Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dad Groups in NYC?

Daddy Types put up a post last week asking readers if they knew of any Manhattan at-home dad playgroups. He also posed a whole set of other questions -- how do you set up a playgroup, what makes a good one, etc. etc.

Naturally, I have the wonderful Dayton Dad's guide to starting your own dad's group posted here, but I think Greg is looking for something a little simpler. If you can help, please comment over there. It's a topic well worth exploring.

And I'm especially interested in any news of NYC groups. The nydads.com link seems out of date (I may have to drop it from my list and map), but I find it hard to believe that nowhere in the city is there a pocket of SAHDs that has regular playgroups ...

Monday, October 30, 2006

The At-Home Dad Convention, the Brief History of a Great Rebirth

We're now less than two weeks from the 11th Annual At-Home Dad Convention, and I thought I'd give a quick history of this particular event. As longtime readers know, the 11th convention represented a Herculean effort on the part of a group of guys with no agenda other than to keep the event alive. There’s no profit here for anyone, no fame. Just a lot of hard work that deserves recognition.

Until this year, the convention was hosted by Oakton Community College outside of Chicago, where at-home dad researcher Bob Frank works. It was organized largely by fathers from the Chicago area, with Dr. Frank serving as liaison to the school. It was from its inception a welcome, innovative and well-run enterprise. But last winter, the convention received two massive blows: the organizers stepped aside, and -- a few weeks later -- Dr. Frank decided to move on (which meant Oakton would no longer support the event). I assumed the event was -- if not dead -- then certainly close to death.

But a small band of convention-goes took up the baton and started brainstorming. The University of Missouri at Kansas City Women’s Center offered support. Sponsors were rounded up. Space was secured. Sessions were planned. A website, the first for the event, went up. Postcards were sent. Trips and dinners were organized. And everything began to fall into place. Now, on November 11, in Kansas City, the At-Home Dad Convention will rise again. It is the best program I've seen in my four years of attending the event, yet the fees will be lower this year than any year I've attended.

I know the dads who are planning this, and they're stand-up guys who probably won't talk about the massive amount of time they've spent on this. They won't take credit for keeping alive an event that has meant a great deal to hundreds of fathers over the years. They won’t give themselves a pat on the back. But the deserve one. So if you go there -- and if you can, you should -- please grab Dayv and Andy and Dave and Brian and Phil and Kace and Jim and Mike and tell them thank you. And buy 'em a beer. Because damn, those guys have earned it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Little Children

I've had a few e-mails lately asking if I've seen Little Children. The answer is, unfortunately, no, and given the current state of my life (you know, kids, work, etc.), there's no guarantee that I'll be able to take a look in time to give a meaningful review. All I can tell you is that the reviews have been uniformly positive, and the fact that one of the main characters is an at-home dad has prompted pretty close to no discussion about fathers as primary caregivers.

In short, both the movie and the reviews appear to play this straight: there's an at-home dad character, and it's no big deal (until he starts sleeping with an at-home mom, etc. etc.). That's progress, given where we were a scant 23 years ago.

I *did* read the book, and I found it to be good-enough look at suburbia, asking a lot of interesting what-if questions (what if he kissed that woman under the swings? what if a sex offender moved in?). I'm sure it's was probably relatively easy to adapt to the screen -- not a lot of deep character background or difficult-to-film inner turmoil. And the book's author, Tom Perotta, gets credit for actually experiencing the world he's writing about: he did a stint as an at-home dad, so the settings -- if not the character's actions -- ain't entirely imaginary.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Definitive "Opt-Out" Report

Man, do I love the work of Joan Williams -- the forward-thinking about work schedules, the aggressive efforts to stamp out discrimination against parents, the whole shebang. And now she's taken on one of my favorite subjects: the (generally asinine) stories about well-educated women jumping out of the workplace so they can fulfill their fuzzy biological destiny to raise children. Williams and her crack staff at the Center for Work-Life Law have analyzed 119 news stories over 26 years on women leaving the workforce, and basically fact-checked them, putting out a brilliant report titled ""'Opt-Out' or Pushed Out?" It great reading from beginning to end; no stone is left unturned and no assumption is left unchallenged. (If you're pressed for time, just check out the press release.)

I've railed about "Opt-Out" stories before -- they focus on an exceedingly small slice of the population, the ignore the role of the modern workplace in forcing the issue, they misuse biology -- and my complaints are only the tip of the iceberg. But the element that has always driven me up a wall is the tendency of stories to talk about a mom's "choice" to stay home without discussion (or, usually, even mentioning) her husband.

And though you should read through the report for the whole range of arguments, I wanted to flag the part that was most significant to me -- the whole dad thing. According to Williams, it's not just me: there really are no men in these stories:
If one searches for articles on Generation X and Y men, one finds quite a bit of information that younger men have little interest in a life consumed by work and distant from family life. Yet in Opt Out articles, fathers and their wishes tend to disappear. We found 315 mentions of mothers in the 119 stories we examined, but only 25 mentions of fathers. Less than one-quarter (21.8%) of the stories we found discussed fathersÂ? desire for shorter hours.
Now I have no desire to turn this into a woe-is-modern-fatherhood thing, but it's always been self-evident that the choice to stay home isn't made in a vacuum, and if you want to report on the trend of moms leaving (by force or by choice), you need to at least give lip service to the impact on the rest of the family.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Internet Thinks About Dads

Perhaps the best site on the 'net for gathering collective wisdom is Ask Metafilter, so I was tickled when author extraordinarie Andi Buchanan passed along two wonderful MeFi threads on fathers.

The first focuses on on a would-be PhD who is trying to choose between school, SAHD-dom or some combination of the two. The responses are wonderfully pragmatic ... while no one makes a bold call to check it all in favor of full-time parenthood, the crowd is supportive of the pull between the two options (and realistic about the prospects of trying to pull both of them off). The real noteworthy part is that no one seems to find the question at all puzzling coming from a guy, which is as it should be.

The second is just a wonderful series of answers on how to be a dad to a daughter. It's a testament to how deeply fathers have touched those who are posting (and how deeply being a father has touched them). It's a great read, and something I may keep bookmarked to give me instant perspective.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Slowlane.com, RIP?

As we get closer to the convention, it looks like there will be one ritual missing: the annual rallying of the technologically savvy to help out with the re-launch of Slowlane.com, which remains the king of the at-home dad sites (according to Google) despite going years (three years? four years? more?) since being updated. Part of the problem has been Slowlane's ambition. There are thousands of hand-coded pages there, containing all sorts of interesting nuggets, and an overhaul would have required fishing out all that wonderful content and hammering it into a new architecture.

Every year since I started going to the convention, Jay Massey, the guy behind Slowlane, has asked for help from convention-goers, and every year he's had volunteers. But the challenges of coordinating the project often meant nothing got done. Last year looked to be the exception. A bright group of guys got together, did some top-notch planning and even began getting the technical details lined up. But around March, that effort evaporated, too, as far as I could tell. (I don't hold this against anyone. We all have a lot of balls in the air, and many of the Slowlane volunteers ended up leading the effort to save the convention, for which they deserve an incredible amount of credit.)

As of right now, Jay isn't registered for the convention, and I fear that without him, the ball won't get rolling again. Though I'm happy with the way my site has evolved, it is not -- and will not be -- a one-stop shop for all things AHD. Slowlane.com was that resource, and I'd love to see it restored to its former glory. The community could really use it ...

Friday, October 20, 2006


Much to note/update/etc. today ...

1. The legacy of "Mr. Mom" (1983) continues: there's a first-person piece in the Daily Southtown (IL) by Howard Ludwig both slamming the term "Mr. Mom," and giving an overview of the movie. 1983 was a long time ago, but the impact of the phrase doesn't seem to have been diminished in the last quarter-century.

2. Of course, Howard seems like he had his act together -- style aside -- which is more than Sacha Molitorisz can say, based on his blog post in the Sydney Morning Herald. While I give Molitorisz credit for taking the paternity leave (in Australia, no less, which stands with the United States as having lousy family leave laws), it sounds like he had a bit of a hard time doing the whole at-home dad thing. I usually have little patience for whining about the home life, but props to Molitorisz for seeing the gig as something worthy of respect.

3. The At-Home Dad Convention blogger list is even larger than I suggested yesterday. We're up to four:
* Modern Day Dad
* KC Home Dad
* Hail to Pitt (Caleb is running the blogging session at the convention)
* Andi (who is, not, technically, an at-home dad, but is super-nice and a FoR.D.)

4. I haven't done a good job of giving credit where it's been due this week:
* I saw the Salon story (from Tuesday's post) at Rice Daddies.
* The cool tattoo bit (Tuesday) came from Daddy Types.
* Believe it or not, the who-does-what story in the Times (Wednesday's post) came to my attention in the comments of On Balance. Bonus points to anyone who can figure out how comments to my posting yesterday deteriorated into biscuit recipes and a debate as to whether Hanukkah is a made-up recipe.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

2006 At-Home Dad Convention Online

As most of you know, I won't be able to make it to the At-Home Dad Convention when it rolls into Kansas City next month. Given that I have tried in the past -- with increasing sophistication -- to make sure that as much of the festivities are recorded online, I'd like to see that effort maintained.

So over convention weekend (Nov. 11 and the days just before and after), I'll be standing by to post just about anything you e-mail me, and I'll link to just about anything posted from the convention. To the extent possible, I'll automate the process. (Warning: geekery ahead) If you have a blog and want your convention thoughts rebroadcast here, please upload them to del.icio.us with the tag "ahd2006." Likewise, if you have photos, upload 'em to Flickr and slap the "ahd2006" tag on.

I'll re-post this message closer to time, but wanted those of you headed to KC to know that rebeldad.com remains dedicated to showcasing how much fun you're having.

Please note: at least two bloggers will be in KC for the big event: Modern Day Dad and KC Home Dad. If you're a blogger and headed there, please let me know so I can flag your site.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Men *Are* Making Great Strides

One of the points I try to make again and again is that fathers today are fundamentally different than dads a decade or two ago. I can't tell you why the social norm of the involved father is suddenly on the rise, but all the signals -- dads at the park, dads at the grocery store on Tuesday mornings, dads involved in PTA, etc. -- are pointing in the right direction. It can be a hard argument, though -- demographic research can't keep pace with the reality on the group.

But it may be catching up. We got another piece of hard evidence for the trend in the work of demographer Suzanne M. Bianchi, chairwoman of the department of sociology at the University of Maryland. The Maryland folks have been looking at time diaries -- incredibly detailed tellings of daily life -- for a long time, and they've been able to break out who is doing what (and for how long) in the American household ... and they can compare that to the way it used to be. The New York Times has the details.

There is plenty in there for discussion. The Times looked at these data in April to ask questions about women in the workforce, and you can certainly find all kinds of other questions to ask (for instance, did men actually spend 13 percent *more* time at work forty years ago? and is adult leisure time a dying concept? and why isn't there an inverse relationship between working hours and kid hours?). But what fascinated me was a single stat: the hours per week of childcare ("childcare" is kind of a squishy term, but bear with me).

For women, the childcare number has remained pretty constant since 1965 and now stands at about 13 hours. But for men, there's a clear trend (from the Times chart):

1965: 3 hours of childcare/week
1975: 3 hours of childcare/week
1985: 3 hours of childcare/week
1995: 4 hours of childcare/week
2000: 7 hours of childcare/week (OK, the Times rounded this number. Should be 6.5 hours.)

If you believe these stats (and I'd love the seen the original), the amount of time the average guy spends with the kids is up 62 percent in a five years. Yes, there is probably some statistical fluctuations that should temper any reliance on these numbers. Yes, absolutely, we should be shooting for equality. But even if you knock 20 or 30 percentage points off to be on the safe side, it's still quite a hop. Change is afoot ...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Understanding Parenting

One of the most amazing aspects of the internet is that it has prompted an absolute explosion in the amount of writing on parenting available in the universe. And yet, for all of the millions and millions of words being generated, precious little of it is very good at all.

So I was thrilled to read the executive editor of Salon's essay on parenthood, "September Song," which managed to be thoughtful and touching and novel. There are some great nuggets in there, and it's worth reading as a reminder that -- through all of the day-to-day trivialities of raising kids -- there is something exceedingly unique and profound about that experience.

And now for something completely different: I've been considering a tattoo for some time, and I have to say that I haven't seen anything quite as nifty as this one in some time. Sure, the handprint may have been done before, but I love the inscription:
I put the quote ANCORA IMPARO underneath, which is
Italian for "I am still learning." Those were Michelangelo's alleged last words, and as an artist and a teacher, I found the words to be pretty significant. Add in being a new Dad, and well, that says it all.
ANCORA IMPARO. Ain't we all?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cincinnati Dad Looking for Connections

One of the peculiar facts of at-home dad groups is that they tend to have limited durations -- a few guys (usually with preschoolers) finder each other together, get some media, get some more guys together, maybe put up a web site -- and then, as the kids get older, the group kind of fades away. Priorities go from playdates to PTA meetings, some guys go back to work, some guys move. It's just part of the lifecycle.

The group in Cincinnati is a great example. One of the first groups to have a site on the web, as well as a smart and dedicated group of leaders, most of those original guys have moved on.

But there's still room for a re-birth. Colin Thornton, a dad from Chicago (one of the towns with a group that seems to defy the usual pattern), is now in Cinci, and he put out a call for other local at-home dads. He didn't get a lot of responses in the comments (most of which were asinine), but if you're in the area -- or know someone who is -- drop him a line.

Friday, October 13, 2006

My Promise to You

A post every day next week.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Weird Title, Nice Piece

I read a surprising Red Herring piece the other day on stay-at-home dads in Silicon Valley. It was surprising for a few reasons.

1. I had no idea Red Herring was still around.
2. The title is "Are Men Obsolete?" which I thought was a funny way into the discussion.
3. I couldn't figure out if it was celebrating the reverse-traditional family or lamenting how rare it is in the valley.

It's a nice read, at any rate, and it discusses a pocket of guys that I assume are out there but read little about -- gentlemen who a) became quite wealthy in the last boom and b) also have high-achieving spouses. And, to the article's credit, it also takes some time exploring the reasons why high-tech-land seems to be male-dominated.

I should also note that there is a Silicon Valley Dad's group. The web site looks surprisingly retro for a group in the technology capital of the world, but the group is active. If you're in the area, look 'em up.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Blog Roundup

It's been an interesting little bit for blogs, too, and there are some posts worth highlighting. In the spirit of personal cross-promotion, I should flag the weekly guest column at On Balance, which this week was written by a mom with a stay-at-home husband. I wish I could say that it brings something new to the conversation, but the more stories like that out there, the better.

And that said, if you want to share your story of at-home dadness (or involved fatherhood) with On Balance, please drop Leslie an e-mail. I'd love to see more of the Rebel Dad reader vantage point.

The number of at-home dads remains constant. This week, I saw from Jeremy over at Daddy Dialectic
is back to working outside the home
. DD is one of the most thoughtful daddy blogs out there, so I look forward to seeing him track the changes in his life. His post this week, though, really had some poignant bits:

Â?Unfortunately, nature is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-donÂ?t affair,Â? writes Annie Dillard in her essay Â?Seeing.Â? This is equally true of cities. It is also true of parenting. They are worlds unto themselves, containers of consciousness, definers of perception; but we are never quite able to hold them in our senses. During these months of uncertainty, San Francisco seemed to constantly shift in and out of focus, and so did my son. The babble from Liko's mouth sharpened into words, the syllables flashing like sunlight on windows. We'd cross the street and on the other side, he'd seem suddenly older.
His move out of SAHD-dom will be balanced by Clare's dad, who has made he leap. Welcome!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Media Roundup

As I mentioned earlier in the week, there's been a lot popping in at-home dad land, and I haven't been keeping up. There's plenty of interesting blog postings to note in passing, but I wanted to get some of the media building up off of my plate.

In Malaysia, the Star wrote last week about the importance (and availability) of paternity leave. It was an interesting piece, and it raised the question of why there seems to be so little written about paternity leave in this country. For all of the ink spilled about "mommy wars" and childcare and work-life balance, there really is surprisingly little written about leave, particularly with dads.

And from Ellensburg, Washington Daily Record came an interesting couple of articles on at-home fatherhood. Now I've read just about all of the at-home dad stories written over the last five years, and this had an interesting detail I hadn't seen yet:
Cole [the at-home dad profiled] said data from the American Psychological Association indicates people who are overly critical of stay-at-home dads are more likely to be racially biased or sexist, with rigid ideas of social roles.
Now I've never seen data that at-home dad hatez are racists, but the rigid idea of social roles rings true. The second story in the package another dad profile, and only adds to my contention: SAHDs are normal, well-adjusted folks.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Best Deal on Craigslist

In the too-good-to-pass-up dept:
Top-notch trophy husband available - 23 (Downtown)

Trophy husband on the market -- act fast.

Funny, intelligent, warm and generous, well-read and well-traveled.

Harvard degree, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, in good shape. Dark hair and eyes. Still young and vigorous.

Interested in a big wedding and raising a family (2-4 kids) while you work and support the family. Will try to be a novelist in the quiet hours. No motivation whatsoever beyond raising kids, reading great magazines in bed, discussing politics, volunteering from time to time, and traveling around the world. Number one priority: making a great wife happy.

(Note: Willing to be a trophy boyfriend for those interested parties who are already married.)
Anyway ... I actually have a little bit of a backlog here, so I should be getting some real at-home dad news linked in the next few days. And I hope to give the At-Home Dad Convention a shoutout in my Wash. Post post on Thursday. Stay tuned.