Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Props from the Left Coast

I don't know what it is about California, but there's been a mini-boom there of at-home dad stories. I should start by highlighting this column from the Orange County Register. Taken alone, it's not extraordinary (it's basically a glowing profile of SAHD Christopher Nally, who appears to be waaaaaay more with it than I ever was), but I give serious extra credit for the mention of the At Home Dad Convention. Nothing would make me happier than to see the convention's web address appended to every story on at-home dads from here to November. Extra extra credit for quoting the OC's most famous AHD, Hogan Hilling, who tries to set the record right on the at-home dad stats.

There are plenty of at-home dads in the northern part of the state, too, evidently. The San Francisco Chronicle published what is almost certainly the most comprehensive at-home dad article of the year. It digs deep into the life of a great number of the East Bay Dads, and gives one heck of a perspective of what it's really like. I'm a fan of the writing, too:
And some dads describe an eerie feeling similar to missing a flight and then meeting the love of your life in the airport bar -- knowing if they had followed their traditional gender role, or let someone else take care of their children, they would have missed out on the greatest experience of their lives.
I could quote more, and liberally, but it's probably best if you check out the story yourself. It's a heckuva piece. (And I learned that the Chronicle has its own baby blog, The Poop, which looks like a pretty good read itself.)

Update: Just saw that Salon has taken a few swipes at the Chronicle piece, raising the sensible point that if the genders were switched and this was a story about at-home *moms*, there'd be a firestorm of "mommy wars"-style criticism. The Salon post actually comes close to the actual answer, musing that maybe such SAHD stories are OK because "it is cool when men stay at home since it's opposite their traditional role, but it's lame and antifeminist if a woman does it?"

That is exactly right. What makes at-home dads interesting is not that they walk their kids to school or go to the playground or do laundry or whatever. It's that they are refusing to play by the outdated gender roles. Parents should have a wide range of choices about how they balance work and home, and one of the largest obstacles to this free choice is the idea that there are certain things men simply don't do (and that women, therefore, must do). At-home dads help shatter this idea, which helps not only SAHDs, but also go-to-work women (who face less of a "second shift" at home), go-to-work dads (who have additional freedom to ask for flexibility) and at-home moms (whose choice is validated by an expanded -- and more diverse -- peer group).

Like most AHD stories, the Chronicle piece isn't *really* about raising kids. It's about breaking down gender roles. And for that reason, it deserves to be read.

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