@gmail.com, leave a message on the phone comment line at 206.338.DADS or try Skyping rebeldad. I'll keep Skype up a bit more this week; feel free to give a ring.

Show Notes
* Welcome
* Thanks to callers and Eric Rice for feedback
* Call for suggestions for a Top 10 Father's Day Stories list
* Discussion of dumb comment on CBS Sunday Morning
* At-Home Dad Kisses Kate Winslett ... Hollywood is at work
* Don't believe anything the fine people at Dodge Trucks tell you
* "Hello," by Rock and Roll Dad

Rebel Dad Radio 5.06.05 | 15:57 | 7.3 MB

RSS FEED AT http://feeds.feedburner.com/RebelDad

Time to blow through some recent media on at-home dads/parents. I can't believe that I have gone all week without discussing the news that at-home moms do $131,000 worth of work a year, according to salary.com. The salary is based on a 100-hour week and considers all the different occupations an at-home parent fills. I'm thrilled that the number is getting some attention, but it's not the first time -- or even the most extreme final salary. Ric Edelman's figure is upwards of $500,000. Seriously.

Of course, you can figure out exactly what you should be paid using this calculator.

Thanks to Chad for sending along this Salt Lake Tribune piece about a thirtysomething dad who took over the family duties while he went and received his college degree.

And Hogan flagged this story (which suddenly disappeared. Link is to Google cache. So look now.). It's a great bit -- that I missed when it first appeared -- about the involved Gen X dad phenomenon. Some strange at-home dad stats (they peg us at 2.6 million), but a wonderful story looking at the full range of involved fatherhood.

You have no reason to believe me, but I think there's a Rebel Dad Radio coming soon ...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

It's official: my state is a disaster area when it comes to family leave policies. Such is the position of the National Partnership for Women and Families, which just released a state-by-state scorecard on how individual states deal with leave. You get an "F" -- as Virginia (and 18 others) did -- for failing to go beyond the federal government's paltry 12-unpaid-weeks policy. No state received an "A," though California, with its wonderful paid leave policy, managed an "A-". And just over the river in DC, where Rebel Mom works, gets a B+ for offering more leave to a broader selection of employees and offering up beefed up legal protection for pregnant women and new mothers.

Both Rebel Mom and Jen -- writing in the comments to the last post -- expressed some surprise at my cynicism about the Motherhood Project report. They both wondered, essentially, why I seized on the negative and ignored all the stuff (less domestic violence, more flexible schedules, etc.) that I strongly believe in.

Reading through the FMLA report from the National Partnership underscored part of the reason I was less-than-thrilled with the 55-page motherhood publication. It reminded me that the Motherhood Project highlights finances as the no. 1 concern of mothers, and then fails to follow that up with a call for pay equity or social security credits for caregivers or healthcare reform. The report does a great job of documenting the desire of mothers to work part-time, but fails to push for proportional benefits for part-time work or an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

In short, while I think that less domestic violence and stronger marriages are indeed laudable goals, I was disappointed about the missed opportunity to talk about other solid ways to improve the position of parents in society.

(P.S. and FYI: I wondered earlier in the week what the survey meant when they said that 49 percent of mom and dad split responsibility for the childrearing. Looking through the data, I realized they then asked moms to quantify that split. In less than 2 percent of the cases were fathers doing more of the care than the mothers, though 30 percent said there was a straight 50-50 split.)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The good news, I suppose about the Motherhood Project is that no one seems to be paying particularly close attention to it. According to Google News, there are only a couple dozen items on it (though that includes a USA Today piece -- by a writer who has previously made me scratch my head).

First, let me get to my big issues with the Motherhood Project, and then I'll get into the dad stuff:

1) The folks who put it together have an agenda. The Institute for American Values pulled this together. Though nominally non-partisan, they are, as Chip points out in yesterday's comments, neo-traditionalists who are banging the drum for the marriage movement. That's all well and good, but they have as much of a stake in what their survey says as Spike TV had in theirs.

2) The Institute for American Values had a hand in the research. This wasn't commissioned of some academics and then watched at arm's-length (despite what the USA Today story by Sharon Jayson suggests). That makes it hard to take seriously the "key findings":
1. The majority of mothers in the study place a high priority on reducing family violence and promoting healthy marriages;
2. They would like more attention paid to the matter of financial security for mothers; and
3. They want to be employed, but in positions that demand less of their time. They want more time to spend with their children and on personal and family relationships.
How about that? Moms feel *just like* the IAV: they want out of the office and they want to promote healthy marriages!

3) Given 1) and 2) above, the finding that most moms are satisfied (97 percent. Seriously) is robbed of a lot of its meaning. IAV wants moms to be satisfied. They want moms to think that complete dedication to family is the root of all happiness. I'm glad the survey found moms are happy. And I'm glad that one of the take-aways is that society needs to take the role of mothers (or, as I read it, "parents") more seriously. But those sentiments are sprinkled in among the promotion of IAV's agenda and destroy my faith in the numbers.

The dad stuff confused much more than it illuminated, and primary caregving dads were pretty much ignored. To get to yesterday's point, the survey did ask this question: I wish the father of my children would take a more active role in their upbringing. Strongly agree/somewhat agree/somewhat disagree/strongly disagree. It's a pretty lousy question -- what does it mean to disagree with that? And who are the 33 percent of women who "strongly disagree"?

Reading through the text of the report is tough stuff -- every stereotype about women being more "nurturing" gets an airing. The implication (no one comes right out and says it) is that mothers are uniquely suited to raise children. This is, of course, bunk, but it does help glorify motherhood. (That's not to say that nice things about dads weren't said, but most of the pro-dad comments came as part of the dad-is-a-key-part-of-today's-traditional-family message.)

Finally, the survey would have been a great way to quantify who really considers themselves at-home parents. And indeed, respondents were asked "Who is primarily responsible for the day-to-day upbringing of your children?" But the answers didn't make much sense: 44 percent of women said they were doing it alone, 49 percent said responsibility was split and 3 percent said "spouse." (Interestingly, day care was not a listed response given to survey-takers, though the survey captured those that volunteered the info anyway.) I really have no idea what those numbers mean. Should I be celebrating the 49 percent of families in which care is shared? Or should the fact that 44 percent of mothers think they're going it alone bother me?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Begone, dads! Quick confession: I knew nothing about Motherhood Project before I saw today's USA Today story about the 2,000-mom survey. I still know next to nothing (more posts to come, I'm sure!), but I did search the executive summary for "father." And I came up with this:
Mothers are nearly evenly split as to whether they want the father of their children more actively involved in their upbringing.
Mothers with lower incomes and fewer years of education are more likely to say they want greater father involvement. They also are less likely to be married, and they bear much more responsibility for both the day-to-day care of the children and the financial support of the family, so it?s not surprising they would call for more father involvement.
Seriously? 50 percent of women said they want dad less involved? This calls for some more investigation. I'll let you know if I learn anything.

Update: Oh yeah. There are some larger issues that I'll have to take on when I have more time. In short: I ain't impressed.