Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's a Tough Market for Ex-SAHDs

MSNBC takes on the subject of at-home dads headed back to the paid workforce this week, making the point that re-entering the workforce is even harder for dads than it is for moms. Two general points here:

 1. Most of the hurdles the story talks about have to do with longstanding stereotypes about caregiving dads that are probably less and less true. Being out of the workforce screws up your prospects for employment, but I can't imagine that gender really adds much to the difficulty.
 2. MSNBC is about four years behind the Wall Street Journal, which took this on four years ago.

(Thanks to Paul at Working Dad for flagging.)

The End of the Bedlam

There are big goings on at the other blog I contribute to -- the washingtonpost.com has made
the decision to require registration for comments due to a notable drop in the already-low level of civility. If you've spent any time over there hacking around in the comment threads (which frequently grew to 400 comments a day), you'll know what I mean.

I kind of liked the bizarre community of anonymity and asinine flame wars that broke out there, even though I was frequently the target. But I think the general consensus has been that the nutty, anonymous folks have been driving away commenters (and guest bloggers) who would otherwise be contributing. Certainly, no one I know personally waded into that morass, despite the fact that I know a lot of pretty bright thinkers on work-life balance (including a lot of you).

So if you've been avoiding the On Balance fray because of the unhinged anonymous screaming, now is the time to jump in. I can't promise absolute niceness, but I suspect many of the trolls will end up elsewhere.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bad News?: Daddy Day Camp

Those of you with really long memories may remember that I was pretty happy with Daddy Day Care, the Eddie Murphy flick about two dads who go into the daycare biz. It wasn't exactly Kubrick but it wasn't bad for what it was.

But I have recently been warned that there is a sequel in the making -- Daddy Day Camp -- which looks pretty lousy. I don't intend to screen this one, so if you plop down your $9.50 next Friday, drop me a line and let me know how it is.

(Of course, I happen to believe that the summer camp genre pretty much peaked with Meatballs, which my parents required me to watch before I left for my first overnight camp and which was later taken as gospel on the best way to run a camp by my fellow counselors during my two years on camp staff.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Site That Couldn't Be Killed

I know that Google is all smart and stuff, but why-oh-why is slowlane.com still the number one result for "stay at home dad"? This is not about my personal quest for fame and glory -- I would not sob to see the Wikipedia entry or dadstayshome.com atop the list -- but I'm not sure it helps the cause of at-home fatherhood to have a dead site as the top entry.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

One More Community

In looking over my Google ads (over there, on the right, below the big SCHIP ad), I noticed that a site called daddydaily.com had popped up (it may or may not be there now). It bills itself as "the online community for fathers." I surfed around and didn't see much, but figured I'd let you all know that you can add that to the list of online communities that includes the more robust Dad Daily (not be confused with daddydaily) and DadStaysHome.

At-Home Dads and Divorce, Redux

I have been writing this blog for almost five years ("wood" is the traditional anniversary present), penning almost 1,000 posts in the process. And before this week, I'd used the word "divorce" a half-dozen times. But on Monday, I posted on blogger Penelope Trunk's marital woes, and today I want to flag a story in the Daily Mail (UK) which posits that at-home fatherhood is linked to an increase chance of divorce:

But are the couples who go down this domestic route sowing the seeds of marital disharmony? It seems that in many cases the rise of modern career women has had an unexpected - and disastrous - knock-on effect on many husbands who assume the traditionally 'female' role.
The stats the article cites don't seem all that solid, and with the divorce rate running at 40 percent, give or take, there's plenty of room for all kinds of dysfunctional marriages. But let me reiterate what I said on Monday -- there are no magic solutions that will guarantee happiness, nor are there family setups that are doomed to fail. Each individual is different. Your mileage may vary.

At-home fatherhood isn't for everyone, and it can be a strain (as can kids or jobs or in-laws or a hundred thousand other things), especially if both partners haven't signed on completely.
But to suggest that men staying home (and its corollary -- women working) is a disaster-in-waiting is both unsubstantiated and sexist. Trust me, the divorce rate would not improve if we just got more men back in the workforce and more women out of it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Absolute Weirdest Effort to Find Larger Meaning in Harry Potter

Glenn Sacks -- consistent, passionate and frequently misguided defender of all things "father" -- has penned a very odd piece suggesting that the new Harry Potter book stupidly glorifies fathers who put the wife and kids above all. I can't say I entirely grok what Sacks is so worked up about, but I felt I should pass along because this is among stranger pieces of Potter analysis out there.

Harry Potter and Deadbeat Dads (probably has some spoilers ... I haven't made it to book 8 or seen the movies ... consider yourself forewarned) also bashes Tony Blair.

Man of the House Profile

One of the rebeldad.com services is the posting of any profile I see of at-home dads, so I wanted to forward along this one. Nothing earth-shattering:

Dave does the cooking. “We barbecue a lot. Sharon cooks on weekends. I do the laundry, and I’m very particular about it. I also do all the grocery shopping. I look for bargains and clip coupons. When Sharon goes grocery shopping, she just throws stuff in the cart. She doesn’t look at prices or the nutrition labels. I also do all the doctor appointments. I’m well known at the doctor’s office.”
Napa Valley Register | Man of the house

Monday, July 23, 2007

The "Myth" of the Stay-At-Home Dad

Jason from Daddy in a Strange Land was nice enough to forward me on the latest latest blog entries by the always interesting Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk. It was titled, provocatively "My own marriage and the myth of the stay-at-home dad," and it detailed how her husband's shift to at-home fatherhood may have accelerated the troubles in her marriage.

She suggests that the great "myth" of at-home fatherhood is that the really happy at-home dads are the ones who are secretly or not-so-secretly doing some part-time work. This is not entirely untrue: it was case for me when I was doing the SAHD thing, and I can list a number of at-home dads who do substantial nonprofit work or write or maintain servers or whatnot. But full-time fatherhood is *not* a one-way trip to divorce court. (And, indeed, the University of Texas data appears backs me up.)

In every marriage -- no matter how the wage-earning and child-rearing is split up -- there has to be a premium on doing what makes you happy. At-home fatherhood can't just be a choice that looks good on paper. It can't be only because "it'll be good for the kids." It has to be a move that both mom and dad are enthusiastic about. And the same goes for at-home motherhood (or any other family choice for that matter).

Penelope notes her discomfort that her husband has described himself (accurately, apparently) as a SAHD on his LinkedIn page. A family that views at-home fatherhood as something objectionable or shameful might not be ready for SAHD-dom. I always got a kick out of describing myself as an at-home dad, and I've purposely refused to update my information in my college directory, where I had myself listed as a homemaker. Different strokes ...

I'm sorry to hear that Penelope's family is struggling because of the some of the roles (and that they may not be the only family with at-home dads that feels the same way). And while I object to the idea that at-home fatherhood is somehow a risk factor for divorce, it's not a silver bullet, either -- it's just another (under-used) choice in figuring out the work-life thing.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Digging in the Census Stats Again

Back in the go-go 1990s, the U.S. Census Bureau had the number of at-home dads pegged at around 2 million. They did this by a pretty simple metric: they looked at full-time working moms and asked them who was minding the kids. Then, a few years ago, they turned to my much maligned (by me, anyway) technique of using labor stats to figure this all out, and the number of at-home dads dropped by a factor of 20. But I digress.

The 2 million figure was gathered by pulling numbers from a Census tool called the Survey of Income and Program Participation, or SIPP. But as best I have been able to tell, though SIPP continues, no one has bothered looking at that data in a few years. And I do not have the time to muck around with oodles of raw demographic data. So I assumed that there was no way to tell -- based on the SIPP data -- if at-home dad numbers are growing or not.

But yesterday, I stumbled into this chart, which shows SIPP data through 2005 (yay!). In the interest of full disclosure, however, it doesn't show much of an increase in the number of dads who are primary caretakers over the past 20 years. This seems to fly in the face of all of the other evidence I've seen, and I'm wondering if anyone smarter than I knows if there's any reason this SIPP information would tend to miss the rising number of dads doing the primary caretaker thing.

(Further adding to my confusion is that I can't get the new SIPP numbers to sync up with the SIPP numbers from this 2003 Census report or the 1997 Census report. It seems like we should be talking apples-to-apples, so I don't know why the numbers are all over the place.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How Pew Got It Wrong

Last week, there was a mini-explosion in stories about the largely fictitious "mommy wars," pegged to a new report from the Pew Research Center. The findings, put bluntly, showed that over the past 10 years, mothers who work outside of the home became much more convinced that part-time work -- not the full-time grind -- was the ideal solution. (At-home moms became even more convinced that at-home motherhood is the goal to strive for.)

In the Pew data dump, dads were not entirely ignored, but there was clearly less interest in us. We found out, for instance, that 72 percent of dads see full-time work as the best option (though no comparison was given to 1997), with 16 percent saying not working would be ideal. We also learned that a full 21 percent of America apparently believes that dads staying home with the kids is a bad thing. (38 percent don't have an opinion either way, 36 percent see it as a good thing. That's pretty much the same as 1997. This is disturbing, and I really can't think of a rational explanation.)

That's about it when it comes to data. And that lack of data is unfortunate.

But what really ticks me off about the whole thing is that pretty much all the questions assume that there are only three family models, none of which take into account fathers:
Q38: In general, what is the ideal situation for CHILDREN—mothers working full-time, mothers working parttime, or mothers not working at all outside the home?
This is asinine. It assumes there is no room for father involvement. It assumes the working status of dads means absolutely nothing. It assumes that child care is solely a mother issue. This is the worst possible assumption to perpetuate if we seriously want to get to a point where we can think about childrearing as a gender-neutral thing.

I have all sorts of other issues with the survey, some of which are highlighted by Ellen Galinsky in this Washington Post story, and some of which are highlighted by mommy warriors Hirshman and Bennetts in this AP piece. But I'll leave that to the experts.

Hey You! You on the Beach!

A reporter from a national publication asked me today if I knew any at-home dads who spend the summer at a vacation home of some sort where mom comes out to join the family on the weekends. I, sadly, do not live such a life nor does anyone in my inner circle, but I'm hoping one of you does (or knows someone who does). If you fit the bill, please drop me an e-mail ASAP at rebeldad@gmail.com.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

DUmb Television Alert

The good news about the American populace is that, lately, they have done a pretty good job of effectively avoiding television shows based on really dumb and outmoded gender stereotypes* (remember NBC's "Meet Mr. Mom"? I didn't think so).

So I fervently hope that Fox's entry into the dumb-and-outmoded-gender-stereotype show, When Women Rule the World, is an unambiguous failure. It is offensive on so many different levels that I can't even hope to delve into them all.

(Thanks for Feministing for the heads-up.)

(I am back in the saddle. More posting to come. Lots to talk about.)

* More subtle gender stereotypes are still in ample supply, unfortunately.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Getting Men from the Very Beginning

This has been a bit of a nutty week -- and it's concluding with a mini-vacation -- so don't expect the posting to pick back up until Monday. In the meantime, though, I wanted to pass along a nifty link about the UNFPA calling on men to take responsibility for maternal health.

Cool by me!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Dadstock '07

I mentioned last month that there was an at-home dad get-together brewing in the Midwest ... Dadstock! A lot of the guys from DadStaysHome.com showed up, plus some other dads in the market for an afternoon of chainsawing, BBQing and beer-drinking. Howard Ludwig has the scoop in the Daily Southtown. The guy behind it, Darth Daddy/Todd Krater is thinking this might make for a good annual event:

Krater hopes Dadstock will become an annual event. He plans to host the party next year and is trying to coordinate with other stay-at-home dads throughout the country to do the same, on the same day.

This way, Krater could host Dadstock in Chicago while someone else hosted Dadstock in New York or San Francisco or wherever.

Sounds great. Count me in for '08.

Who Is In Charge at Home?

A press release about a study that finds wives have greater power in marriage problem-solving behavior landed in my e-box this morning, and I'm still trying to puzzle through what -- if anything -- this says about modern marriage. But it's interesting, and I wanted to pass it along.

The upshot is that researchers found that when it comes to addressing issues at home, women are the more dominant partner (which ran contrary to what the researchers expected). The researchers didn't have a good hypothesis for why they saw the power imbalance, and the press release, anyway, didn't break down the demographics enough to give a good feeling for whether some groups are more likely to see one partner take control. As always, I'd be curious to see whether work patterns had any effect.

At a minimum, I'm thrilled to see the researcher's initial hypothesis -- of male control over all aspects of the household -- was rejected.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thursday Cross-Promotion: FMLA

I have my thoughts a bit more in order on FMLA, which is the subject of my post today at On Balance. Naturally, the commenters are already off on strange pet-related tangents.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Cold Shoulder: It's Not (Just) a Guy Thing

Time Out New York Kids' advice columnist this month takes on one of the biggest at-home dad bugaboos:

DEAR ANTONIA:I’m a stay-at-home dad with a four-year-old daughter. Every time I ask one of her friends’ moms to drop her kid off at our place, I’m turned down. Is it because I’m a guy?

This is probably the most often-heard specific complaint from at-home dads, so I was curious as to how a presumably professional advice columnist (and woman) would handle it. As it turns out, Antonia thinks it probably has little to do with the usual assumptions and more to do with the fact that we're all jittery around parents we don't know: "But I’ll let you in on a secret: Women do it to each other, too. Distrust of other parents isn’t gender specific."

I'm inclined to think this way, too -- that guys tend not to get the cold shoulder at the playground because they're guys, but for some other reason. But I'm happy to take dissenting views in the comments.

Monday, July 02, 2007


June was a wild month for me (the sixth in a row, if you're counting), and there's some blog maintainance that has been sorely lacking. So I've made some time and corrected some of the problems:

1. The blogroll at right should be almost complete. I think one request slipped through the cracks (sorry Stephen ... I'll add you soonest), but all the rest should be there. If you're not there and should be, let me know. I've also done some pruning of dead blogs. If you've suddenly disappeared from the site but are actually still alive and blogging, let me know.

2. I pulled down my advertising link about a month ago because it seemed to be breaking the page. It's up there now. If you want to advertise, I've cut my rates to make up for my hiatus. Operators are standing by. (Alternatively, feel free to buy something if you'd like to support the site.)

3. Some of you noticed that the navigation links at the top of the page were broken from certain points in the site. I think that's resolved now. Apologies for the delay in fixing.

4. Finally, I'm sure you've noticed that I've put in a scrolling widget with headlines from my side project at washingtonpost.com, On Balance. I'm not entirely sure how useful it is, but it's there in the spirit of cross-promotion.

* If there are other problems, please drop me a line. I'm doing my best to keep things useable ...

FMLA: Safer than I Thought?

You may remember back in December, the Department of Labor said they were soliciting comments on the Family and Medical Leave Act, and I suggested that all of you whose bacon was saved by the law (or whose lives were made more complicated by its narrow scope) to let the Feds know. As it turns out, 15,000 of you (and some business interests, too) took the time to write DOL . The government has synthesized those comments into a mammoth document: FMLA: A Report on the Request for Information.

Initial coverage has been positive and has positioned the report as a validation of the 1993 law. Advocates for sensible leave policies still seem wary.

More in On Balance on Thursday as I try to figure out whether I should be happy or worried.