Thursday, December 20, 2007

In Defense of "Mr. Mom"

Jeremy Adam Smith screened "Mr. Mom" to see what all the bile was about. Instead, he gives the movie close to a rave review. ("... it marks a cultural watershed: the stay-at-home dad was now a part of the landscape—-as a real option," Jeremy writes.) Read the post: it's a worthwhile contrarian take.

(For the record, I believe that the movie, "Mr. Mom," taken in its entirety, is not a terrible, anti-dad movie. But as I've said before, the term "Mr. Mom" now has a life of its own as something close to a pejorative. This is partly as a result of people misremembering the movie. At the next family gathering, ask your brother-in-law to summarize "Mr. Mom." I'll bet you a case of beer that he remembers the bumbling, not the uplifting stuff at the end.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"At-Home Dad" Stigma Is All Relative

Dave Munger over at Cognitive Daily conducted a most interesting experiment a couple of weeks ago after being a bit worried that NPR's decision to refer to him as "a science blogger and stay-at-home dad" would dent his authority. He gave visitors to his site a reading comprehension tests, with each visitor getting one of four versions of the same story. The only difference between the four stories was the way the protagonist (a was identified. In one version, "Jordan" was referred to as a "father," another version call him a "stay-at-home father," one called the subject a "mother," and the final version used "stay-at-home mother."

The twist: the test then asked how many hours Jordan worked a week as "coordinator of natural disaster relief efforts for ReliefCorps International" (a fictitious web-based relief group).

The results:
... readers guessed that "father" Jordan worked significantly more hours per week than when Jordan was characterized as a "stay-at-home father," a "mother," or a "stay-at-home mother." The story made no mention of Jordan's working hours, just a description of the organization Jordan was a part of.

There was no significant difference between estimated work hours for stay-at-home fathers versus mothers, but stay-at-home mothers were seen as working significantly less than both mothers and stay-at-home fathers. "Fathers" were estimated to work a full six hours per week more than "stay-at-home mothers."

Does this mean our readers think stay-at-home parents aren't as good at their jobs as other parents? We can't say that based on this data. Perhaps they believe that stay-at-home parents are simply more efficient. Perhaps they think that stay-at-home parents have made a conscious decision to work fewer hours, possibly for lower pay than other workers.


I do think there's a clearer case for gender bias in our responses. Why would respondents believe that women, regardless of their parenting status, work fewer hours than men, when all other aspects of the story are identical? I'm having a difficult time coming up with an answer other than gender bias.

Ultimately, based on these results, it appears that whatever stigma I felt by being labeled as a "stay-at-home" parent may be roughly equal to the bias a woman encounters every day, just for being a woman.

Not sure what to make of this, but it does give me less faith that a gender-blind utopia is right around the corner ...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why the 'Daddy Wars' Are a Good Thing

Devra Renner over at DC Metro Moms read the same USA Today story as I did last week. And while I was pretty happy with the way that the story went down (the 12-word summary: "Dads are using workplace policies more aggressively to be with their kids"), Devra says the piece made her want to vomit.

The weird thing is, we both liked the underlying message about dads becoming more family focused. But Devra got all hung up on the phrase "Daddy Wars." As the inventor and chief defender of the phrase*, I beg to differ. Devra immediately assumes that "daddy wars" will have a meaning analogous to the wicked-dumb, parent-vs-parent "mommy wars" trope, but the USA Today piece uses the preferred definition:
"The Daddy Wars are definitely there, especially between management and employee," says J.T. O'Donnell, a workplace consultant in North Hampton, N.H. (emphasis mine)
Devra doesn't like the "battle" metaphor (she'd prefer we call it "sociological, economical and psychological argument for accommodation for family needs and workplace flexibility" -- or SEAPAFAFFNAWF, for short -- which doesn't have the same ring to me), but this is a fight/battle/war against a system that hasn't changed nearly as much as the workforce has. Just as we all fought for our right to party two decades ago, it's time to fight for our right to telecommute.

(In all fairness, Devra also calls from some cross-gender unity, wondering why this is only an issue now because dads are involved. And she has a point. But let's face it -- men are the laggards here and generally the obstacles to progress. If a critical mass of guys get hip to actually taking work-life balance seriously, there will be a seismic shift in the way everyone looks at "work".)

* Not entirely true, but humor me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winning the War Over 'Daddy Wars'

There's a great USA Today story from yesterday on the new working dad and his desire to spend more time with the family. Well worth the read for that reason alone.

But -- also importantly -- USA Today uses the term "daddy wars" correctly. As some of you know, I've been waging a years-long battle to define "daddy wars" as:
The growing conflict between parents -- primarily fathers -- and their employers over flexible and varied work options that allow for more precise work-life balance. This conflict will be fueled by an increasing awareness that knowledge workers, with access to modern technology, are no longer bound by traditional working standards. More and more workers -- able to work at any time from anywhere -- will seek arrangements that allow them to maximize family time. But it won't solely be the always-on crowd that is fighting. As more and more men seek to make parenthood a central part of their life, fathers of all stripes will ask for innovate workplace solutions. (, March 21, 2006)
This arose out of my frustration with the phrase "mommy wars," which pits go-to-work mom against at-home mom in a conflict that does not actually exist. I didn't want the phrase "daddy wars" to set up the same conflict in folks with a Y chromosome. So I'm thrilled to hear USA Today say that ...
As dads demand paternity leave, flexible work schedules, telecommuting and other new benefits, they've ignited what workplace specialists are calling the Daddy Wars.
Remember, you heard it hear first.

(As an additional plug, redirects to, which is a darn fine SAHD community site.)

Visitor Logs Say The Darnest Things

Pawing through my web stats, I noticed that someone had arrived here by typing why stay at home dads are bad* into Google. Thinking that a weird thing to ask Google about, I drilled down a bit more. Turns out the click came from the Tennessee Board of Regents. I don't know why, but I found that pretty funny.

* It is with a mixture of pride and confusion that I should note that I'm the number-one ranked site for the query.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Getting to Revolution

Dana Glazer, who is putting together what can only turn out to be a kick-ass documentary on fathers (called Evolution of Dad), put up a new video clip over the weekend. It's three-minute snippet of Michael Kimmel talking about where young men are with work-life balance, where they've been, and where they're going. It all rings true to me:

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Handful of the Small Items I Haven't Gotten Around To

  • Huffington Post has declared that the up-and-coming generation of whippersnappers may finally demand -- and get -- equal footing at home with regard to gender roles. I have the same hope, but a bit less starry-eyed optism:
"These women would also be happy working part time and splitting childcare more evenly with spouses. This younger generation expects both men and women to be involved in parenting. Even without the guarantee of a top salary, most of the women expect to share childrearing and return to the labor force. This home formula may be the key to the gender revolution that stalled at the threshold of the family door. "

  • The WSJ Juggle blog, however, notes that working women remain targets of the academics, pointing to a paper that shows men with working wives are on the fast track to ill health. I can't possibly get into all of the flaws with the research (or the assumptions) here ...
  • The Wisconsin State Journal runs a nice look at the local stay-at-home dad population. SAHDS are everywhere.
  • A New York Times reporter pulling daddy duty has his NPR interview stolen by his two-year old. Made me smile. (Thanks, Keith)
  • Thursday, December 06, 2007

    Dear Abby Warns At-Home Mom of the SAHD Charms

    Let's be clear about one thing: while parts of "Little Children" was close to the mark, the whole, central, at-home-mom-and-at-home-dad-have-torrid-affair-out-of-boredom plotline was exceedingly far-fetched. Maybe I live a sheltered life, but there ain't a lot of extramarital playground smooching going on where I come from.

    So I was a bit surprised when "Dear Abby" warned an at-home mom that that awkward feeling she gets around a certain at-home dad was a Danger, Will Robinson kind of feeling:
    DEAR ABBY: I am a stay-at-home mother with three young children. I have become friends with another stay-at-home parent. We share many things in common, and our children are great playmates. The problem is, my friend is a man.

    Even though both of us are happily married, sometimes we feel awkward spending time together. Our spouses are not thrilled about us hanging out together, but they haven't forbidden it because they trust us to be faithful.

    Is it appropriate for a man and a woman to spend time together while their spouses are at work? – AT HOME WITH ANOTHER WOMAN'S HUSBAND

    DEAR AT HOME: It depends upon the individuals involved and whether there is a physical attraction. In your case, because you "sometimes feel awkward spending time together," I suggest you limit it – because what you're feeling may be sexual tension.

    Has it occurred to you to include other stay-at-home parents in these visits? That might be a way to diffuse the situation without ending the friendship.
    Maybe I've retained the delightful naiveté that kept me from dating much before I was 16, but is there really that much sexual tension running through co-ed playdates?

    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    A Response from Hogan

    Yesterday, I flagged a new book by Hogan Hilling and co-author Jesse Jayne Rutherford called The Modern Mom's Guide to Dads. And while I gave the caveat that a) I hadn't read the book and b) I tend to agree with most of what Hogan says, I did ding him a bit for apparently putting supermoms in the crosshairs (one chapter is titled "We Don't Want You to be Supermom"). Here's what the OC Register piece said:
    Yet, Hilling says, fathers had complaints about their wives, too: Moms “hog” much of the infant caregiving duties, such as diapering and feeding, criticizing their husbands' attempts as not good enough ...
    This reminded me of reverse "momblocking" (one of the dumbest and least-connected-to-reality ideas to enter the lexicon in 2007), and that sets my hair on end.

    Hogan called me on my lack of a comprehensive take on his book, and he was gracious enough to let me share his e-mail with you:

    However, I have to be honest with you. I was a little disappointed by two of your comments. “I'm not sure I'll agree with everything he has to say” and “epidemic of supermoms”.

    I understand that you may have based the comments on the article you read. Nevertheless, I thought it was premature of you to make these comments without having read the book.

    The purpose of writing the book was not to persuade the reader to agree with what my co-author and I wrote. BTW, my co-author, Jesse, deserves a tremendous amount of credit. I couldn't have done it without her. She did most of the writing. I provided all the content. I was trully blessed to find her.

    The purpose of the book is to let moms know how dads really feel and give them a better understanding of the issues and challenges their husbands face as dads. And more importantly about bridging the communication gap between moms and dads.

    There is no preaching in the book. And I do not indoctrinate any type of parenting philosophy.

    I also never wrote that there was “an epidemic of supermoms.” I noted what some dads have shared with me about their wives‘ futile attempts to be a “supermom.” There is also a chapter about Superdads in the book.

    Not every dad feels or has concerns about every issue I address in the book.

    One dad may not be experiencing the “supermom” issue but he may be struggling with his fear of becoming like his abusive and neglectful father.

    One dad maybe confident in his ability to care for a child but he maybe struggling to balance work and family.

    Another dad may have a great marriage (and sex) :-) with his wife but he may be struggling in bonding with the baby. So on and so on.

    Each dad is different and handles the issues and challenges differently. And the degree to which each dad struggles with those issues is also different.

    The fathering issues Jesse and I wrote about are universal.

    Updated Stay-At-Home Dad Statistics

    Though I've been dutifully reporting, via posts, the latest from the Census Bureau and others on the current SAHD statistics, it's been some time since I updated the stay-at-home dad statistics page here. I did some work last night, and it should be more or less up to date now.

    The at-home dad stats page is one of the most popular on the site, so I should probably offer the standard disclaimer here: I don't believe there is any particularly great set of numbers for quantifying at-home fathers. The "official" numbers exclude so many fathers as to be nearly useless, and other measures -- while providing numbers that are probably closer to reality -- are flawed in their own ways. Colloquially, "2 million" seems to be the most plausible number for men who are primary caretakers, a number that would grow significantly if we added in single dads, part-time workers, etc.

    As always, I am looking for more numbers to talk about, so please flag any omissions you may find.

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Getting Even More Social

    It's now a monthly occurrence: a new "social networking" site shows up aimed at parents, or, more specifically, dads. The latest (still in beta) is Parentricity, which seems to have a vibrant -- and dad-friendly -- community lined up.

    The Secret Lives of Dads

    I -- like anyone else who has been involved in SAHD issues over the past dozen years ago -- know Hogan Hilling, who is a super-nice guy and a visionary in term of getting dads to talk to other dads. He wrote "The Man Who Would be Dad," he came up with a compelling workshop called "Proud Dads," and now he has co-authored "The Modern Mom's Guide to Dads: Ten Secrets Your Husband Won't Tell You."

    I look forward to browsing through it. I don't have a copy yet, but if you want some of the flavor, I should point you to the Orange County Register piece profiling Hogan and his book, and adding some Q-and-A for flavor.

    Judging from the piece, I'm not sure I'll agree with everything he has to say -- I'm not sure that there's an epidemic of supermoms crowding out their husbands -- but I love the truth at the core of the book: men need to get their feelings out there if they're going to succeed as fathers and husbands. (I'm proof that this is often easier said than done.) In an ideal world, where open and honest communication was standard, we wouldn't need a "Modern Mom's Guide to Dads." Until then, there's always Amazon.

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Do Not Take Dolls Away from Boys

    A.J. over at Thingamababy was nice enough to point me to his thoughts on at something recently posted on the blog of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. The title of the blog's post was "Boys: The New Girls," and it went into wonderful detail on how playing with gender-inappropriate toys is, well, inappropriate:
    The current trend of trying to get boys to play with more feminine toys does not cultivate a well rounded boy, it misguides him and potentially handicaps him when he is called upon to exhibit masculine behavior. ... We don't need softer and prettier boys. We don't need boys who can push a baby carriage and appropriately dress a doll. We need boys who have had a sense of courage, adventure, resilience, toughness, and predilection to protect and provide for others built in them.
    I have to confess that I have no idea who the CBMW are, and at the risk of beating a strawman, let me say -- once more, for the record -- that we'd be much, much better off if boys spent more time thinking about pushing baby carriages and less time worrying about fulfilling some sort of retrograde notion of "protector and provider." Geez ...