Monday, March 31, 2008

The Amazing Shifting Census Numbers

So for a long time I've been tracking one of the Census Bureau's measures of dad involvement: the number of children of employed moms who are cared for by fathers. It's not an "at-home dad" number, per se, but it's not a bad proxy. During prep for our Today Show segment on Wednesday, Aaron Rochlen stumbled on another apparent update on the number.

The number that has always interested me is the "Primary Child Care Arrangements of Preschoolers with Employed Mothers," which has bounced around a bit and not been a reliable piece of evidence showing more and more involved dads. I found at least three different numbers for the same stat in the same data release, so I'm not quite sure what to make of it. But for your number-crunching pleasure, here are the stats for the percentage of kids under 5 being cared for by dad while mom works as measured in spring 2005:

25 percent (press release)
18. 2 percent (detailed table 2b)
17.2 percent ("historical table")

Confused? Good. Because if you'll remember, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics put out the same dataset (the 2005 SIPP numbers) last year, and they concluded that 17.3 percent of preschoolers with employed moms were being watched by dad. As far as I can tell, this is all apples-to-apples, so I have no idea why we have the variation.

Do the discrepancies matter? Not to me. That's still a lot of kids being watched by a lot of dads. But if you understand demographics generally -- or the SIPP in particular -- and can explain it, I'm all ears.

(As always, the catalog of dad stats is available here.)

Dr. Kyle Pruett on Video on the Importance of Dads

If you were ever asked to give a 90-second answer to the question of "why are dads important?" you couldn't possibly do better than Yale's Kyle Pruett does here during an excerpt from documentarian Dana Glazer's wonderful "Evolution of Dad" project:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Next Week on Today: Rebel Dad

For those curious about a) the state of fatherhood in America, including at-home dads and the thoughtful and provocative research by Dr. Aaron Rochlen of the University of Texas, or b) what I look like, I should let you know that I've been invited to appear live on the Today Show next Wednesday along with Dr. Rochlen. There will apparently also be a taped piece on some of the Texas dads.

So set your TiVos, and wish me luck.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cash (Doesn't) Rule Everything Around Me

In the too-good-to-be-true department, Elle Magazine and have surveyed 74,000 men and women and determined that only 12 percent of guys care if their wife outearns them and are increasingly sharing control over family finances. I have no idea if this is actually true, and I'd feel even better if the broad attitude toward financial equity showed up just as dramatically in the marketplace (where women are still outearned by men) or at home (where clear gains in involved fatherhood still fall short of "sea change").

Why the cynicm today? Because of the 74,000 people who filled out the survey, the most representative individual that could find for their story was a guy named Dan Weinrib, who, the article tells us "supported his wife’s recent decision to stay home with their infant son." In short, then, the poster child for not caring about who makes more is about to enter the exact kind of "Leave It to Beaver" family dynamic that the piece says we've "officially left." I'm not saying that's a bad thing for Dan or his wife. But it sure ain't the face of a revolution.

One-Stop Shopping for Dadblogs

Guy Kawasaki's stunningly simple, stunningly thoughtful topic-specific new page site, Alltop, has added a page for dadblogs. The full disclosure, of course, is that is listed, but so are a number of other sites that are worth a look. So if you want to explore the dad blogosphere but don't want to spend the afternoon blindly Googling, check it out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Un-Funny Pages

Look, I know I spend a ton of time humorlessly bashing those who play the doofus dads for laughs, in advertising, on TV, in movies ... and on and on. Even I get a little tired the prattling on as if there is no room for incompetent fathering in any media under any circumstances, ever. But indulge me one more rant:

There is a new comic strip about an at-home dad called Daddy's Home. It appears to have a single source of humor: the dad is an moron who can't be bothered to dress his kid right or remember his allergies or essentially do anything correctly. And because of the three-panels-and-a-joke format of the funnies, there doesn't appear to be the kind of room for personal growth and revelation that even "According to Jim" can serve up every once in a while. Give me back the dad from Calvin and Hobbes, please.

(Speaking of cartoon at-home dads, is Adam @ Home still getting much traction? We don't get it here in DC, despite our three (count 'em!) pages of comics a day in the Post. Doesn't that manage to be funny without making Adam out to be a dunderhead? Or am I misremembering?)

(Just found out that my hometown paper is trying out Daddy's Home while Doonesbury takes a break. I'm sure the Post can do better ...)

(Thanks to for the tip.)

Coolest At-Home Dad Group Website

The most impressive website of any at-home dad group has got to be the new effort by the North of Boston Dads. Nicely done, gents. (Coming in at no. 2: the data-packed site.)

Thanks to Peter Baylies for the tip.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Men: Shrinking Violets?

When it comes to explaining why dads aren't more involved in childrearing, there is a rather silly theory that holds that it's actually women who are at fault by keeping men at bay around the home, forcing fathers into a kind of inexperience that deter them from being equal partners around the home.

I have never entirely understood this theory. I can think of no area of human experience where men acquiesce to being elbowed out of the picture, and I just can't imagine that this is really the biggest obstacle to equality.

I don't understand it any better after reading Laura Sessions Stepp's latest "Genderations" piece in the Washington Post today, where she boldly asserts that the bold new future of women in the workplace requires moms to quit their underhanded efforts to keep dads and kids apart. I could probably go line by line through the piece, but I'll let some of her words speak for themselves:
... None of this is easy. We're talking about changing habits of thought that go back to the days when women tended children in caves while their mates were out catching game and fighting off intruders. ...

... Both women and men feel more comfortable, [ Paula England, a Stanford University sociologist] says, when a mother assumes a traditional male role than when a father assumes a historically female role. "The men don't know how to take [child raising] on, and the women don't trust them to."...

... "Ain't nobody else going to do it. It's all about being a daddy," [Brian] responded. "I know I ain't no punk. That's what daddies do nowadays."
I'm a bit speechless. Punks or no punks, I find it hard blame women for the shortcoming of men in the household.

More Good Research on Dads Coming (I Hope)

Speaking of conferences, I'm keeping an eye on "Father Involvement Research 2008: Diversity, Visibility and Community," an international conference in Toronto. It's being run by the Father Involvement Research Alliance, a bunch of smart Canadians with the right idea. I believe the abstract deadline has come and gone, but I'm really, really curious about what kinds of research the effort will draw. More and more people want hard data on how fatherhood has changed, and any group that gets such research out is the open gets my support.

And Now I Wash My Hands of This

I am intentionally slow in informing you that Lindsay Ferrier, who enjoys making fun of huge swaths of parenthood (including, recently, at-home dads) in her an attention-seeking column in the Nashville alt-weekly, reported on her co-ed playgroup with the at-home dads. Not surprisingly, it was awkward and forced for everybody, which has less to do with the gender of the parents involved and more to do with the fact that making new connections is generally tricky. Add the stunt aspect to the whole thing, and I don't think you'll be surprised at the results.

There's always a silver lining: I hear the Nashville dads group got a bit of attention (and a few new members) out of it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Long Road to Equality at Home

I've been struggling with what to make of all the press that the various abstracts for the 11th Annual Conference of the Council on Contemporary Families have received. I already linked to Paul Nyhan's great look at Scott Coltrane's paper. You can see a more complete version here, and it is probably the finest summary of all of the gains that fathers have made over the past 30 years. Bookmark it.

But the "other perspectives" that are listed below the paper have the more interesting perspectives, particularly Paula England of Stanford University's take. She makes the dead-on point that it's too early to congratulate ourselves and says that the forces pushing women into the workforce have been way stronger than the forces pushing dads back into the home. Key quote: "For every hundred parents encouraging daughters to play soccer, perhaps one encourages a son to play with dolls. Until we change how much culture, government, and employers reward the activities and jobs women historically did, it will be hard to get men to do them."

That's only the first are a number of other responses that offer some critical context on how far we have to go to get to equality, all making the fundamental point that whatever incremental improvement we've seen in marriage, housework and childrearing is still going against the grain of just about all the forces in American life.

Of course, most of the attention has been put on Joshua Coleman's contention that more housework (by men) equals more sex, with plenty of outlets essentially suggesting that there is some sort of causal relationship between single acts of housework and nookie. This is, of course, ridiculous. Strong, equal relationships happen to have a fair breakdown of household tasks and good sex, but the two have a lot more to do with the equality than with each other. (It's possible, too, that I have an anti-Joshua Coleman bias, given that his claim to fame is penning a book called "The Lazy Husband," which appears to be a tome of largely thoughtful advice marred by the idiotic title.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Diaper Porn

When the Cambridge Women's Pornography Cooperative came out with a book of lavishly photographed, partially clad men doing household chores called "Porn for Women," I thought it was pretty funny.

Now they've come up with a sequel called "Porn for New Moms" that shows shirtless dads changing diapers and such. While the joke was humorous the first time around, the second effort has me less amused. I guess I don't find it all that jaw-dropping that guys would be doing middle-of-the-night feedings, and using that as a punchline to a joke (look! it's a hot guy warming a bottle!) just doesn't have legs.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Best Video Game About Parenting Ever

My post today over at On Balance is on its way to being the least-commented item I've ever written for That suggests that people aren't taking the time to play with the video game I wrote about: Gravitation. It does an incredible job distilling work-life balance and its trade-offs down to their very essence, and if you have a couple of minutes to download it and play it, it's well worth your time. (As usual, it was Daddy Types who first flagged this to me.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

All the Vasectomy News That's Fit to Print

As many of you know, I have a special interest in vasectomies and have become -- wholly unexpectedly -- the go-to resource on the subject for friends and fellow hockey players.

So I should let you know that four out of five guys want their downtime, so to speak, to coincide with a major sporting event. And March Madness is coming up. See the connection? The Oregon Urology Institute does. Act quickly: Selection Sunday is right around the corner.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Facts Are In. Fathers Are Changing; Family Life is Improving

I've sworn off apologizing for these stretches where life get nuts and I drop off the blogging map, but I need to catch my breath enough to point you to this preview of research dropping today from Scott Coltrane on how fathers are changing and how that improves life for everyone. "Working Dad" Paul Nyhan from the Seattle P-I has the scoop:

Over the past four decades, dads have taken on a lot more at home. The time they spend on child care and housework has doubled, according to the paper scheduled for release Thursday.

It is this progress, not absolute parity, which matters because it offers proof of a deep change within American families, the paper's co-author Scott Coltrane said.

"There is an accumulation of evidence over the last decade for people to have successful couple relationships they need to negotiate, whereas before they could let it ride ... and the mother would pick it up," Coltrane, a sociology professor at the University of California-Riverside, said.