Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Researcher Looking for Help

From the inbox. Contact the researcher directly (drjohnso@uga.edu) if you're interested:
Project Summary: At-home dads

My research explores three basic questions. Why do so few
men deviate from the “primary breadwinner role” and assume
greater responsibility for domestic labor? What are the
conditions and the process by which men are more likely to do
so? Among these “stay at home dads”, how have their
definitions of meaning in work changed as a result of doing so?

I see studying stay-at-home dads as significant because
despite shifts in social norms (more egalitarian views of
domestic labor) and economic changes that have allowed women
greater opportunities to enter the labor force, research has
overwhelmingly shown that domestic labor remains predominately
a female activity. Stay-at-home dads represent an interesting
exception to this norm. Given the greater flexibility with
which couples may organize their lives in the context of work
and family structures, why do so few men nevertheless refrain
from taking on greater responsibilities within the family?

To answer these questions, I will combine quantitative and
qualitative methods in two phases. During the first phase, I
will conduct exploratory interviews with 8-10 men who assume
primary caregiver roles. During this period, I will also
analyze aggregate data to examine how patterns of paid and
unpaid work and gender role expectations affect work and
family conflict. During the second phase, I aim to conduct 40
in-depth interviews with at-home dads.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Time Gets It Right

Time magazine is now running a "Web Exclusive" (which means, sadly, that the millions of people who need to see it in print probably won't) called Viewpoint: Bring On The Daddy Wars. It's a delightful piece, saying in very few words what I've written thousands of words about: mommy wars stories are stupid, men are beginning to struggle with work/family balance, young dads are increasingly a breed apart, we should start looking for ways to help all parents rather than setting 'em against one another by sex or work hours, etc.

I agree so completely with pretty much everything said that there's no commentary to add. Just read it.

Is the European System Screwed Up?

I spend a lot of time here pining for European-style policy changes in this country -- stuff like paid parental leave and better daycare and the link. So I took special notice when Newsweek's international edition ran a cover story on how European moms are getting the shaft at work compared with their American peers. (Thanks to Elizabeth at Half Changed World for the link and the usual sharp commentary.)

At first, I was bothered by what seems like a pretty clear fact: the bountiful programs for mothers leave them terribly behind in the work world, a deficit that is further expanded by some less-than-forward-thinking Old World norms. But this probably shouldn't surprise me. The problem with gender inequity in the workforce on both sides of the pond probably has less to do with ensuring equal access to work, but rather equal access to the domestic life. Until we get dads pushing to increase family time, this is likely to be a persistent problem (and Newsweek acknowledges as much, noting that dads in Denmark take only a fraction of the leave they're allotted.)

This gets back to my two-track theory on the pathway to gender equity: it is not enough to have pro-family policies and laws. We need fathers to take advantage of those laws and beat back the stereotype that they're not key caregivers. I think we're making slow progress here, and Newsweek suggests that opinions are changing over there. I hope we're both

Saturday, February 25, 2006


I have to confess that I haven't been watching as much TV as I should be, but has anyone else seen a dad-centric Mazda5 ad that suggests minivan drivers make young women swoon? Greg over at DaddyTypes seemed pretty slack-jawed at the spot. If anyone can point me to a link or let me know what channels Mazda is targeting, I'd appreciate it.

Also: thanks to Derek from DadzStore.com for flagging Good Morning America's Mothers of Invention Contest, which naturally, excludes fathers as a matter of law. It doesn't have to be this way. I think it was Real Simple that ran a similar contest a few months ago, only to have an at-home dad among its finalists. And it was an at-home dad named Robert Klick who won Oprah's invention challenge a few years back for the Po-Knee. In fact, if I was a more conspiratorial type, I'd say GMA was intentionally keeping dads out of their competition, given our well-documented penchant for invention.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Media Roundup

It has been a busy season for dad-based stories, so I wanted to flag a couple of 'em here. The nice folks at the Contra Costa Times pulled together this look at at-home fatherhood. Nothing groundbreaking, but they do use the updated Census stats ...

The same nice folks are also reporting that Heath Ledger is planning to do the at-home dad thing for a while, too, letting partner Michelle Williams put her career first. Quoth Heath:
I'm going to try not to work at all this year and send Michelle out to bring in the cash. I'll be Mr. Mom. It's something that's very important to me -- something that every dad, if he can, should do his best to achieve.
I'll let Ledger off the hook for the Mr. Mom crack, and I'm thrilled he's recognizing the wonders of fatherhood.

Finally, a nominee for most interesting SAHD.

PS: Thanks for all the wonderful comments on the Darla Shine balkanization post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dads Need Not Apply

A month or so ago, I took a swipe at a book called "Happy Housewives," by Darla Shine, based on this blogger's take on Shine. I had a very pleasant exchange with Darla Shine herself, in which she accused me -- quite rightly -- as tarring her ideas without ever reading the tome. I assured her that I'd go back and read the book and apologize if I took her out of context.

I have no reason to apologize. I do sympathize with Shine's broadest effort -- to improve the lives of at-home mothers -- but I'll renew my general opposition to her throwback happiness-through-housework and husbands-are-all-about-sex approach. And, of course, I'll say again what I've said here before, and what I've said to Shine: men are no worse equipped to raise children than women. Sure, some fathers (and some mothers) are less interested in the gig, but we're all capable of being good, loving, capable educational parents. No dad is born a doofus.

Naturally, I'm also opposed to any effort to cut at-home moms off from at-home dads (and I'm no big fan of cutting at-home parents from working parents, eithers). We're all working toward the same goals, regardless of how we get there. Parents are parents, no matter their gender or employment status. Shine is evidently massively against that as well. She just re-launched her website at darlashine.com. Here's the pitch:
Become a Member.
You need to be a SAHM
If you are one, you know what that means
Is this exclusionary? YOU BETCHA!
Yup. Just what we need. More balkanization of parents.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Vexing Questions

Last week, Elizabeth at Half Changed World asked a tough question: how will men break through the domestic glass ceiling? Elizabeth isn't sure that will ever happen, and she's not sure the usual prescriptions thrown about (and usually supported by men), like paid leave and better part-time jobs, are likely to boost the number of men playing a large role at home.

I'm more optimistic. Two things need to happen to allow the majority of families to consider dad as a primary caretaker/key player in the household. One is the usual policy laundry list of better care options, more flexible work schedules and so on. But as Elizabeth rightly points out, this alone is not sufficient. That's why I spend a lot of time on this site talking about the soft societal changes, over-analyzing Swiffer ads and tracking every burp of prime-time TV characters. There needs to be a change in the expectations of fathers when it comes to home life. Work hours are a component of that, but I'm interested in looking in even more general terms. Do fathers see active involvement in the lives of the family as a key part of who they are.

This is a harder battle to fight, because no progressive legislature or HR department can make it happen. There needs to be a society-wide shift. We're making progress, I think. More and more fathers would hypothetically consider at-home fatherhood, and fathers in general are doing more around the house than ever before. I don't know dads in my neighborhood who aspire the old-school fatherhood, in which children are seen and not heard and who retire to their den with a glass of Scotch after dinner.

The emergence of the new-school "Action Dad" (Dan Klass's term) probably can't be entirely linked to the emergence of family friendly policies, but the existence of those policies -- even if they're used mostly by women right now -- will be crucial in breaking that glass ceiling as those social expectations shift. I haven't been a father that long, but that ceiling has already begun cracking noticeably in the time I've been watching.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Missing Dad

The Washington Post yesterday flagged an interesting study that came out last year, following up on some findings from 1992. Seems that in 1992, a University of South Florida researcher, Vicky Phares, found that a whopping 1 percent of child and adolescent psychology journal articles focused solely on fathers. (48 percent were solely about mothers.)

So Phares has has gone back and looked at the stats last decade or so. Despite the sea change we've seen in media and policy interest in involved fathers, despite the growing number of at-home dads, despite the evidence that men are more involved at home than ever before, "there continues to be a dearth of research on fathers and developmental psychopathology," according to Phares. We're up to 2 percent of all studies, compared with 45 percent for mothers. Disappointing.

BusinessWeek has launched a a new blog and put up an interesting post on the dearth of working father blogs. Though they were kind enough to mention this site, off-hand, the post raised an interesting question: are there any work-life-balance-focused blogs by working fathers? Send along suggestions in the comments section below.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Betty Friedan and Progress and the Lack Thereof

I've struggled a bit for how to note the passing of Betty Friedan, the feminist pioneer who has done so much to do away with gender roles. By blowing up the idea that women -- and women alone -- should be homemakers, she cleared the way for two generation of women to move into the workforce, and for a handful of families to try out the nifty concept of at-home fatherhood.

It's important to keep Friedan in mind, because the battle she ignited with The Feminine Mystique is still raging. Exhibit A: Swiffer is running an Amazing Woman of the Year contest. There is plenty not to like about the concept, but I'm focused (as usual) on the contest rules. Apparently, to be an "Amazing Woman," you need to be a mother or female guardian. Swiffer wants to honor "regular multi-tasker managing such activities as the home, family, volunteering, and other interests," and, in a pre-Friedan stroke of logic, they've decided that means, you know, a woman.

I don't want to be too much of a spoilsport here, but Swiffer ain't Redbook or Victoria's Secret. It's not aimed at women only. But it's decided to launch a marketing campaign through this "Amazing Woman" campaign that's not only targeted at women, it's targeted exclusively at women. So there's one more Proctor and Gamble product I won't be buying.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Convention Update

The posting on the Convention 2006 wiki has slowed down as some of the more active members have put their heads together offline to refine the trove of information you all have provided. There's increasing attention to the 2006 convention efforts; Blogging Baby was nice enough to post on it last week.

"Official" announcements about the date (tentatively Veterans Day weekend) and the location are likely to start trickling out in the coming weeks, and the specifics on the program are already being hammered out. There's a new logo being designed and a web site in the offing. Kudos to the guys who have stepped up. In a three-week period, we've gone from losing the foundation of the event to having built an even stronger base, and it's not hyperbole to suggest that this year could be the best convention yet.

On a related note, a lot of the minds behind the rebirth of the convention are working on getting an At-Home Dad Cookbook off the ground. I wrote about this before, but they've now set up a specific e-mail to receive suggestions: ahdcookbook@yahoo.com. So send along your best.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Dream Deferred

A few years ago, when I first began doing the at-home dad thing, I was disappointed about the general dearth of information about primary caretaker dads. There were a couple of how-to oriented books and a smattering of first-person accounts, but nothing that really looked at why families should think about at-home fatherhood or what benefits involved fathers brought to the table.

So I decided to remedy that omission, and I began this web site, in part, to help me log interesting pieces that I could draw from in writing a book about stay-at-home dads. A colleague of mine was kind enough to put me in touch with an agent, and I spent a good many stolen hours hammering out a proposal and a sample chapter. I finished that initial step almost two years ago.

Since then, the proposal has been rejected over and over by large publishing houses, who invariably say the same thing: great concept, no audience. It goes without saying that I believe that's flawed logic. There is a tremendous market for an accessible book that talks about how at-home dad alter their lives -- and the lives of their children and spouses -- for the better. But a stay-at-home dad book of that scope is still uncharted ground.

I have no doubt that if I continued to search for a smaller publisher or self-publish, I could make "Rebel Dad: The Book" a reality. But without the prospect of a payday, I just can't commit the time to completing the manuscript. The project is now on permanent hold. I want to thank all of you who provided your time and expertise to this project, and I certainly hope that it can be revived someday. (Indeed, should a publisher happen to stumble across this, drop me a line ...)

It seems a shame to now shove that work into a drawer, so I've decided to share it here with you. It's not quick-read stuff, but if your kid is into long naps, feel free to print and save:

Rebel Dad -- Proposal (PDF)
Chapter Five: Helping Mom with a Real Choice (PDF)

All text copyright, Brian Reid.