Friday, April 28, 2006

The Numbers Game, Continued

So Paul over at the-blog-to-be-formerly-named Family Man noted yesterday that we have new at-home dad numbers. He pulled from this Bureau of Labor Statistics release that showed the number of families with a mom in the workforce and a dad out of work. That number? 1,203,000, down from 1,300,000 last year.

Of course, just measuring the households in which mom goes to work and dad doesn't is a pretty poor snapshot of at-home dads. On the one hand, not all of those guys are doing the childrearing (we can assume that a lot of them are, but there's nothing in the data to shed light on that). On the flip side, looking at guys who aren't employed misses a lot of primary caregivers who work part-time/flex time. The same government data source suggests that more than 9 million dads work a flexible schedule. And there is another group of guys, about two million, who work part-time for "non-economic reasons," which includes childcare and family obligations.

So what does the 1.2 million number tell us? Very, very little. Of course, the number that the Census bureau likes to trumpet doesn't tell the story any better. My personal favorite standard for measuring at-home dads is this increasingly out-of-date publication that just asked go-to-work moms who was minding the kids. That result? For 2 million families, it was dad.

I think I'm done with my increasingly anemic efforts at Caitlin Flanagan-tracking, but I've leave you with a couple of final links. Slate did a nice bit on her, but it kind of converged on what seems to be the official media line on Flanagan (and one I'm happy to endorse): she's a brilliant writer who has flashes of great insight that are swamped by her incredible inconsistencies/hypocrisy/omissions/playacting.

You may also want to check out the half-hour interview she gave to an erstwhile professor of mine, Sree Sreenivasan on WNYC. (Or skip the 30-minute audio and just read the listener comments). It's interesting it its own way: 5 percent insight, 10 percent neotraditionalist preening, 85 percent non-sequitur-laced rants on politics, history and feminism, none of which made a lot of sense (I'm pretty sure that go-to-work mothers aren't responsible for the Iraq war). If Flanagan makes it as political commentator, I'm moving to Canada. I bet Toronto is lovely this time of year.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Media, Media, Media

Lots of traffic was been driven here by Paul Nyhan's at-home dad story in the Seattle Post-Intellegencer. (Paul the guy who writes the wonderful new Family Man blog). It is a well-thought out piece that talks about a number of interesting issues, and I say this not just because Paul was nice enough to talk to me.

Unfortunately, it sounds like some folks missed the point. A local radio station called the fathers profiled "whiners," because the felt isolated on the coffeehouse/playground circuit. That's plenty frustrating: parenthood can be a hard, isolating job regardless of sex, and saying so shouldn't tar anyone as a whiner. It sounds like the Seattle Dads and the Puget Sound Dads are doing a great job of staying connected. If you're in the area, check those guys out.

Dear Abby Understands: The Yahoo! dads-at-home group last week lit up with this Dear Abby column in which a James Dobson-following mother frets that her cooking, cleaning husband will feminize her son. Abby's response is unequivocal:
With all due respect to Dr. Dobson, your husband is already a manly role model to your son. He is teaching the boy important survival skills that will be invaluable when he is older. With luck, your son will turn out to be every bit the man -- and father -- that your husband is.
One of the mosaggravatingng stereotypes out there is idea that dads are somehow not equipped to parent as well as moms -- that there is something intrinsic to motherhood alone that makes for good parenting. But I've always argued that all parents have the capacity to be great caretakers, and it is simply a matter of doing the job. It sounds like the husband of the editor of Working Mother magazine is a case in point: according to thiexcerptpt from her new book, "This is How We Do It," her husband went from ambivalent parent to fantastic at-home dad. Sounds like a book worth checking out.

Monday, April 24, 2006

M.O.T.H.E.R. Showing Some Life

If you've been reading Rebel Dad for a long time, you'll know of my affinity for a group called Mothers Ought to Have Equal Rights (or M.O.T.H.E.R.), which was launched, essentially, to help pass along the important messages in Ann Crittenden's book, The Price of Motherhood. Unfortunately, the group has been largely dormant for the past couple of years, but this seems to be changing.

They've teamed up with to call for a cease-fire in the mommy wars. There's a petition aimed at the major media outlets, which is a good target. (Because let's be honest. We don't need a cease-fire in the mommy wars -- they don't, technically, exist -- but we do need a break in the endless string of media reports). Here's what the petition says:
"We are calling for a ceasefire in the so-called "Mommy Wars." All moms are in the same boat. We all need better family-friendly policies. It's time to focus on real problems in need of real solutions."

Standard Flanagan Update: Thanks to all who told me about the Colbert Report video of Caitlin Flanagan and for sending along to the link. Salon has it posted. Please watch. It is truly amazing.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Better Sex and Other Quick Hits

So involved fathers know that they have a rich, satistfying family life, but (as has been mentioned before, us housework-doing dads are seen as sexier. And now comes word that couples where gender roles are more equitable are more satisfied with their sex lives. What more evidence do you need?

The At-Home Dad Convention planning keeps plugging along. If you want to support the effort, T-shirts are now on sale.

Reader Andy reminded me that we have a new celluloid at-home dad hitting the screens this summer. Trust the Man, stars David Duchovny as a SAHD. It's an R-rated romance, in theaters in August.

The number of groups on the group/playgroup map continues to grow, but I'd like to see even more pushpins. Please send along the details from your group to keep the resource as robust as possible.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Flanagan and Some Quick Hits

I've largely gotten out of the Caitlin Flanagan analysis game -- there has been so much good and thoughtful stuff written about her and her new book, "To Hell with All That," that I simply can't compete. But I should note, if you haven't seen it already, the review that made the New York Times this weekend. It's notable for a couple reasons. It generally gives Flanagan a pass on her most outrageous statements and overall worldview, and author Pamela Paul portrays her blogging critics as humorless, jealous ninnies who don't get the point. So for the record, let me state that I don't dislike Flanagan because she is saying the things I'm not brave enough to say. I dislike her because:

1) Taken as a whole, the Flanagan canon promotes a neotraditional lifestyle as not only more personally fulfilling but also morally superior to an egalitarian set of choices. This sticks in the craw of a lot of us.
2) Her work is filled with low-grade hypocrisy, and Flanagan comes off as a defender of housework when she rarely pick up a mop, a scourge of the working mother while comfortably employed. If she's not living the life she's exalting, can we trust her?

Confirmation: I've been telling people for a long time that I think that acceptance of the at-home dad thing has changed noticeably in a relatively short time. Former SAHD Chip seems to agree: things aren't the way they were when he was doing the gig.

I hate to talk about divorce as a battleground in the fight for gender equity -- each case is so different that it is tough to make sweeping generalizations. But according to the Family Man blog, "Lawyers report that more parents are seeking joint legal custody, and 22 percent of the surveyed legal experts noted a trend towards more dads getting full custody, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Magazine Analysis

Bruce Cantrall, regular convention-goer and founder and protector of the at-home dad entry on Wikipedia was browsing the parenting mag web pages, and he came to some realizations:
I always was a little uneasy when visiting some of the parenting sites or reading some parenting magazines. I usually skip the beauty tips sections on the magazines! Now I think I can put my finger on what has been bothering me about these magazines about “parenting”. Here are the top “links” on three parenting magazine web sites. (I am not trying to sell magazines!)
Preconception, Adoption, Pregnancy, Baby, Toddlers and Kids, Life as a Mom, Shop
Pregnancy, Baby, Child, Mom, Buying Guides¸ Magazine
Pregnancy, Baby, Mom, Parenting

Did anyone notice the lack of the word "Dad," "Father" or "Male Parent" or anything hinting on an additional factor in producing, raising or leading a infant into adulthood? I am sure this has to do with the fact that more moms than dads subscribe to these magazines, but come on!

Here are some that are better by being more balanced.
Pregnancy, The First Year, Kids, Moms & Dads, Family Style, Community
Pregnancy, Your Kids, Your life, Fun Times, Community, Magazine
Resources, Education, Healthcare, Life planning, Technology, Mobility, Sports, Toys

As an at-home dad of 3, I wish dads would command a little more respect and inclusion in the effort in parenting. Dads need to know that their efforts can have a very positive influence and the magazines feel they are part of the equation.
Subscription Services, Discuss, Activism, News, Book Reviews, Peggy’s kitchen, Poems, Shopping Guide takes you right to which says "Strong Fathers – Strong Families, Building stronger kids by strengthening fathers." That is more like it!

Bonus Link: check out this column by Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach. It pokes fun at the loafing father. Part of the reason it's funny is that the father who ignores the kids in favor of reading box scores or playing golf is more and more rare. Didn't used to be that way ...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Daddy Media

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, there's been a mini-explosion in dad stories around the country. We're not far from the pre-Father's Day lull, in which the media stops printing stories about fathers, instead holding them and publishing them all on fathers day. So enjoy the final deluge:

I got a kick out the placement of this article from the St. Petersburg Times, which appeared in the business section. It shows, too -- there are discussions of the impact of new technologies on the ability to stay closer to home and mentions ways that dads can stay home without torpedoing their career. Bonus points for liberally quoting Peter Baylies and for mentioning the Gen X trend.

This piece in has a nice, standard at-home dad profile of a some stay-at-home dads. Perhaps most significant is the last lines of the piece, where the gentlemen profile admit that there's been little pushback regarding their decision. The times, they are a'changing. (And remember, the Milwaukee group has a pin on the group/playgroup map. Do you?)

For a slightly more defensive take on things, there's this first-person take from the Detroit News. And I was warmed inside by this piece from a Boston-area paper on a program called Dads are Great, which provides dads and children some structured time to interact. Any program dedicated to helping dads spend more time with their kids is good by me, and it's nice to see this one get some ink.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

FMLA and Men

So family leave is apparently a hot topic of late ... with fathers. This is, as I've argued before, a good thing. We're not going to do any serious damage to the idea that the best possible worker is a clock-punching nine-to-fiver until fathers *and* mothers start demanding a little more flexibility.

But when Paul over at Family Man said a new Details mag article dealt with the issue, I was intrigued. I haven't trekked to the 7-Eleven to grab my copy yet, but I did dig up the press release for one of the more troubling findings mentioned in the story: the continued widespread assumption that guys who take FMLA leave are radioactive. The research was dated 2003, and I hope against hope that this will be laughably outdated by the end of the decade. I'm certainly doing my part.

I'm not alone. Dan from "dad random" posted about his plea to Barack Obama regarding the paltry nature of FMLA. Dan received a response back from Obama, and while I don't expect to see this as a major Democratic campaign plank (yet), it was nice to see Obama take the time.

Takedowns: I'm not sure I have the time or energy to continue fighting the fight against fighting the mommy wars, but there's some great reading if you're interested. Becky from I'd Like to Buy a Vowel points to this long and elegant trashing of Leslie Morgan Steiner's "Mommy Wars" by Sandra Tsing Loh in The Atlantic. And while we're speaking of The Atlantic and book reviews, Atlantic golden girl Caitlin Flanagan (soon-to-be-everywhere author of "To Hell with All That") gets taken to task in a wonderful Salon essay. Both are well worth the read, and far more thoughtful than the usual quick hits here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Many to Thank

I appreciate everyone who wrote into (or just read) the Parent Blogger Face-Off last week at the It was a blast, but there are always regrets. Amy, in the comments to Thursday's post, brought those regrets to the fore. She noted that there wasn't much talk about solutions to the real work-family balance problems, and she's right. Work-family balance discussions should focus on more leave, more paid leave, better, cheaper and more available childcare, social roles for men and so on. This isn't a list of panaceas, but debating those issues will get us to answers a lot quicker than complaining about what parent demographic has it the toughest. (While we're on the topic of mommy wars, Keith at We interrupt This Broadcast, forwarded me an anti-mommy wars op-ed in the L.A. Times. Worth the read.)

Thanks, too to the first group of playgroup hosts who e-mailed me their playgroup information for the brand-spanking-new Stay-at-Home Dad Group and Playgroup Map. I'd love to keep filling it out: is your playgroup on the map?

The pile of dad news is growing, so I'll be back with the best (and worst) of daddy media over the next week.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


The "Parent Blogger Face Off" between Leslie Morgan Steiner and I kicks off at 1 p.m. today. You can submit questions early, if you like.

UPDATE, 2 p.m.: We're done. Click on the link above to read the transcript2

Mapping Dads

Originally uploaded by Rebel Dad.
Today, the link to a new resource, the Stay-At-Home Dad Group and Playgroup Map has gone live. Using Google Maps, I have begun to overlay the location of all of the local at-home dad groups on my sidebar onto a U.S. map. The goal: make it easier than ever to find a group near you.

This is an incomplete map. My goal is to add playgroups to the reference as well, further expanding the choices for a father looking for an outlet. If you have a playgroup you would like to add, please email me at Please include your name (optional), your contact e-mail (required), the frequency of the group ("once a month," "every Tuesday"), time (optional) and address (if you have privacy concerns, you may provide only the ZIP code).

This is also an effort that is still in beta. Please let me know of any technical problems. I hope to get all of the groups now listed in the sidebar onto the map within a week. If you know of a group I'm missing, please let me know.

As always, all other suggestions welcome.

(Special thanks to Google Maps EZ for providing the tools and Daddy Types' brilliant map for the inspiration.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Quick Hits, Coming Attractions

The at-home dad news stream is a bit dry right now, but there are a couple of corners of the blogosphere worth peaking at. Jeremy over at Daddy Dialetic has a long post on SAHDs and identity and the future. I disagree with some chunks of it -- I don't think the numbers are a good way to analyze at-home dads, and I happen to believe that "Mr. Mom," is not the best term of art. And while dads are not pulling their weight at home, as Jeremy mentions, our share of the household labor continues to rise. But I agree that we're moving in the right direction, towards a world where parenting isn't a gendered concept.

One playground at a time.

Lest you think that I'm all about the rose-colored view of fatherhood, there is an interesting thread on SAHD burnout over at the forum at Dadstayshome.

Coming soon to a website near you: just a reminder that tomorrow at 1 p.m., I'll be on a Washington Post chat with Leslie Morgan Steiner. Also, watch for the rollout of a major new feature (beta) tomorrow morning ...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


It's all well and good to sit back from the safe space of a blog and snipe at the suggestions/anecdotes/advice dispensed elsewhere in the media. It's quite another to join that fray, which I have been invited to do.

The Washington Post has scheduled a "Live Discussion" with frequent target Leslie Morgan Steiner and I on Thursday, 1 p.m. The live discussion format is driven almost entirely by reader questions.

I'm excited about the prospect, and I'm curious to see how Leslie and I differ in this forum. Obviously, we live in different worlds when it comes to gender roles, but I'm pretty sure that she's just as dedicated to the ideals of the flexible workplace as I am. So it should be interesting to see how this shakes out. Maybe we'll get some fun questions about whether dads are utterly useless, or maybe it'll all be reader testimonials about their choices. Either way, should be interesting. The fun starts at 1 p.m., but the transcript will be archived for posterity.

incidentally, this is my second Live Discussion. Once upon a time, I was part of an group of "experts" on local golf. So I can be the stereotypical dad, sneaking away with my clubs on the weekend.

Additional Props for the Post: The Washington Post profiled one of my favorite local haunts this weekend as part of a piece on free Wi-Fi. As part of the profile, they define the crowd: "Young families, stay-at-home moms and dads, local business people and retirees." (ital mine). Nice to see the "and dads" in there ...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Welcome WSJ Readers

Feeling the eyes of the data-hungry commercial titans at the Wall Street Journal upon me, I've updated my heretofore slighty out-of-date statistics page. It now has the 2004 numbers released last fall.

Kansas City, Here We Come

It's not signed, sealed and delivered (official confirmation should come next month), but you can start blocking off the weekend of Veterans Day for the 11th Annual At-Home Dad Convention in Kansas City. Kudos to Davy and Andy and the rest of their crew for making this a reality.

I know that KC is not usually a top-shelf convention destination, but the organizers have worked extremely hard to keep things hopping while keeping costs down. Plans for Boulevard Brewery tour have been nailed down, and there should be plenty of entertainment. A lot of effort has gone into making this affordable, not only in terms of the convention fee, but the hotel, the ground transportation, etc. etc. I'm thrilled about the change in date, and I think the venue should be even better than Oakton.

See you there.