Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What You Are Worth

So super-astute reader Anne e-mailed me yesterday about a very peculiar set of results from the salary.com mom and dad salary calculator.

The idea is one of those overly-simplistic-but-interesting exercises to figure out what market rate is for someone who cooks and cleans and watches kids and mows the lawn, etc. But the really interesting thing, Anne found, is that when you plug in the same values for an at-home mom and an at-home dad (say, two preschoolers), you find that the median dad is worth almost $10,000 *less* a year than his at-home mom counterpart. If you futz with the customization a bit, though, you'll find that dads in my ZIP code who put in the exact same hours of work as moms should be paid more than $30,000 *more*. Weird stuff.

If you plumb the algorithm, though, you find some funny assumptions. (And not the "ha ha" funny). Moms are worth more, on average, because the site assumes they "work" 11 percent more than dads. But when you rig the site so that moms and dad put in the same amount of work, dads come out ahead because it assumes a different mix of work. Moms spend a plurality of their time as "housekeepers" ($10.24/hour), whereas housekeeping isn't even an option for dads (who can be considered a "General Maintenance Worker I," at $15.28/hour). So if you're prone to get upset about such things, there are two incendiary assumptions here:

1) Moms work harder at home, but
2) Dads do more "high-value" work (as determined by the market)

All in all, it's an interesting glimpse into what a bunch of (presumably) serious people at salary.com think when they compare "typical" at-home moms and dads. The fact is that the work of an at-home parent gets pretty much gets broken down the same, regardless of gender. The amount of laundry is the same, even if the algorithm suggests that at-home dads can get away with spending 40 percent less time doing laundry. Sure, there are variations -- but I suspect the variations between individuals pretty much swamps the variation between the sexes.

Are Anne and I right to be scratching our heads, or are at-home dads doing really doing less around the house than their at-home mom counterparts?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Organized Fathers

There are more Father's Day pieces to come, but there's a lot on my plate. I promise they'll be done before the Independence Day pieces begin ...

I've long maintained that among North American countries, Canada seems to take the whole dads-as-parents thing a lot more seriously, so I was happy to see 1) a smart new parenting blog from the Toronto Star that 2) pulled together a nice post that asks a darn good question: "So why, as the Mommy Wars debate rages on, with a new book on the subject popping up every month, are dads not part of the discussion?" It's nice to be explicitly included in one of the more profound discussions going on today.

The other interesting part of the post? The contention by Kerry Daly of Canada's Father Involvement Research Alliance, that though the number of at-home dads is up, the visibility of fathers remains low both on the micro level (the playgrounds) and the macro level (the grand work-family policy conversation).

South of the Boarder: A couple of weeks ago, I asked exactly what the new national at-home dad group (Daddyshome Inc.) was out there to do. I still don't have a very good answer, but I did come across this article from a suburban DC paper that interviews group founder and longtime DC SAHD leader Peter Steinberg. Steinberg says the group is dedicated to reducing isolation among its local members, as well as removing misperceptions and lobbying Congress. I've obviously down with the isolation thing, but I'm still hazy about everything else ...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Quick Grabs

So CareerBuilder.com again did the world a service by asking breadwinner dads if they'd chuck the career to spend more time with the kids. The results were consistent with years past: about about 40 percent of go-to-work dads would stay at home if they could afford it. That's the good news. The bad news is the additional details on the number of guys who aren't getting the family time they want.

I'm late to the party, but wanted to let you know that Linda Hirschman, who wrote a very odd article last year and now is promoting a book, wrote a very odd op-ed for the Washington Post last weekend. Hirshman got a lot of press -- almost all of it negative -- for suggesting that at-home motherhood was for suckers (essentially). So her Post bit was about how shocked she was that the working moms didn't jump to her defense. There's been a great deal of good stuff written on this (see Daddy Chip's take, for instance), but let me add one more perspective: there is not actually a market for pundits who want to tell people exactly how to make work-family choices. There is not a right answer. Everyone has to come to their own peace with it. What we need is more choices, not more people claiming that at-home parenthood (or going to work) is the only right answer.

Erstwhile colleague and all-around nice mom-to-be Katherine Lewis published an interesting piece last week on fathering styles and the impact of fathers on their son's styles. Interesting stuff ...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dad's Day Roundup, Part Two

Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram
Nice profile of a dad who admits a wonderful reality: the learning curve is no steeper for a dad than anyone else.
Second Press-Telegram Story
Apparently, Father's Days is worth *two* dad profiles.

South Jersey Courier-Post
The author apparently had dads coming out of the woodwork for the story. There are a lot SAHDs out there, once you look. Bonus mini-profile

Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun Bulletin
"There's been a societal shift in attitudes toward gender and parenthood, and the outcome is that many men are opting for stay-at-home fatherhood." Yep. The shift is on.

Charlottesville (VA) Daily Progress
Thank you, headline writer, for refusing to go for "Mr. Mom" (and opting for Mr. Stay-at-Home" instead).

Fredericksburg (VA) Free Lance-Star
Deep-think piece on whether men have become better dads lately. But the "bad dad" argument seems pretty flimsy to me.

Pocono (PA) Record
Nice standard-issue profile.

More to come ...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Here We Go Again

Longtime readers may have noticed that I haven't gone into a spittle-spewing rage lately over the mainstream parenting magazines (once upon a time, I'd be foaming at the mouth every month or two at some inanity in Parents/Parenting/Child/etc.). This is not because the mags have suddenly become more sensible. It's because I no longer get 'em. I don't know why I got them in the first place. I never subscribed. They just kind of showed up. I don't miss 'em now that they're gone.

Exhibit A on why I don't miss them is the "What Was Dad Thinking?" article in this month's Parenting, flagged by reader Kelly, who called it "Sexist, pandering, insulting drivel." That's pretty much right.

It traffics in the difference between what moms say to dads and what they mean, and it take great pleasure in conjuring up hypothetical situation in which mom comes home to disaster. A sample grab:
He won't multitask
You say: "I have to run errands. I'll be back in two hours."
You mean: Hold down the fort in general, and consider making yourself useful: There's a load of laundry with your name on it.
What happens: When you get back, it looks as if a tornado hit. He claims he didn't have time to eat lunch, let alone answer the phone (there are seven messages on the machine!).
How to deal: Watching the kids, to a man, often means just that. His excuse? Unlike a woman, who can chat with a friend while folding laundry with one hand and feeding the baby with the other, he says he's just no good at domestic multitasking. But that shouldn't constitute a get-out-of-chores-free card. Remind him that he's Mr. Efficient at work; this might ramp up his enthusiasm for household management. Or give examples of how he multitasks at home (taking the dog out when he goes running, say) and suggest how he can do the same type of thing with the kids. Professing faith in his competence is key.
Man, where to begin? Even though the advice is occasionally sensible, the overall theme is that dad is clueless and a rank amateur when it comes to the kids. It's not enough that Parenting actively works to avoid publishing anything that might be aimed at half the parents in the world (the ones with the Y chromosomes): they have to take potshots at us, too.

Bonus factoid: the story was written by Fernanda Moore. Who's Moore? She is the author of what is unquestionably the dumbest, most hostile-to-fathers stories published by a parenting publication. Moore was stand-up enough to argue her case here directly, but with a second doofus dads story, she doesn't have much credibility with me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dad's Day Roundup, Part One

Good Morning America
What's a dad worth around the house? About $71,160.45, says GMA and salary.com. And that's go-to-work dads.

Hampton Roads (VA) Daily Press
On "For Dads Only," a dad-focused program.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Nice first-person story about the wonder of connecting with other dads.

Toledo Blade
Extensive profiles of local dads. Who knew Toledo was such a hotbed?

Lawrence (KS) Journal-World
The headline is "Don't Call Him Mr. Mom." What's not to like?
Also see additional dad profiles from the Journal-World

Sheboygan (WI) Press
Sweet piece. Check out the pics.


(Welcome new readers. If you're interested in connecting with other dads in your area, please check out -- or ask me to update -- the Group and Playgroup Map.)

Every year, I make a good-faith effort to track all the stories written about at-home dads. It is a long process, and this year should be no different. Give me a week or so to work through the backlog, and if you find that I didn't mention a story I should have, let me know. Right now, I'm up to 19 stories, and I'm sure I'm missing some.

Of course, I'm still digging out from dad items from *last* week, including:

As it turns out, if you ignore Leslie Morgan Steiner, she does *not* go away, and I am (unfortunately) not wise enough to avert my eyes when I see a train wreck coming. So when I realized that she was handing over her blog to her husband for a day in honor of Father's Day, I knew I'd have to read it. He mounts a defense of himself as a father that's rather tepid (especially in light of the flogging he often receives on the blog). As I see it, his argument has five main points:

1) He was tricked into cleaning the cat litter but continue to do it anyway (this appears to be done under protest). He also fixes stuff and takes out the trash.
2) He's doing a way better job than his dad, yet receives no credit.
3) He brings home the bacon (or, as he puts its, "shoulders the burden of being the primary breadwinner".)
4) He was shocked -- shocked -- when he read his wife's book and realized that motherhood was occasionally a guilt- and anxiety-raising experience.
5) He's clueless. (I'm serious. This is the linchpin of his defense. Here's the last paragraph of the piece: "We're men. We do our best. We're not selfish. Just clueless.")

Maybe I'll use that for my next set of RebelDad t-shirts: "Dad: Not Selfish. Just Clueless."

Look, I appreciate that he's being honest and engaging in the discussion, but the reality is that the role of "father" has shifted seismically over the course of a generation. Those changes do indeed make life more complicated for dads today. But why should a father's world be any simpler than a mother's world?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Here we go again

The Census Bureau has (once again) made available that at-home dad stats, though (once again) in an impossible-to-understand CSV format. I've now hammered the figures into shape, and I'll posted an Excel file in the next week for the truly curious.

The upshot: in pure numerical terms, our numbers are down 4,000 to 143,000. But this is such a small blip that it can't be distinguished from last year's numbers. What it shows, I believe, is that the number of dads is up substantially from our fin-de-siecle numbers (see the table below).

All of my previous criticisms apply: these numbers count almost no dads. In a freelance economy, in which just huge numbers of people make *some* money in a given 52-week period, counting only 1) fathers out of the workforce for 52 straight weeks who 2) have a spouse who worked 52 straight weeks and 3) told the demographers that they were at home for family reasons is likely to be a huge undercount. Heck, just take the number of SAHDs whose wife was "out of the labor force" for at least a week last year. That alone would boost numbers by 70,000 (10,000 more than last year).

And though you can't take any of this to the bank with such small numbers, it looks like young-ish dads (30-34) are the most likely to be Census SAHDs, followed by 35-39 year-olds and then 40-44 year olds. This appears to be a change from last year, when the numbers tilted a little older.

2005: 143,000
2004: 147,000
2003: 98,000
2002: 106,000
2001: 81,000
2000: 93,000
1999: 71,000
1998: 90,000

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dads of the World, Unite (?)

So I was pawing through the messages on the DCMetroDads listserv when I came across this posting:
National Stay at home fathers group formed: Daddyshome, Inc.

Springfield, VA, June 10, 2006: National stay at home fathers'? organization formed. The vision of Daddyshome is to be the principal voice for stay at home fathers and those who are thinking about becoming stay at home fathers. The mission of the organization is to provide support and resources by setting up a network of stay at home fathers throughout the country. According to the President of Daddyshome, Peter Steinberg, the focus of Daddyshome will be on stay at home fathers but will also advocate for all fathers. Steinberg states, "Fathers Day is just around the corner - a day that we celebrate the contribution fathers make in the lives of their children." For more information on Daddyshome contact Peter Steinberg at 703-209-8750 or steinbergfamily@yahoo.com.
I've heard about this effort for some time -- the daddyshome.org website (not yet up) has been reserved for four years. But I'm not certain, exactly, what a national dad's group would do, or what Daddyhome Inc. intends. I believe there's been effort to formally incorporate, get nonprofit status, etc., but I'm still a little shaky on the need that's being filled.

I don't want to sound cranky -- I've long wished that there was a formal, national dads group, if only to help convey a sense of a broad fraternity -- but I'm less certain what such a group would do. As I've said before, I feel like at-home dads are best served by a local group -- actual, physical guys who can directly battle the isolation that is often cited. There are exceptions, of course (someone has to put on the convention), but on the whole, I don't think there's a whole lot of national advocacy to be done.

I'm curious to get your take: any idea what Daddyshome is up to? Any idea what they should be up to?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Dads, Dads Everywhere

It's not even Father's Day, and I'm already slipping. Let me knock out some quick bites:

For starters, I mentioned in my last post that the latest Census figures have our numbers pegged at 147,000 (the 2004 numbers). But that's not right -- the 2005 figures (available only in unintelligible CSV form) are indeed out, and SAHD numbers have slipped by 4,000. I'll have a go at those as soon as I have a chance.

I know we're still some days away from the dad deluge, but I might be ready to crown the best Father's Day media piece of the year already: read this fantastic Washington Post piece on all the instances of caring fathers in the natural world. It's Mr. Seahorse ... and more. (Thanks to Rebel Mom for the link.)

As it turns out, if you ignore Leslie Morgan Steiner, she *doesn't* actually go away. This week, she asked where the heck the dads were when it came to volunteering at school. Read the comments. I think Steiner has her answer.

Finally, I've seen some great blog posts. Daddy Dialetic began by riffing on a Steiner post and moved on to raising some worthwhile points about the various types of inequality in parenting.

And I've read few post lately as enjoyable as this one from Cynical Dad.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Right Around the Corner

So Father's Day is Sunday, which will kick off weeks and weeks of flailing at RebelDad headquarters as I try to keep up with the deluge of at-home dad stories. Already this week, dads are increasingly on people's radar screens. But it kind of snuck up on me -- I didn't even get a chance to plug Rebel Dad gear as the ideal gift for the season (it's probably too late to get anything shipped in time).

Fortunately, the folks at the Census Bureau are on top of things, and they're determined to drive me mad with their annual dad's day fact sheet, which commits a number of sins against fathers, including use of "Mr. Mom" and use of their ridiculous 147,000 number (Correction 6/15: they actually use new a numbers for 2005: 143,000. But my gripes remain) without any meaningful context. The publication also feels it important to cite the number of sporting good stores and clothing stores in the United States more prominently than any stats on men who, you know, father. And for reasons that are way beyond me, they mention the percentage of child-support payers who are fathers. I know the federal budget is tight these days, but is that really the best collection of father facts that the nation's top demographers could come up with?

So as a service to the media types out there, who would otherwise have to rely on the Census folks for story ideas, let me point to my list of great potential Father's Day stories from last year. Most are just as juicy today. Also: for a more-or-less complete collection of SAHD stats, check out the RebelDad stats page. And for dads near you, check out the new group and playgroup map.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Books, Books and More Books

Once upon a time, I dreamed of writing the definitive book on at-home fatherhood, a thoughtful and funny and informative work that really got to the bottom of the whole at-home dad thing. (That dream is currently on hiatus.)

But what I should have been dreaming about was writing the definitive fatherhood advice book, a thoughtful and funny and informative work that really got to the bottom of the whole dad thing. That dream is out the window, too, because that book has just been written, and written well, by someone else.

I just finished "Pop Culture" by Christopher Healy, and it's great read, with a light touch and spot-on advice about the stuff you actually need advice on. It meshes with my own experiences. You can take that his advice to the bank. It may replace the altogether different -- though wonderful -- "Be Prepared" as my standard gift for first-time fathers.

A sample grab:

Most dads approach developmental charts out of anticipation rather than some kind of obsessive fear that something might be wrong with their children. But even if you first grab a chart, thinking, "Ooh, let me see what my son's going to be doing next!" once you've seen the various baby stunts on the list lined up next to very specific ages, it's too late. If your kid diverges from the chart, the seed of anxiety is planted.

And the chance that your child won't be hitting all the marks is pretty damn high, considering the remarkable level of specificity with which with which these charts are written. Take some of these examples pulled from the What to Expect When You're Expecting sequel, What to Expect the First Year. Your baby should be able to:

* 2 months, respond to a bell
* 2.5 months, follow an object in an arc about six inches above the face past the midline
* 3 months, laugh out loud
* 5 months, pay attention to a raisin

And then the reader is advised: "If your baby seems not to have reached one or more of these milestones, check with the doctor."

With this kind of detail, these charts seem impossible to misinterpret. Who can blame an inexperienced parent for running off to the pediatrician, shouting, "Oh my God, my baby pays no attention to raisins whatsoever!"

"Pop Culture" is one of a slew of books for dads, and all of them are worth a look. I've read through the hilarious essays of "Daddy Needs a Drink -- it's certainly a worth addition to the canon. (Daddy Type raved about it earlier this week.)

Also out is "The Fatherstyle Advantage which is a straightforward parenting advice book with a twist that was sure to catch my attention: it's based largely on the benefits that a typically "dad" parenting style** can bring to a child. It's more prescriptive than the thoughtful, more analytical "Fatherneed" from Kyle Pruett.

And while we're on the subject of dad books, I haven't yet read "Dad's Own Housekeeping Book," so I couldn't tell you if it's a helpful book with a light touch or a self-mocking tome that plays on the ol' dad-can't-see-dirt stereotype.

** The author make clear that "fatherstyle" is not representative of the way that all dads parent, nor is it some sort of biology-driven imperative. It is always dangerous to make sex-based generalization -- in the real world, all dads and moms do not fit into neat categories. Your mileage my vary -- but "Fatherstyle" makes those caveats up front, which I appreciate.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Isolation Realities

Again and again, in stories about stay-at-home dads, isolation is raised as the biggest bugaboo, the most serious challenge to day-to-day mental health. But I've never really embraced that idea. Parenthood is isolating regardless of your gender, and the whole cold-shoulder-from-the-moms-at-the-playground phenomenon was -- I thought -- a slightly outdated complaint. I believe that playground denizens today are generally cool with a dad in their midst, and SAHDs aren't seen a freakish exceptions to the natural laws of parenting, even if they are small in numbers.

But two posts have popped up on my radar in the last couple of weeks that suggest playground-related isolation is still a problem for some guys. Dave R places some of the responsibility on himself in his post about playground anxiety, and I'm rooting for him.

Stay-at-Home Work-at-Home Dad takes on the "cluck-fest" and wonders why even a simple "hello" is so difficult.

I'd love to get some reader reaction. Dads: does the playground have junior-high lunchroom feel? Moms: is this specific to dads, or do impenetrable cliques exist for either gender?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Confident Dads

Paul over at the Working Dad (The Site Formerly Known as Family Man Until the Trademark Police Got Involved) pointed yesterday to one heck of an interesting survey from BabyCenter. BabyCenter polled 2,000 expectant and new moms and dads from Gens X and Y and, essentially, asked then how good they were as a parent.

The answer, for a lot of guys, was "quite good." 78 percent of fathers say they're better than their spouse at at least one parenting skill (the release mentions discipline, bedtime, comforting, shopping and playing). The "78 percent" number is slightly misleading -- 39 percent of guys believe they're the better disciplinarian, but I'm not ready to link self-described discipline skills with great parenting (also, when asked, only 11 percent of moms thought that dad was better at meting out justice).

But there were some other facts that show there's a shift on. 24 percent of dads say they're better at getting junior to be (only 8 percent of moms agree, though). 11 percent of fathers think they're better at comforting their children, with another 50 percent claiming they're equally good. Also interesting: Gen Y dads were more likely to consider themselves superior at playing and shopping than Gen X dads were, more evidence of the generation shift to involved fatherhood.

Leaving aside the two obvious objections to the whole exercise (1. Asking parents to self-assess is inherently dangerous 2. Asking parents to essentially compete with their spouse devalues the whole enterprise), I found this had an important take-home: a lot of dads are really involved (or think they are). This sound like an obvious statement to make, but I'd be willing to bet that if you asked the "comforting" question to dads of my father's generation, you wouldn't get 61 percent claiming they were as good or better than mom.

The survey suggests that playing an active, daily role is part of modern fatherhood -- with younger dads playing an even more active role than older dads (though I feel funny, as a Gen Xer, being lumped with the old dads :) Good news.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Statistical Snapshots of Fatherhood

An interesting release plopped into my inbox yesterday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging me to take a look at a 246-page, data-heavy report on fertility, contraception, and fatherhood (PDF).

The CDC is interesting because most of the data they dump is simply data, with no value judgments. So it's hard to tell if the experts think anything in the report is noteworthy. I also poke around for past data from this study, to see if I could compare some of the stats to the way things were years ago, but no dice. Those of you with more time or better research skills are welcome to go at it.

But on the whole, the report does paint a picture of what fatherhood looks like, on average in this country (all stats are for fathers living with their children):

For infants/preschoolers
* More than 95 percent eat with their kids several times a week or more
* More than 82 percent dress/diaper/bathe their kids several times a week or more. (This sounded like good news to me -- more than half reported doing it every day.)
* 97.7 percent play with their kids several times a week or more. 81.1 percent do it every day.
* 26.5 percent read to their kids about once a week. 31.0 do it several times a week. 25.3 percent do it daily. Not surprisingly, this is strongly linked to education. (This doesn't sound like good news ... nearly half of kids read with their father once or week or less?)

For older children
* 57.5 percent help with or check homework several times a week or more. (But high school grads were as good about it as the college-educated)
* 63.6 percent talk to their kids everyday about the day. 23.6 do it several times a week. (Who are those other 12.9 percent? And what are they talking about at mealtime?)
* Just over half shuttle kids to and fro several times a week or more.

On the whole, fathers are pretty happy with the job they're doing. 46.4 percent rate themselves "very good," 43.5 claim to be "good," 9.7 percent say they're "OK," and 0.4 percent graded themselves "not very good," or "bad."

For Further Reading, check out the take from Greg at DaddyTypes, who pulls some figures that I missed.