Wednesday, February 28, 2007

(College) Kids Say the Darndest Things

Over the past month or so, I've seen a mini-boom in at-home dad mentions in college papers. This is a little bit of a sup rise to me, in part because they all seemed to happen all of a sudden, out of nowhere, and in part because I gave exactly zero thought to kids/at-home parenting/childrearing/diapers/529 plans/work-life balance/etc. when I was in college. (And I was ahead of the curve, marrying two years after I left school.)

But apparently, today's college kids are thinking less about where they can acquire a good fake ID and more about the shape of their life a decade hence. The first reference I saw came in a meandering "Opinion" piece in the Stanford Daily on Mr. Right and dating and gender and language (I think)*:
At one point, our teacher went around the room, asking everyone whether they’d be willing to be a stay-at-home dad or mom. Every girl said "no" and every guy said "yes." (Clearly polling a total of eight students — three guys and five girls — is an excellent data-gathering technique.)
Seriously? All three guys said yes to at-home fatherhood? Heck, all three guys had thought about it enough to give a coherent answers? My, times have changed.

Georgetown's monthly magazine took on the topic of the "Mommy Wars," another ripe topic that -- quite frankly -- I don't remember being discussed in my college's publications. While the whole piece is worth reading to see what today's college woman thinks about her future work-life balance prospects, it also mentions at-home dads, giving a pre-med student the opportunity to pitch at-home fatherhood:
Georgetown senior Brodie Parent (COL '07) has a lot to say about this conflict. ... Parent is forthright about his convictions, saying without hesitation that "if I married someone who was really bent on a big career and really wanted to start a family, I would definitely be a stay-at-home dad." Parent is even aware of what he is getting himself into, as his brother and his brother-in-law are both stay-at-home dads.
An addition bonus to the story? This line, which should be standard-issue in every article dumb enough to use the line "mommy wars":
Fox responded that she would "prefer not to have it posed as an opposition, as one or the other." She adds that "there are other options available. That question itself, that opposition, is part of the fuel of 'The Mommy War' construction. I'd say what's interesting about that question is 'where's daddy?'"
Finally, Arizona State's magazine, the State Press Magazine, ran a cover story on "Reversing Roles." It's well worth the read -- throwing in some stats to back up the thesis ("The Sloan Work and Family Research Network reported that in 2002, 20 percent of fathers were the primary caregivers for their preschool-aged children ...") as well as some academic analysis and some nice anecdotes.

* I mean no disrespect to the Stanford Daily. Some of my best friends are former editors-in-chief of that august paper.

Full Disclosure: I was a college newspaper editor, and so I actually have a limited right to poke fun at undergraduate publications. Another fellow college newspaper editor sent along this Onion story and -- I hate to say it -- I saw a bit of myself in there.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Odds and Ends

I have a stack of items that don't quite make up an entire post, but are worth sharing with you all, including:

Convention Update: The 2007 At-Home Dad Convention will be held this year on Nov. 3, *not* Nov. 10.

Blogroll Update: I think I'm up-to-date on the blogroll now, having added a handful of new guys. Again, in order to get your link there, you need to a) have a blog, b) be a self-described at-home dad and c) post regularly about fatherhood.

Hogan Hilling Update: Longtime at-home dad adovcate Hogan Hilling has a website out for his upcoming book, "Mom's Guide to Dads." It's at The book won't be out for a few months, but I wanted to give you fair warning.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Return of a Champion of At-Home Dads

Peter Baylies, who probably did more to build the at-home dad community in the 1990s with an excellent newsletter, has blogged sporadically at But the pace has picked up a bit this month, including two posts this week that include video clips of everyone's favorite at-home dad research, Yale's Kyle Pruett. Here's hoping that Peter can keep it up -- it's great to have his voice in the conversation.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 For Sale

Those with long memories will note that almost a year ago, I bought in an effort to make sure that I could define the term and avoid the horror of seeing it turned into a phrase like "mommy wars" -- a trite, useless moniker.

Obviously, I haven't had the time to develop the site in the last year, and 2007 doesn't look good, either. So I'm putting the site on the block. If you want the domain name, drop me a line. Alternatively, you can wait until I formally loose control and pick it up on the open market. Just treat it well ...

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Last Word (for now, from me) on Hipster Parents

One of the great benefits of running a week or two behind is that when there is reason for a minor kerfluffle (like last week's Time magazine piece on insufferable hipster parents), it ends up getting thoroughly and intelligently discussed before I can weigh in.

But I'll weigh in anyway, briefly:

Full disclosure: I am not a hipster parent. This is mostly because I am not a hipster and have never, ever approached hipness. This has never bothered me much. But I sympathize with the hipsters for the simple reason that you should have as many choices in what your child sees, hears, wears and experiences.

There is a tremendous amount of dreck out there for kids. Mind-numbing children's music. Awful, awful clothing. Entirely content-free television. So if you can find stuff out there that has redeeming value *and* is something you can share with your kids, be it They Might Be Giants music or punk rock onsies, why not go for it?

Yes, parenting is about sacrifice and putting the needs ahead of others ahead of your own needs. But there is nothing intrinsic in parenthood that says you must dress your children like the Little Rascals.

(If you're fine with hipness but have had it with parents that revel in their lack of seriousness about the gig, then I would refer you to Andi Buchanan's excellent The Escalation of Cool. It gets to the point -- all this focus on posturing destroys authentic tales of parenting -- without getting wrapped up in whether the Ramones are suitable music for little ears.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is This Really Progress?

On the gender-equity front, the New York Times yesterday ran a slightly bizarre piece about alpha cooks that I am still trying to figure out. The piece is about the conflict in the kitchen between the more chef-oriented partner (apparently, this is usually the guy, based on the breakdown of anecdotes and the headline: "He Cooks. She Stews. It’s Love.") and less cooking-driven spouse.

On the one hand, I think it's terrific that we've moved to such a place in terms of kitchen gender roles that the Times can run an over-the-top article about how men have become little Napoleans of the rangetop, but the whole piece sounds like it's trying too hard. Are alpha cooks on the rise? Is it mostly men? Is the Times plumbling for conflict where none exists? Does it matter? The piece doesn't really answer any of those questions.

But in the larger sense, the emergence (if only in the minds of NYT editors) of cooking as a level playing field is a nice trend. The more that can be done to blow up the idea that cooking, wage-earning, cleaning, childrearing, lawn-mowing, etc. etc. are the sole domain of one gender, the better. But cooking style as grounds for divorce? That's a reach. (Thanks to Keith for sharing his bookmark of this.)

Back With Posts Later Today

Should have posts up later today and tomorrow. Until then, I should probably direct you to my On Balance posting from today, which overlaps with a lot of the stuff that comes up here. Thanks.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Vienna Goes All Out for Gender Neutrality

It sounds like I've been railing at all the wrong things. I sit hear, day after day, talking about TV shows or movies or newspaper columns that I think get the whole gender-neutrality thing wrong, wrong, wrong, when -- really -- I should be thinking broader. Like Vienna.

Apparently, some fine Austrians have decided that the traditional stick-figure signage they had could use an updating, with a modern twist. So they've made all sorts of signs that give the old-fashioned stick figures a kick. There are construction workers wearing skirts, etc. etc. But, most importantly, the diaper-changing-station signage now features dad and baby!

Of course, the signage isn't the first step in the crusade for gender-neutral diapers. The first step is actually getting diaper changing stations in the (*&$^ing men's rooms of this nation. (As a reminder, Daddy Types, where I found this story in the first place, has helpfully mapped out the diaper-friendly men's rooms in NYC. Judging from Greg's effort, we still have miles to go. C'mon -- there are still no facilities in the Hooters men's room?)

Friday, February 09, 2007

More on the Other Half

As with my post earlier this week on the LA Times female breadwinner story (and my post on MP Dunleavey's piece in the NY Times), I'm not sure I can comment with much authority on the experiences of the wives of involved fathers. So I simply hold out for you this Babble essay on the topic. I'm particularly fond of the end:
For the moment, I like this arrangement, in spite of all of its compromises. As much as it's affected the way my daughter sees me, it's also changed the way she sees her father. The other day she announced, "Boys don't carry purses." Before I could craft a response, something fair and open-minded, she added, "Just diaper bags."

That's my girl.
I rather like the sudden trend of first-person pieces by breadwinner moms. It really fills out the story of the reverse traditional family.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I'm Going to Kansas City/Kansas City, Here I Come

The fine folks behind the 2007 At-Home Dad Convention have asked me to remind all of your that they are now heavy into the planning process for the shindig this November, and that all suggestions are welcome. There was a spurt of brainstorming right after the '06 event, but some fresh thinking is in order, now that the hard-core planning is underway.

File your thoughts at the post on the subject or in the Convention forums. Personally, I'm especially interested in hearing from folks who have never been -- what would spur you to make the trip?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What Women Want

Following on MP Dunleavey's NY Times piece on the strange struggle of the female breadwinner, I've run into a couple more piece that look at "reverse traditional" families where the wife makes most (or all) of a family's income. I'm surprised, actually, that there haven't been more looks at the subject from this angle -- I still see a lot more about at-home dads than the women they are married to.

(And, as an aside, one of the nice things about stories about primary-breadwinning-women is that they nearly always take some time to explore the choices of the spouse, while stories about at-home dads rarely delve into much depth about mom -- robbing those stories of a great deal of context.)

At any rate, the LA Times takes on the story this week, and they pull enough stats and anecdotes together to make a strong case that the reverse traditional family is coming on strong -- and working well. Even the headline is positive ("She earns more, and that's OK"). It's a far cry from the hatchet job Newsweek performed two years ago, when they lined up a dour series of at-home dads and overworked moms for a piece with the title "She Works. He Doesn't."

On a more personal note, an at-home dad on one of the message boards pulled up a gem from Marie Claire (last year, maybe) titled Why I Left My Beta Husband. It's a weird piece, and the end makes it even weirder -- further evidence that it is nearly impossible to distill a marriage (and a divorce) into a few hundred words. But from reading the LA Times, Beta Husbands seem just as safe (and probably more happy) than their alpha peers.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Survey Says ...

The fine folks at the University of Texas-Austin are trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious creature known as the at-home dad, and they're running an online survey to better understand us. They've promised to share the results when they finished. So take a spin ...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

It Has Come to This

Posting frequency has fallen off, so I'll again pledge to get back on the wagon: you'll get a post a day this week. They may not be long, they may not be insightful, but you'll get 'em.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Punk Legends, At-Home Dads, Updates, Irony, Etc.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my former classmate, Ivor Hanson, a) had a book out and b) was doing the at-home dad thing. I failed to note, however, that Ivor also had a first-person piece about an old motorcycle (but really about the shift in perspective that came with his fatherhood) published by the New York Times:
... I just never pictured myself a father. Indeed, when my twin brother’s son was born four years ago in Manhattan, I remember telling my mom in the hospital’s waiting room, "I am not ready for this." Now I can’t picture another sort of life.
Needless to say, I think you should buy Ivor's book. Whether or not you listen to his music is up to you. (Though I often wonder if I should be outgrowing my punk phase, I'm having a hard time leaving it behind.)

And while we’re talking updates (and punk sensibility), I should note that I’m derelict in not bringing you the other dustup over Neal Pollack’s Alternadad (to follow on the Globe and Mail commentary suggesting that Alternadad was boring/unhip/unoriginal).

The new uber-hip parenting site Babble published an attempted takedown of Pollack by Lisa Carver -- and allowed Pollack to respond -– and even after reading the pieces, I still have no idea what it is about the book or the author that has everyone in a tizzy. Look, I understand that first-person parenting writing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. And you may not like Pollack’s style. But that hardly explains the vitriol, as if parenting is some sort of sacred topic and must be written about just so.

But the most bizarre point in Carver’s rant (which Pollack points out) is her contention that no one in his or her right mind would ever write about parenthood and that she – as a paid parenting writer (albeit for Babble) – is covering the subject under duress (she writes -- literally -- "my editor makes me.").

So I figure it’s worthwhile to warn readers of this blog: if you don’t like extended navel-gazing about fatherhood, please don’t visit.


Quick note: if you've requested your blog be added to the blogroll on the right rail, it should now be there. If it's not, let me know. I'm in the process of pruning, too, and abandoned blogs will be removed over the next month or so. Same goes for the group list -- the alpha-by-state list will vanish, leaving only the more attactive and more useful Google Maps at-home dad mashup. I'll be basing the groups on the stellar list maintained by Bruce at Seattle Dads.

In addition, in keeping with Bruce's suggestion that we lay to rest, I've removed another block of links to slowlane. If you see any active links to that site after about mid-2004, please let me know, and I'll remove them.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Look from the Flip Side

As with everything else lately, I'm late to note the interesting first-person piece by MP Dunleavey in last weekend's New York Times, where she talks about the strange, uncomfortable feeling about being the sole breadwinner while her husband does the at-home dad thing.

I'm not entirely certain what to make of it ... Obviously, I'm not a "breadwinner mom," so I'm not surprised that I don't get it. There were certainly head-scratching moments during the time I was an at-home dad, when I was acutely aware that I was flouting traditional gender roles, but it was never the sense of anxiety that Dunleavey writes about. (Incidentally, Elizabeth at Half Changed World writes that her experience hasn't matched Dunleavey's.)

At its root, I think her piece reflects the fact that we still have invisible societal barriers to overcome no matter how gender-neutral our own outlook is. More than three years ago, Dunleavey was doing at-home dad math, so I'm sure her arrangement was something she had thought long and hard about. But no matter how well-prepared you are, it can be weird headed out into the new millennium in anything other than traditional roles. But attitudes are changing fast, and I look forward to pulling up Dunleavey's musings three years from now and marveling at how old-fashioned it will seem.