Monday, April 30, 2007

Telling the Story

My editor over at On Balance flagged this wonderful video from the WaPo site a couple of weeks ago, but I am only now getting around to it. It's a really nice piece that gives some great first-person perspective on what it's like to be an at-home dad, and the whole thing is well-packaged and well done ...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Call for Help from an Erstwhile Colleague

My former co-worker Katherine Lewis e-mailed me yesterday. She's working a story about dads and wants to know if there's anyone who can help her out. Here's what she's after:

I’m writing about the pressure that fathers face trying to support a family financially and emotionally. Even as the demands of the working world continue to increase, the societal expectations of fathers have shifted. Dads who pursue their careers at the expense of family time risk being criticized by children for being absent; not to mention their wives, who expect shared housework and child rearing. I’d love to talk to fathers who feel caught in the middle, and also to children or wives of a dad with a high-powered career.

If you fit the bill, particularly if you're in Mass, NJ, NY, Pa, La, Miss, Ala, Ohio, Mich, Ore. (where her newspaper chain has newspapers), please drop her a line at Katherine.Lewis (at)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hirshman Strikes Again (Again)

Ahhh ... my favorite writer on parenthood, Linda Hirshman, is at it again, penning a New York Times op-ed piece on (surprise!) why women should work. She ends up making a thoughtful and nuanced argument for changing the tax code** to remove a disincentive to work, but before she gets there, she drop this:

We could make an effort to change men’s attitudes. Sociologists have found that mothers (rich and poor) still do twice the housework and child care that fathers do, and even the next generation of males say they won’t sacrifice work for home.

This is a bit disingenuous. I am not sure that there is any evidence to support that "even the next generation of males say they won’t sacrifice work for home." In fact, all of the surveys I have seen say the exact opposite. Now, there is an argument to be made that the next generation is talking the talk but maybe not walking the walk (I don't buy that argument, but still ...), but let's be clear -- the next generation of males say they are more interested in sacrificing work for family than any post-industrial generation.

** The tax code arguments, both Hirshman's and others, are well worth thinking about ... more on that soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Kids Kill Careers (Or So They Say)

I know this isn't on the subject of SAHDs (or even, particularly, fathers), but given that work-family balance is my other great area of interest, I really wanted to post on new research that shows families will screw up your career. On some level, this is a no-kidding finding ... it's harder to be a workaholic if you have significant interests outside of work, be they kids or participation in community theater or multiple hockey leagues or volunteering commitments.

Of course, this depending on making the single, increasingly flawed assumption that fewer hours at work is worse than more hours at work. While I'm sure that there are plenty of widget-based jobs where hours-worked is a good measure of productivity, a large and growing number of jobs rely on "burst" productivity -- great leaps in a short period of time. And assessing these kind of workers in an hourly model does them (and their families) a great disservice.

Of course, hours-worked remains the gold standard by which all employees are judged, but -- and this is a pet peeve of mine -- we'd all be better off if we started looking at better ways to measure quality and output, rather than just counting the minutes. Because, as the research shows, the moment you start counting minutes, you start punishing those who think that they should invest some of those minutes outside of work.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stanford Columnist *Does* Takes Dads Seriously

I received a very nice note today from Kevin Padrez, the Stanford student who wrote a most interesting column on at-home dads for the Stanford student paper earlier this month. At the time, I said some things about the piece that were not entirely nice based upon my belief that the piece was either mostly serious and reflected a stunning lack of awareness of what parents actually do all day or mostly in fun, goofing by resorting to the tired doofus dad stereotype. According to Kevin, I got it all wrong.

Said Kevin:
In my column I was deliberately being ignorant and deliberately giving an unrealistic portrayal of parenthood in an attempt to jar their attention away from academics and jobs, and towards the possibility of having a family one day (and maybe cause a laugh in the process).
So all credit to Kevin for taking the time to explain where he was aiming his humor, even if it clearly missed me. (I'm still not entirely sure that I'm getting the punchline as he intended.) I wish Kevin -- and all of the stressed out Stanford seniors -- the best of luck in dealing with the looming real world, parenthood and all.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Another Reason to Move to Canada (Proposed)

While bureaucrats in the United States sit around thinking of ways to gut the pathetically weak (by global standards) Family and Medical Leave Act (which provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave), word comes down from Canada that paid parental leave really ought to be extended ... to two-and-a-half years. Right now, parents can split 50 weeks of leave, and a new report from the Ministerial Advisory Committee on the Government of Canada's Child Care Spaces Initiative suggests that that number should be bumped to 18 months per parent, and then to two-years-plus.

There are no plans to implement such a measure yet, but the fact that it's being discussed seriously just to the north makes me almost misty-eyed.

(Thanks to Clint for the tip.)

Sometimes the Truth Hurts

BusinessWeek's Working Parents blog let loose with a post yesterday that asked why -- in most two-income families -- the mom still does most of the household management. I don't know quite how to respond. Anecdotally, I have to agree, even though I know a handful of at-home dads and plenty of involved dads, it does seem to be the case that -- even though dads are doing way better in the household-stuff department -- few working dads are taking the lead at home.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Though I wrote today I wrote today at On Balance on the reason why Leslie Bennetts is so hard to take seriously, I have to begrudgingly give her credit for some form of gender equity. In a Washington Post chat from Tuesday, she is clear that at-home parenthood is just as dumb and dangerous for men as it is for women.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Jeremy Hits Hirshman Back

Those of you with long memories (OK, even those of you with short memories) probably remember the mini-spat I had with Linda Hirshman, a debate that -- even now -- makes very little sense to me. As part of her blog barrage, she rather bizarrely holds up two dads as evidence that men today cannot be trusted to put family first. I'm one of 'em, and the other is Jeremy Adam Smith. Jeremy responded today at Daddy Dialectic:
So what's really behind Hirshman's attack on caregiving fathers? Dads like me and Rebeldad are not really her target. Instead she is attacking the very idea of caregiving, a position ably dissected by my colleague Chip. Hirshman has argued that if taking care of children "were the most important thing a human being could do, then why are no men doing it?" I'd like to turn that around: if no men are doing it, Linda, then why are you attacking me and Rebeldad? It is as if she finds the very fact of our existence threatening--as do a lot of people.
This is only a snippet. The whole thing deserves a read from anyone interested the discussion.

Naval-Gazing on the Subject of Modern Men

You know, for as much as I argue that we should take a good long look at how we define masculinity right now, it might be possible to overdo that analysis. Case-in-point: this Denver Post piece that tries super-hard to figure out what men should be, nowadays. While the overall conclusion -- men can be mellowed-out caretakers -- isn't one I have any beef with, I get nervous whenever someone tries to argue that an entire gender is (or should be) headed in one direction.

All I want is for guys to have more choices about the way they construct their lives. I don't want some deep debate about What That All Means that somehow involves George Clooney or John Wayne. It means more freedom and, hopefully, more satisfaction with life. End of story.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This Book I Gotta Read

Stunning as it now seems, I went through a rather deep punk phase in college, which included -- among many, many other SoCal/skate-punk/Epitaph-type bands -- a CD or two of Pennywise. Now, come to find out that the frontman for Pennywise has a dad book out. Once I track down a copy, I'll let you know if it's better than the music ...

(Hat tip to Daddy Forever, who liked it.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

More on Making Sure Dads Get Counted

It's nice to the see that the dismay over the government's dads-are-really-just-a-form-of-child-care argument has gotten an airing above and beyond blogging rants: the Lexington Herald-Leader ran this nice column on why dads should be counted. It also included a study that I don't think I saw:

A 2005 Gannon University study, for example, found that the most popular child-rearing books used mother twice as often as father when referring to parenting in general. According to the study, even when the authors used gender-neutral language, it was usually clear that they were speaking to mothers. Why else would they suggest parental stress-management techniques that included "getting one's nails done" and "talking with a girlfriend"?

That's enough to get my good and fuming on a Monday morning.

(Thanks to Kelly for the link.)

Friday, April 13, 2007


In pulling together my On Balance post yesterday on the subject of the Washington Post piece in which world-renowned violinist, Stradivarius's in tow, played at a subway stop, I ended up thinking a lot about the at-home dad convention. My post was about how hard it is to stop for the wonderful serendipitous moments in life when you're locked into the kind of scheduled life that is practically required for survival when you have kids.

One of the great things about the convention is that the guys who end up going are passionate about seeing life through the eyes of a kid, and I usually return with a renewed ability to really squeeze every moment out my time with the children. I know we're still more than six months away, but it's worth marking on your calender now: Nov. 3.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

SAHDs: Not Enough Oprah

Mike over at StrollerDerby agrees with me on the cluelessness of woefully misguided Stanford funnyman Kevin Padrez, who -- you'll remember -- penned a piece on the wonders of at-home fatherhood yesterday. When Linda Hirshman tells young women not to marry jerks, I think it's guys like Kevin she's warning 'em about ... you know, guys for whom kids are a punchline.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Daddy Dialectic Needs Help on Dad Book

Jeremy Adam Smith -- the guy behind Daddy Dialectic -- sent around an e-mail yesterday noting that he has a signed book deal for a work called "Twenty-First Century Dad." I'm thrilled -- both that Jeremy has the deal and that we'll get a well-thought-out book on modern fatherhood.

The hard work of writing isn't yet done, though, and Jeremy is looking for a couple of at-home dads to talk to as he fleshes out the project:

I need to locate two more stay-at-home dads for interviews. The first should be someone who was thrown into a primary caregiving role by sudden unemployment or disability, and is struggling with his new role; the second should be a guy who stayed home with his kids for a few years, loved it, and has recently gone back to work. It would be ideal for the dads to be based in the Chicago or Boston areas, because I'll likely be visiting those places, but I can travel to other cities. Please, no dads in California.

If you can help, please do. Feel free to e-mail me if you're interested and I'll pass it along. (Jeremy -- if you feel OK sharing your e-mail, just leave it in the comments.)

Further Proof That College Guys Aren't Thinking Hard Enough

I've been paying attention lately to what the younger generation of men really thinks about at-home fatherhood and the slow erosion of gender roles, and I've been pretty optimistic. But it's clear that huge pockets of cluelessness still exist.

Exhibit One: This Stanford Daily column in praise of the idea of staying at home. I don't know if this guy is some kind of comedian or if he's staggering unaware of what parents actually *do* all day or if he's taking some kind of cheap shot at at-home dads or -- most likely -- all of the above.

Then again, it is a characteristic example of the kind of half-baked thinking that goes into 95 percent of all columns ever printed in college newspapers, and it serves as a refreshing reminder that college can make you smart, but not wise. Full disclsure: This is pot-kettle post. If you tried hard enough, I'm sure you could find some examples of shallow college thinking from me. (Sadly, I was writing in the early days of the interwebs, so simply Googling "cows with windows" isn't enough to bring up my brilliant column on the subject.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Happy Househusbands: Sex Objects?

This is just too rich to pass up. The fine folks at the Cambridge Women's Pornography Cooperative have released a book called Porn for Women. It includes 98 pages of men -- fully clothed -- doing housework. It has sparked all kinds of commentary on the nature of porn and housework and fantasy and gender roles, but I find the whole thing hysterical. And, hey, anything that reminds guys that vacuuming=nookie probably furthers the at-home dad cause ...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Another Nice Article with a Dumb Headline

The latest outlet to cover the at-home dad thing is AFP, the French wire service. They tried to get in touch with me, but in the chaos of vacation week, I missed the window. Still -- to the massive credit of the reporter, she did talk to Aaron Rochlen, the UT professor who just finished the at-home dad study, and she did get the up-to-date Census stat. My only hesitation? The headline: Mr Mom becoming more of a household name in US. Can we please lay the Mr. Mom thing to rest? Please?

Friday, April 06, 2007

New Census Numbers Circulating

Should have flagged that the New York Post was the first (that I've seen) to use the new at-home dad numbers in a story this week that focused on single parents. Actually, the single-parent thing is well worth noting. There are 2.5 million single dads (up from 2.1 a decade ago), which is a big number, no matter how you look at it. And yet the number of stories I've seen on those guys is way, way less than stories on at-home dads.

On the topic of numbers, I feel for Roger Anderson of the Racine Journal-Times who wrote a nice at-home dad profile last week, but led the story with the outdated numbers ...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Understanding the At-Home Dad

A couple of months ago, I posted a brief item on a survey being conducted by researchers at the University of Texas-Austin. The researchers promised to send along some of their findings, but I wasn't confident I'd ever hear back. So I was delightfully surprised to get a summary back yesterday. I've posted the text in full here, but I wanted to break out some of the results.

For starters, 213 of you took the time to fill out the survey (that doesn't count me, since I'm just too far removed from any definition of SAHD to be able to participate in good conscience).

It sounds like there was a lot of variation in the results, but -- on average -- you at-home dads are as happy (if not happier) than the average bear. Those of you who have good social support, who have confidence in your parenting skills, and who don't worry about adhering to traditional "male" norms and values are the most likely to be happy.

The final word from Aaron Rochlen, Ph.D., the professor who sent along the results:

Of course, these results are very interesting to us and will undoubtedly be a nice contribution to the (small) literature on stay-at-home dads and more broadly men and masculinity.  Some of the results may be surprising to you while others may see it all as “common sense.”  You may also think of your own pattern as fitting in with these results or not at all. In the paper, we will be commenting much more on the implications, limitations, and the need for more research on this topic.

My hope is that maybe you all can take a small piece of this study and think about how it fits (or doesn’t fit) into your unique situation.

But for now, I did want to share these results with everyone who participated. Again, I  thank everyone for participating and contributing to this area of research.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Educating Dads -- Or All Parents?

Working Dad stumbled across an interesting piece in the Washington Post about a NOW effort to ensure that women have access to programs funded through the $50 million Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Initiative.

This is sure to get some folks dander up. But I'm thrilled for two reasons:

1. I love the idea that women and men should be treated equally when it comes to resources and support for parenting. Just as I have no problem with letting women into men's playgroups (and vice versa) I see no reason why an effective parenthood program shouldn't be available to as many as possible.

2. I figure that the programs already established must be useful if NOW wants in. And that's got to be a good sign.

(I have to confess to a bit of ignorance on the fatherhood initiatives -- I still haven't gotten around to reading the cover story in the City Paper (DC's alternative weekly) on one such effort ...)

Monday, April 02, 2007

How NICHD Researchers Think About Dads

There has been a good deal of discussion out there on the latest data dump from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (which the government modestly calls "the largest, longest running, and most comprehensive study of child care in the United States"). It has been well-documented that the study defines child-care as including fathercare, which is -- for a number of reasons -- asinine.

So I was excited last week when I hear via the Wall Street Journal that this edition of the study included dads. But the press release seemed to contradict that. I was forced to actually pull the text of the study. And here is the scoop, as best I can tell ...

... the primary analysis of the study data lumps dads in as childcare. Those are the "rules" of the study, dumb though they might be. But in 2004, some guy named Marinus van IJzendoorn analyzed all the data and found that -- to the extent to which there are problems with childcare -- it's problems with nonrelative care. So the SECCYD researchers figured they'd run the numbers that way, too, to make confirm that care by dads (and grandma/grandpa/etc.) is somehow different than day care. That "secondary analysis" that separates "relative care" from "nonrelative care" is progress, I suppose.

Though I don't want to get caught in the trap of using the data to demonize certain choices, you can all rest assured that care by relatives (even dads!) isn't linked to screwed-up kids. Of course, no care choices are really linked to screwed up kids, but that doesn't make for very good headlines, does it?

School Vacation Week

I'll try to post as I am able, but having the little ones about means that time not given over to work is given over to the kids. The blog may bear the brunt of the time crunch.