Saturday, September 29, 2007

I'm Banning Celeb News As of Right Now

My absolute favorite turn-of-phrase in Linda Hirshman's brilliant-though-misguided manifesto, Get to Work ... And Get a Life Before It's Too Late, is her description of at-home fatherhood as a "sham refuge for scoundrels from the elite." It cracked me up to think that I used to be such a scoundrel.

Though she doesn't develop the point, it's pretty clear that she does not believe that rich and famous fathers who declare they will take time off to be with the kids are a representative sample of any emerging fatherhood movement. And you know what? On this point, she has a decent argument.

Tom Brady's much-publicized struggle over whether to take some time off football to spend with his new little one lasted ... um ... exactly until the first preseason game of the year. Peter Baylies at noted last week that Michael Douglas is still out there doing what's he's been doing for years: bragging about his status as a full-time father, despite cranking out three films in the last two years, plus a screenplay, plus a movie in production. Jerry Seinfeld is riffing on fatherhood, too (though not in a particularly positive way), Peter points out, and Richard Gere wants to talk parenting, too.

Don't get me wrong: I love that these guys are out there being public about their role as fathers, and I have no doubt that in workaholic Hollywood, they are indeed great role models. But I want to give credit where credit is due. There are a lot of guys doing the real, gritty SAHD work, who are sacrificing present and future earnings to be at home with the kids 12 months a year, with no breaks for shooting.

At-home fatherhood is no sham, and it's no refuge for most of the 2 million guys who have taken on the responsibilities, and it drives me more than a little nuts to think that Hirshman (and others, no doubt), see the model of at-home fatherhood as less Philip Williams and more Gordon Gekko.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Convention Reminder

If you're headed to the At-Home Dad Convention, get your registration postmarked by October 1 (that's Monday!) to get the early-bird rate.

Vaccines, Cognitive Function, and Fathers

If you're into the whole are-vaccines-liked-to-cognitive-problems, you're probably already heard that researchers writing New England Journal of Medicine today offered their take: "Our study does not support a causal association between early exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immune globulins and deficits in neuropsychological functioning at the age of 7 to 10 years."

This is obviously not usually a forum to discuss epidemiology (though a subject near and dear to my heart), and I wanted to flag the study for one other reason, which was brought to my attention by a sharp-eyed erstwhile colleague of mine. In the methods section, the researchers noted that kids were not to have been given ADHD drugs before they were assessed. Except that's not exactly how they put it:
Mothers were asked to refrain from giving children selected prescription medicines for attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) the day before testing. [emph. mine]
I am sure the medical literature is riddled with this sort of thing, and I miss examples all the time. Still: shouldn't researchers -- of all people -- concede that some times, in some families, it's dad who dispenses the meds?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lucky Layoffs

I would never wish a layoff on anyone. It has happened to me exactly once in my life, and I was absolutely gobsmacked. But I have to flag the story -- from today's On Balance -- about a guy who was able to make lemonade from the experience by being the at-home dad for a while:
Then, boom it happened. I started sitting with him while he did his homework rather than just reviewing what was completed in aftercare. We started going to the school gym in the afternoon to practice basketball -- his favorite sport in all the world. I even talked him into a few trips to the golf driving range -- Dad's favorite sport in all the world. When school ended, things got even better -- a trip to Chicago to visit friends, my coaching his summer league basketball team, and going on the team's trip to Florida. However, the best part was just hanging out and really getting to know each other. He watched me play video games so he could copy my strategy. He caught on that my discipline really gets tougher each year and that compliance is the ONLY option. I never figured out why he wears socks to bed...every night.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Calling!

Holy crap! This is what I should be doing with my life. I'm great at telling people how they could be better parents.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Today's Dumb Story asks if a "glass ceiling" exists for men in professions that have historically been dominated by women:
But what about the men who succeed in what tend to be female-dominated careers, including nursing, travel, marketing, and childcare? Is there such a thing as a reverse glass ceiling for men?
Though the story throws in some anecdotes and uses some quotes from some marginal "experts," it seems to confuse being a minority (by gender) with discrimination. At its root, it implies a connection between numbers and degree of discrimination, which is really dumb. Glass ceilings have to do with attitudes, not size. I'm sure there are plenty of companies with a fairly balanced male/female ratio that still have substantial glass ceilings. And just because there are fewer -- for example -- men in childcare positions doesn't mean its a terrible row to hoe ...

Because Trump's Opinion is Important

Donald Trump, seeking to leave no stone unturned in his quest to opine on every subject known to man, has now offered his opinion on at-home fathers:
I’m impressed with these men and with their patience and dedication to their families, but I don’t think I could do what they do. I love my children but really like the world of business. I’d miss being in the middle of big-time deals too much if I gave up the boardroom for the playroom.
He loses points for the using the phrase "Mr. Mom" but gains points for cracking me up ...

(via the venerable Peter Baylies, who is posting like a madman of late.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cross-Promotion: My Issue with "Parenting" Magazines

I take on the ridiculous mommy-centrism of the parenting magazines today in On Balance:
Inevitably, reading through the issues, my blood pressure would rise. Even leaving aside the "beauty tips," nearly every article was explicitly targeted at moms, with story after story filled with "mom tips" or "mom advice" or "a real mom's story." It was as if half of the parents just didn't exist.
Not surprisingly, I'm getting a lot of pushback in the comments from readers who say that because women -- mostly -- buy these magazines, *of course* they get explicitly targeted. I want to be realistic. If this is a pure pander, and these magazines are purposefully ignoring dads (or worse, subtly undermining us) to capture women who are looking for a snooty, just-us-moms attitude, then the problem with these mags is actually waaaaaay worse than I've made it out to be.

But I think it's mostly old, bad habits, assuming that parenthood=motherhood, and that panding has little to do with it. Sports Illustrated, no doubt, has a mostly male readership, but that publication rarely addresses its articles to "you guys out there" to pander to their XY-dominant subscriber base. If SI can write about boxing in a gender-neutral way, why can't Parenting do the same for parenting?

The Secret of the Balanced Mom? An Involved Dad

Back in the 1980s, there was a lot of attention paid the idea of the supermom: a woman who could work full time and be the point person at home and be generally happy. By the end of that decade, the idea of "having it all" had been thoroughly rejected, like legwarmers and neon windbreakers. But the supermom meme never really died, and it's been reincarnated a lot lately, as the media talks about how a modern generation of moms is trying to do it all. All of these stories try to differentiate the apparently in-control 00s moms from the harried 80s moms. Inevitably, they talk about flextime. But they also talk about ... drumroll ... how fathers can contribute!

The best example of this is the US News and World Report Story, titled "The New Mommy Track," which has as its subtitle: "More mothers win flextime at work, and hubbies' help (really!) at home."

I'll give them a pass on the parenthetical (and the fact that they don't go into much depth on dads). But I am thrilled that the press has finally figured out that the best way of boosting your odds of having a workable work-life balance is to make sure you have an equal partner in marriage:

While balancing work and family is never simple, Goodman and others who have studied the issue say mothers can increase their chances of getting onto this new mommy track by choosing certain careers, partners, and companies.

There you have it. The key to work-life balance, no matter your gender, is a partner who is on board.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More Research

This came across the transom today. Looks legit (IRB information, etc.), for those of you who have felt that not all of these requests are detailed enough:

Looking for participants to share their opinions and experiences on what it is like to be a stay-at-home dad.

Participants must fit the following criteria:

1.) have spent more than six months at home with their child or children;
2) work less than a full-time job or not at all;
3.) are the primary caregiver of their child or children.

Participants would be interviewed either face-to-face or over the phone. The interview would be held at the convenience of the respondent, and personal identity (and family) would be kept confidential. The interview will most likely last between 1-2 hours, but it can be shorter as well. The project has been approved by the Assumption College's Institutional Review Board (IRB), which is the College’s committee that ensures research is ethically sound. The IRB Chair is Amy Gazin-Schwartz, Ph.D. She can be reached at: 508-767-7224 or

Contacting other stay-at-home fathers about this project is appreciated as well.

Those interested in this research may contact the Principle Investigator, Steven Farough, Ph.D., by phone or email.

Steven D. Farough, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Sociology
Assumption College
500 Salisbury St.
Worcester, MA 01609

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why Beer Commercials are Increasingly Silly

Really interesting take on why the fascinating with the lovable, slacker, stuck-in-his-youth guy is increasingly untenable by Lakshmi Chaudhry from In These Times:
These pop culture images are all the more striking because they directly contradict the experiences of men in the real world. Women may still bear the greater burden of domestic work, but American males today do more at home than their fathers, and are happy doing it. According to the Families and Work Institute, the percentage of college-educated men who said they wanted to move into jobs with more responsibility fell from 68 percent to 52 percent between 1992 and 2002. A Radcliffe Public Policy Center report released in 2000 found that 70 percent of men between the ages of 21 to 39 were willing to sacrifice pay and lose promotions in exchange for a work schedule that allowed them to spend more time with their families.
Food for thought while I get my act together for more in-depth posting.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Marriage of Equal=Better Sex

I've been saying this for *years* (including a recent stab at the topic). But now we seem to be in genuine media trend territory. From CBS News ( Men: Want More Sex? Do The Laundry!):

I think we'll see more and more guys grab brooms, irons, and rags, and get to work. They'll reason that if some help will yield one more time a month, just think how much more sex a lot of housework will yield. We might even get to a point that women will ask men to do less around the house. In other words, someday we might see the old cliche change to, 'Please honey, don't do the dishes tonight. I've got a headache.'

Ahhhhh ... to live in such a world.

(Via Feministing)

Dads: Guardians of the Waistline

One more way that involved dads make a difference: dads who are aren't engaged in the whole parenting thing are most likely to have overweight kids:
"This study of a large cross-section of Australian pre-schoolers has, for the first time, suggested that fathers could be at the frontline in preventing early childhood obesity," associate professor Melissa Wake, who worked on the study, said in a written statement. "...It is timely to look at the parenting roles of both parents and the impact they have on a child's tendency to be overweight or obese."
I haven't really dug around in the stats, but this is one more piece of evidence that argues -- at a minimum -- for keeping as close an eye on dads in research on kids as we do on moms.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 Update

You guys may remember that a year and a half ago, in the midst of one of the annual "mommy wars" media blitz, I offered up an definition of the term "daddy wars" in an effort to make sure that future intrepid, Google-searching trend reporters would come on our definition first.

I also registered the site But time constraints being what they are, I just couldn't find a way to develop the site, so I gave it to the guys. It is now redirecting over there, and if you haven't stopped by in a while, it's worth a look. The community growth there appears to really be accelerating.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Kansas City, Here We Come

Thanks to Doug from Denver for pulling this together. I expect that if you were on the fence before you saw this, you should now be printing out the pre-registration form for the At-Home Dad Convention.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Details Mag: Kids as the Ultimate Status Symbol

As much as I might like to ding the trend-spotters at the New York Times and elsewhere that love to blow up their personal observations into Major Cultural Watersheds, you have to get up pretty early to out-silly the glossy magazines. A rule of thumb: the more advertising you have to flip through to get to the table of contents, the more vapid the analyses.

Case in point: Details has taken on what it calls Fatherhood 2.0, with a whole package on being daddy. Much of it is clearly aimed at rich, dumb guys with poor self-esteem. The lead story in the package is about how huge broods are now the ultimate status symbol, and though they get bonus points for throwing at at-home dad in there (who manages to support none of the article's points, which is a good thing), it's largely a work of fiction.

The package goes on to suggest picking schools based on your ability to make good social connections and talking up your family -- to a point -- to better climb the corporate ladder. (This last point is actually backed up by good data. It is one of the more frustrating facts about gender equity that while parenthood does terrible things to the perception of women in the workplace, it boosts the prospects of fathers.) And there is a story -- not included online -- that makes the tired, anti-Alternadad point that we are no hipper than our own fathers, even if we're putting Ramones T-shirts on our kids.

All of this misses the point in a huge way. Kids themselves are not the status symbols. It's the ability spending time with the kids that leads to the boost in status.  Trust me, the marketers are figuring this out. And the get-over-yourself commentary on hip dads also shows a failure to understand what the whole hip dad trend is about: we have a generation of men who are playing a larger role than ever in fatherhood, so the question of how to maintain our identity through that is not just some parlor game. What's remarkable about Neil Pollack is not that he's occassionally high around his kid. It's that he's around his kid, period. *That's* Fatherhood 2.0.

(I should probably note that Details is alone among national publications over the past few years in sending a reporter to cover at the At-Home Dad Convention. While the article didn't win any NMAs, they do get credit for showing up.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Changing Tables in Mens Rooms

We've come a long way, but Howard Ludwig's latest column is a reminder that we still have some distance to go ...
There's nothing politically correct about wanting to change a baby on a clean, comfortable table. It's just the right thing to do.
(If you are in NYC, of course, you could check the Daddy Types mens-room-changing-table map, though -- like my playgroup map -- it's currently on the fritz.)

[UPDATE: Thanks to Greg's decision to actually look up why the maps weren't working, both his map -- and mine -- are now up and running. Happy changing.]

The Age of the Alpha Mom - US News and World Report

U.S. News and World Report, rather than finding new trends, is now just recycling them. This week's retread? Alpha Moms, which appears to be a revival of the silly "superwoman" meme of the 1980s. But that's not what caught my eye. Here's the key paragraph:

The Leo Burnett advertising agency first noticed the group in 1999. It labeled them "mothers of invention," after their reliance on hands-on husbands, flexible work schedules, and new technology to successfully combine motherhood and work. At the time, they made up about one quarter of mothers; the agency says the percentage is probably significantly higher today. (emp. mine)
I really have no idea what to make of that, other to think it somewhat sad that it is only recently, and only in a subset of moms, that "hands-on husbands" play into the balance equation.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Due to an unforeseen, mushroom-induced mini-crisis, I've been distracted and unable to post. Should be rectified shortly -- posts should begin flowing again as early as tomorrow a.m.
-- Brian