Monday, January 30, 2006

New Resources

OK: I've finished the latest overhaul to the list of the resources to right, adding a bunch of new blogs and three (!) new local groups. So if you're in Tulsa or Nebraska or Cobb County, GA, you now have a local group to get in touch with. Personally, I'm especially excited by the Lincoln/Omaha group. I have family ties to the area, and I have connected with Phil and Mike, the two guys leading the charge, when I've been in town. I wish them -- and their counterparts in Oklahoma and Georgia -- the best of luck gaining members and attention.

If you're interested in getting your own local group up and running, check out the guide to starting your own dad's group from the Dayton group.

I've added five new blogs, too (and removed three "dead" ones):
220,221, Whatever it Takes
Dad's HighWAY
Stay Home, Daddy-O
At Home Dad's Search for Millions
Crooked Line

Again, let me know if you'd like to be listed. I have one criteria: you must be a self-described at-home dad.

For those of you who want to import the list of dad blogs wholesale into your newsreader, I plan on updating the OPML file in the coming week. I'll let you know when that gets done.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Details, Details

So the Details Magazine story on at-home dads has dropped (not available online), and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. On the one hand, the piece by Ian Daly does a pretty good job of sketching out what the at-home dad convention is like -- a strange combination of boys-weekend-out antics and serious convention-style self improvement. There's nothing in the story that's inaccurate, so far as I can tell, but it's weird to read about the antics of the weekend as if they, you know, *say something* about who we are as SAHDs. It's tempting to say that the ongoing joke about Noonan's tattoo somehow speaks to a part of the at-home dad psyche, but it just ain't so. I'm sure the same sort of fraternal silliness goes down at conferences for accountants.

But ultimately, the article was not all that filling. A couple of anecdotes aside, I didn't get a feeling for what the life of a stay-at-home dad was like or how dads in society had changed. The reporter focuses solely on the convention, which is -- for better or worse -- not the most representative setting with which to assess dad-dom. Still, there are bits of wisdom throughout -- the idea that Gen Xers may be more amenable to the idea of staying home, the increasing support on the web for SAHDs, and so on. And there are bits of head-scratching "Desperate Househusband"-type stereotypes.

I guess I could have expected it. I've been wondering for two months now how anyone could craft a dead-on narrative from the convention, which goes in so many directions and speaks to so many personality elements of the guys there. That's what makes it interesting, and the upcoming event should be even more so. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Updates Coming

Fair warning: you guys have been creating blogs left and right, and I plan to update the blogroll in the right column in the next few days. So if you have a site and haven't flagged it to me, please let me know.

And on the subject of updates, I'd really like to make sure my list of regional dads groups is complete. I have a Cobb County, GA one that I need to list, and please let me know if yours should also be included. Getting as complete a list of AHD group websites will help a great deal in the convention planning. Alternatively, if you have a local at-home dad group that doesn't have a web page, please let me know, either in the comments or via e-mail.

I'm not sure where to file this, but I want to make sure I flag Wanted:Hero, a father-friendly comic book from an at-home dad of eight (!).

Monday, January 23, 2006

TV Time

So it looks like Tom Scavo, the Desperate Housewives househusband, is out of the at-home father game. He got a job last night, ending what was no doubt the highest-profile at-home dad on primetime. Add that to the coming death of SAHD-containing 7th Heaven, and the TV landscape will suddenly be stripped of happy guys at home. Both shows proved a very important point: audiences will accept as realistic the idea of a perfectly capable guy at home taking care of the kids. That neither character caused much of a ripple is cause to celebrate.

But I may not be without a small-screen dad to monitor for long. There's allegedly work on a pilot called "The Angriest Man in Suburbia," but it doesn't sound like there's much detail yet. I'm not holding my breath. I'm increasingly convinced that it's hard to play the dad-at-home, fish-out-of-water angle for laughs now. If the networks can launch a smart sitcom about domestic life, it'll probably do well. But I don't think dads are an endless well of humor anymore.

Convention stuff: we had about a dozen edits to the Convention 2006 wiki over the weekend, and I'm hugely appreciative of all of the deep thinking going on there. Over the coming week, I'll be cleaning up that page to make it more readable. I've already added a couple of new subpages, including one listing volunteer e-mails and Skype handles and one on program suggestions. I'll be porting over some of the program suggestions now on the main page, so don't be alarmed if your suggestion suddenly disappears -- it'll be pasted on the new page.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Convention Ideas Are Flooding In

The brainstorming about the 2006 At-Home Dad Convention has really floored me. Since the announcement that the event would no longer be hosted at Oakton or organized by the dedicated crew that has kept it going for so long, there has been an outpouring of ideas and e-mails and conversations that underscore the vibrance of the at-home dad community.

A lot of those ideas are up at the Convention 2006 wiki, and I encourage you not only to visit, but to post with your thoughts. We already have a exciting proposal for Vegas from Dayv Glusing, and my understanding is that we'll have some additional solid proposals in the coming days. I can say with absolute certainty that this event will not die, and that thrills me.

There has also been a lot of chatter on the at-home dad boards. The initial reaction from the old guard was nostalgia -- there was a sense that this was the end of the road. The two different responses highlights a changing of the guard. There is a new group of passionate dads intent on making sure there are solid avenues to connect fathers to fathers going forward.

Thanks to all who are participating in this discussion, and please stay tuned. My guess is that inside of a month we'll have a location and a date hammered out.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Anti-Anti Feminists

It could be argued that advocates of at-home fatherhood should have a lot in common with the traditionalists who exault at-home motherhood as the highest calling of women. But the staunchly pro-1950s-parenting forces seem to have a whole agenda that goes way beyond the basic kids-should-spend-lots-of-time-with-their-parents ethos that SAHDs generally promote. I've never been certain of what the neo-traditionalists are trying to accomplish -- I don't see a whole lot of need to roll back gender roles a half century. All I am certain about is there is a pronouced, unexplained hostility to men as caregivers.

Case in point: Kate O'Beirne, the woman who wrote the hot antifeminist screed "Women Who Make the World Worse." Here's what she told Salon (author in bold, O'Beirne in plaintext):

But why is that [caregiving] parent necessarily the mother? Why can't we get used to the idea that it would be just as good for kids to be home with dads?

Who wants that? Why would we do that?

I know lots of men and women who --

I think women who really want that ought to find a guy who wants it. I don't see why there's any big movement needed for this. If some woman really feels very strongly that things ought to be divvied up that way I think she ought to do what that woman [Hirshman] suggested in the American Prospect: marry a starving artist or marry a liberal. Marry the guy who feels that way and do your own thing!

But social expectations make that --

Society will never, ever, ever, ever validate it. Ever. Ever. So, next question. [Because] now we're baying at the moon: Damn, life's unfair! Damn! Life's unfair!

You're accepting that society won't ever validate a man who stays home! That's a big trade-off!

But it's not my opinion! Find me one. Find me one in the history of recorded mankind. You know what's funny to me? Whatever men do, as I understand it, is the status job in that society. Like if they gathered [instead of hunted] in some damn society, then gathering would be the status job because men were doing it.

It's also worth reading this take on Darla Shine, the author of "Happy Housewives," from the blog "the imponderabilia of actual life." Sample grab from Shine's book:
“And ladies, I advise you to leave the baby with your girlfriend or your mother instead of your husband [snipped out story about her getting highlights and getting called by her dh five times] .... You get the idea, girls? I would have had a very peaceful afternoon if my mother or Dana had taken care of the kids. They would have improvised. Men are just not capable of that. Sorry, guys.” p. 174, HH.
Look, I find the cult of the perfect parent in modern America a little over-the-top, but I tolerate the Martha Stewartesque one-upsmanship. Just leave your retrograde, gender roles out of it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Must-Read Piece on At-Home Fatherhood

I'll get right back on the convention thing (please keep the ideas flowing at the convention 2006 wiki), but I need to flag a great piece of writing on stay-at-home dads. Longtime dad Buzz McClain's piece in the Fort Worth Star Telegram on what he's learned during his career as a dad is priceless. Buzz is a fantastic guy and one hell of a role model. Fatherhood changes men for the better, and Buzz is walking proof.

Also: Greg from Daddy Types has published the most extraordinary Google Maps mashup I've ever seen: a map of NYC men's restrooms with changing tables. I'm speechless.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Last Holiday

It is official: the At-Home Dad Convention as we know it is dead. Longtime patron Bob Frank has walked away, and Frank's employer and longtime host, Oakton Community College, has pulled the plug. This shouldn't be a huge surprise: as I mentioned in November, there were likely to be some shakeups. But I understood the loss of the space at Oakton to be pretty remote. Not so, apparently.

This raises some serious, serious questions about the prospect of a national at-home gathering going forward. If anything replaces the Oakton convention, it'll end up being different. It'll be in a new city, probably. The date will change, no doubt. And it will certainly be more expensive, unless we can find a generous supporter. The formal and informal infrastructure of the Chicago event, from the pre- and post-convention program put together by Bob Noonan to the van full of dads from Dayton, could very well be gone.

There is so much passion for the issue, and so many of you thought deeply about what the at-home dad convention should be and shared those thoughts on the Convention 2006 wiki that I hate to see this all go away. Like most of you, my time is limited, and can't carry the baton with regard to planning. But I'll commit the full weight of this site (modest though it is) to promotion and connecting groups.

And if we can't make a go of a national convention, it may be a fine opportunity to kick off Jeff's grand idea of a regional at-home dad group. I love the idea of set of regional conferences, all going off on the same day.

There will be more on this from me in the coming days. I'll be tweaking the convention wiki as soon as I have the chance (or one of you can -- it *is* a wiki, after all). With no central organizers, a wiki might be a good way to get everyone in one spot.

Update: rudimentary changes made to the wiki. Have at it.

At Home Dad Convention Leaves Oakton

Read more. No idea what the next steps are. I'll be posting more shortly.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sitting in the Waiting Room

There's a lull in the at-home dad scene right now that I don't expect to last. There's a Details Magazine story that's due to drop. There's talk that, once one hell of a SAHD resource, may be restored. And I'm waiting for news on the convention, which was left in some limbo back in November.

All those stories focus in some way on the national scene, which probably the least important forum for most at-home dads. So while I wait, I've love to hear about local groups. If you've formed one that's *not* listed to the right, please let me know. If you're interested in connecting with other folks in your area to get something going, drop me a line or post in the comments below. I'd love to connect some visitors to each other in the real world.

I'm also waiting ... on the resolution to the latest Desperate Housewives plot twist. Tom Scavo, the at-home dad, is unhappy. It looks like he'll be job hunting in next week's episode. Hard to place a value judgment on it yet -- however it works out, I will remain impressed that never once has Tom been shown to be anything but a capable father.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Late-Night Grab Bag

Greg over at Daddy Types catches a great opportunity for you about-to-become-SAHDs: Queer Eye is looking for new dads to make over. You gotta be expecting this spring and live in the NYC. Looks like the casting call happened a couple of days ago, but I'm curious to see the show. Never has chaos reigned like it did in the low-sleep period of new parenthood. And I don't think there's a damn thing Carson could have done about it.

MSN is apparently running monthly columns from an at-home dad. I noted the last one in December. The latest one is a stirring defense of the at-home dad, though, truth be told, I don't think that we actually need that much of a defense. I can't think of anyone I've met who assumed for a moment that the job isn't demanding.

Jeff of No, Ma'am and the Delaware At-Home Dad Association floated an interesting proposal by me: how about a *regional* at-home dad group? A group of that sort could pool its media savvy, offer mini-conventions and getaways to local dads, create a clearinghouse of experienced advice-dishing dads or organize multi-group outings (imagine a trip to the Philly Zoo, Jeff said, with dozens of SAHDS from four states touring the place). Of course, getting dads together -- even locally -- can be a neat trick, but there's something appealing about seeing connections made between different local groups. Jeff is obviously thinking mid-Atlantic, but I could see this working just as well to tie the active groups in the midwest, California, etc. What do you all think? Interesting? Viable?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Fire Up Your Grills

I received an e-mail the other day, filling me in on an interesting project: an at-home dad cookbook. Here are the details:
At-home Dad Resolves to Get Cooking in 2006

Stuart Ungar, Founder of the Louisville At-home Dads (LADs) in Louisville, Ky. is compiling recipies for an At-home Dad cookbook.
The goal of the recipe compilation is to have foods that are not too complex to prepare, but still appeal to kids and parents. "My wife is a strict vegetarian. We keep kosher. And my son is both a picky eater and has serious food allergies. So you can imagine that dinnertime is no walk in the park here," Ungar said.

Ungar has kicked off the project by including his own "Healthy Grilled Cheese." The trick is whole wheat bread, good cheese and a discreet spread of hummus.
So far, Marc Allen, who heads up the Delaware At-home Dad Association (DADA) has also contributed his signature pancake recipe.

Dads interested in submitting recipes can e-mail them to Ungar at: Any additional information on how the dish is received in your
household is also welcome.
Sounds delicious. Just let me know when I place my order.

I know it's been a little quiet here this week, but I should mention that if you are looking for things to read and isn't coming through, check out the Squidoo at-home dad page that I maintain. The most interesting feature, for my money, is the "Best of the Daddy Blogs," which is updated daily with links to at-home dad posts that I think are particularly interesting.

Monday, January 09, 2006

More on Caitlin Flanagan

My blood pressure drugs are at the ready: the Caitlin Flanagan book I mentioned a couple of weeks ago looks to be an revisiting of her incendiary columns from the last couple of years. The promotional material for the book is already up (PDF, pages 12 and 13), and I should thank Maud Newton for pointing to that (and offering a splendid anti-Flanagan posting).

In short, it looks like the book should largely by a retread of Flanagan's past writing, which means we probably haven't heard the last of her most offensive work (on the Nanny Wars) and we'll probably be treated to some other golden oldies.

I have been holding out some hope -- given Flanagan's generally restrained writing for the New Yorker -- that Flanagan's book would be a wickedly smart analysis of all of the different pushes and pulls that make up modern parenthood, rather than a wickedly smart (and generally misguided) assault on women who have made choices different from her. But I get the feeling that hope will be dashed.

(I'll stop here. My other fear is that this book will receive oodles of attention -- the first and biggest Mommy Wars book of '06 -- so I'll end up revisiting this again. So will a million other bloggers. My promise to you, the reader, is to do my best to keep the Flanagan posts reasonable, with a focus on Flanagan's huge blind spot: the modern father.)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Grab Bag Today

The number of small items has been piling up, so it's time to clearing my plate. For starters (and for your education), I should probably point out the existence of Parent Hacks, a new site dedicated to becoming a smarter, craftier and less stressed parent through tips and tricks. I'm ambivalent about the site, which is run by some real-life hackers from the tech publishing world. On the one hand, I think it's brilliant. On the other, I've weighed starting a similar site for the past six months, but have been stymied by that whole only-24-hours-in-a-day thing. (Thanks to Greg at Daddy Types.)

My podcasting has suffered because of the same 24-hours thing, but at-home dad Dan Klass of the Bitterest Pill is one a roll. Check out his latest press, a story in the LA-based Daily Breeze.

I'm taking a break from the whole opt-out mommy wars thing for a spell, but I wanted to pass along the link -- that I somehow missed last month --- to the article titled "The Stay-At-Home Mystique."

And finally, coaching in labor doesn't work. I love to see conventional wisdom overturned by data.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More Stay-at-Home Dad Fun

If you're eager for at-home dad companionship, Head Fishing Guy Jim L is hammering out the details for this year's SAHD 2006 Fishing Trip. Jim is a great guy, and I can personally attest to the character of most of the regulars. The date is April 1, and I'd love to hear from anyone who plans to attend (or has attended) in the comments beow.

I won't be there; I'm already scheduled to be a panelist at the Women and Media conference in Boston, talking about how dads fit in the so-called "Opt-Out Revolution." (Yes, I know this is a bit strange. As Michael Myers would say: "Rebel Dad is neither a woman, nor, in this capacity, a member of the media. Discuss.")

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David Brooks Asks a Good Question

The New York Times' David Brooks is getting it good from some of my favorite folks for his very silly column titled "The Year of Domesticity,"[1] in which he takes Linda Hirshman to task. This is not, in itself, a bad thing; as I've said before, Hirshman's American Prospect piece was pretty silly in its own right.

Brooks goes on to make an unconvincing case that the home is the seat of influence in today's society and that men and women are wired differently. But then he makes an eyebrow-raising conclusion ...
Power is in the kitchen. The big problem is not the women who stay there but the men who leave.
Leaving aside the whole "power is in the kitchen" thing -- parenting is an damn important job, maybe the most important one, but let's face it, involved parents wield precious little "power" as defined by 21st century America -- he raises a good point: when it comes to the home, where are the men? Sadly, he doesn't bother to even attempt an answer.

I have an answer (you've heard this before). The reason that gender roles remain so persistant is that the work world (and Brooks and Hirshman) offers parents two options: stay home and sacrifice financial independence and professional advancement or work -- and work hard -- at the expense of family. If Hirshman wants more women in the workforce, and if Brooks really wants more guys in the kitchen, then we need to do three things. 1) Make sure that every business understands that employees should be "measured by results, not time spent in the office." 2) Ensure that part-time workers don't get shafted on pay, benefits and promotions and 3) Make sure that any business that violates the rights of parents gets sued. (We may be making a little progress on the last one.)

Until businesses are family-friendly, and until every mother *and* father gets to make an uncoerced decision about how much they want to work and how much they want to be at home, we'll still have those -- like Brooks -- who insist that parents make a black-or-white choice: work hard at the expense of family or stay home at your economic peril. But there are shades of gray out there. We just need to get employers (and columnists) to see that.

[1] The Times edit pages are behind a subscription wall, and I don't, as a policy, link to those probably violating copyright. But I bet you can find it if you look.

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