Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Book Review Time: "Opting In"

So I was lucky enough to get my hands on a new book about motherhood called Opting In by a really bright feminist named Amy Richards. Amy and I have touched base intermittently over the years on a number of topics, and though I usually dread the spring arrival of the how-to-be-a-good-mother books (see Hirshman, Linda or Flanagan, Caitlin), I was looking forward to seeing Amy's effort.

Now Opting In is unquestionable aimed at moms (just like 95 percent of the other literature out there) but what sets the book apart, at least from my point of view, is that she spends a chapter looking at how dads plug into the whole motherhood/parenthood thing. It's clear that Amy has spent more time thinking about this than any other writer on the topic of motherhood. Indeed, most of the discussions of modern motherhood just skip over dad altogether and therefore make no sense to me. It's not that dads are lionized or vilified in these hot-button books and magazines. They're just ignored. Which is weird.

So Amy has tackled the question of how to build an equitable home life, and despite the book cover's promise that she'll "reveal to confidently forge your own path," she's pretty light on prescriptions when it comes to dads around the house. She hits all the major points: the need for multiple family models, the need for clear expectations in a marriage, the gulf between what society defines as a good dad and what moms actually need, marriage contracts, learned incompetence, etc.

But when it comes times for grand summaries, there's not much to be found. Fatherhood is in such flux right now, it seems hard for Amy to make definitive statements about what mothers or fathers should do. This is not a flaw: I can't offer any solid suggestions either. 50-50 parenting works for some families and not for others. Having dad a little more involve is viable in some cases, having mom as the primary caretaker works in other. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, and Amy is to be commended for not offering one.

The big change we need is still the big-picture one: dads must be viewed (and view themselves) as equally capable of childrearing and equally responsible for the kids. That doesn't (always) mean splitting everything right down the middle, but it *is* a pretty good starting place.

(For the record, this is only one chapter of the book. The rest of it reads wonderfully, too, but I really can't/shouldn't pontificate on the rest of it ...)

WaPo on At-Home Dads and the 'Endgame'

The Washington Post, in the past five years or so, has run not less than three first-person pieces about at-home dads. This is an impressive record, and the latest of these is well-worth the read. A guy named Mark Trainer penned a piece a couple of weeks ago about his move to at-home fatherhood and his musing about how and when the at-home part of his life could end. Or should end. It's well worth the read.

Trainer is apparently also working on a book of short stories called "Bad Daddies." I'm as curious as can be about that one ...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Parenting Manifesto Meme Lives On

A little more than a year ago, I launched what is probably my favorite project: I encouraged readers here and at On Balance to send along how-to parenting guides of 500 words or less, and I gathered the responses I received on my manifesto page (which still makes for great reading if you haven't visited).

Well, Reuters jumped on the bandwagon, enthusiastically if belatedly, running this piece by Christopher Noxon. Like all of the manifestos, there's wisdom to be mined:
Never underestimate the importance of blood sugar. Obstinacy, unruliness or brattiness are often rooted less in deep disfunction or your in-law's bad genetic heritage than the time elapsed since the last pretzel. Snack often.
I'm always happy to update the list of manifestos, so feel free to try your hand.

Big Sky Dads?

My wife sometimes laughs at me when we travel, since I've run into -- physically or virtually -- dads from almost everywhere. We're taking a quick trip to Montana this week so that she can guest lecture at the University of Montana, and I realized that I don't think I've ever heard from a Montana dad. Any great blogs for the blogroll that I'm missing? Groups for the map?

(All I've found is Mike Warren's page, a realtor in Missoula who used to be an at-home dad ...)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Deeper Thoughts on 'Flying Solo'

I'm going to step away from the at-home dad stuff for a moment and think some work-life balance thoughts. I wrote for my On Balance column this week about handling things when my wife is away on work. It was an honest question, and I expected to get (and did get) some blowback from the "quit-whining" contingent.

But as I think about it, I wondered if the reason the topic is on my mind is that we have a household where we both contribute. One of us leaves, and there's a hole to fill. I guess not every family operates like that -- if one parent does the heavy lifting when it comes to the kids/cleaning/food/etc., then it's no big deal if their spouse disappears. I have to broaden my horizons.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Post (Maybe) the the Daddy's Home Comic

So I've now mocked the new comic strip Daddy's Home in every forum available to me (all two of them), so I should probably forward along a link to the Washington Post discussion with the strip's creator. He is shocked -- shocked -- at the tiny amount of criticism he's heard (including some from Gene Weingarten, who has become a) the world's authority on comics and b) a Pulitzer Prize winner. If Gene ever told me I was without humor, I'd never dare crack another joke).

Anyway ... key quote:
More and more men are becoming stay-at-home Dads. That is only trending upward. And, in my opinion, there really isn't any other comic out there that speaks to that accurately, and is funny at the same time.
Sadly, even with Daddy's Home, there still isn't a comic that fits that description. Except maybe Adam @ Home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rocking the Red

I fully intended to take a couple of minutes to post tonight. But I'm too busy watching the collision of Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. (No, not Obama and Clinton and the primary.) Posting to resume as soon as I catch my breath. Needless to say, it would have been nice if Martin Biron had taken a full 12 weeks of paternity leave.

UPDATE: OK, during the intermission, I was able to place two more groups on the maps page. Both are in Illinois. As always, if you have a group/MeetUp/playground that's not on the map, let me know.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I Want My MTV

In the what-are-SAHDs-doing-when-they're-not-with-the-kids department, I need to mention that punk bassist, blogger and at-home dad extraordinaire Greg Barbera's band, the Chest Pains, made it to MTV, getting some airtime during the finale of "Rob and Big." Congrats, Greg ...

Can You Tell Arial from Cinderella from 20 Feet Away?

My soul-searching aside, there are still plenty of items out there that suggest that society is moving in the right direction in terms of acknowledging that dads are parents, too.

This week's installment is DisneyDads, a Disney-sponsored review site for Disney movies by dads who work at, um, Disney. I dare not speculate on whether the reviews are at all meaningful, but it's little things like this that send the subtle message: dads are perfectly engaged in the whole kid thing and are not in the least afraid of talking about Little House on the Prairie.

(via DaddyTypes, who has a healthy skepticism of all things Disney)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Questioning the Media Swoon Over At-Home Dads

Back online after a brief family vacations and a here-and-there workweek. There's a pile of stuff to get through (stay tuned), but I wanted to start with this:

A week ago, I penned my posting on my Today Show experience and how I felt uncomfortable about the at-home-dad centric approach that they took. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Lauer and Co. did anything wrong (other than using "Mr. Mom" on the website), and I was thrilled that Aaron Rochlen got some national exposure. The taped piece on the Austin dads was pretty standard, but exceptionally well done. (And included the best quote I've ever heard on whether at-home fatherhood is more emasculating than paid work: "I've never thought there was anything particularly manly about sitting in front of a computer all day.")

But I'm beginning to wonder if the best sign that at-home dads are a real and accepted and meaningful part of society is a *lack* of attention. Maybe I've been staring at this too long, but I think that dads are perfectly good at childrearing, and I don't get a jolt anymore when the media treats this as something to report breathlessly.

I'm torn. I want the guys on the front lines to get all the support possible, but I have to be public about this (even though it calls into question the raison d'etre of large chunks of this blog): should I be jazzed about at-home dads continuing to be treated like minorities (even celebrated ones) in the media?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

10 Reasons Not to Take Parenting Advice from Pseudo-Celebrities

Jason from Daddy in a Strange Land sent me over a most remarkable link. It's Bachelor star Ryan Sutter's "10 Things You Don't Know about Dads." It's clearly meant to demonstrate that dads have a caring side, but don't check their masculinity at the entrance to the obstetrics ward. But it instead has the effect of suggesting instead that dads are jerks.

Pretending that you kid's diaper isn't full of poop so you can pawn off the diaper change is not cool. Ever.

Shooting. And Shooting Blanks.

Because this is the foremost site for vasectomy news, you ought to know that in part of India, the ol' snip-snip will get you a gun permit. There is apparently an underlying logic there: the macho culture is rampant and vasectomies are rare because it's seen as not so manly.

Apparently, this is a good deal 'round those parts:
The results are impressive: 139 men have undergone vasectomies in the district since the incentive of a firearms permit was introduced a month ago, compared with only eight in 2007.
Me? I'd have settled for the pizza.

Monday, April 07, 2008

TV Star Needed

"Inside Edition" is looking to talk to an at-home dad (a real at-home dad, not me), and it would be particularly convenient if they were near NYC or LA. E-mail me at if you're interested.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hubbies and Housework: Glass Half-Full?

Man, I try to stay the heck away from the housework stuff, partly because I'm just not sure that it has direct relevance to the bigger issues of fatherhood and partly because its just not something that I do a particularly good job with, personally.

But I figure I ought to flag new research from the University of Michigan that charts the amount of housework that men and women are doing and compares that to figures from three decades ago. Depending on your point of this, the results are either good news on the gender-equity front or proof that guys are still nowhere close to where we need to be.

The press release takes the dim view, noting in the first sentence that "having a husband creates an extra seven hours of housework for women," which is clearly *not* cool. But looking at the stats shows that married women are doing a lot less cleaning up than they were doing 30 years ago (17 hours a week, down from 26) and men are doing a lot more (13 hours a week, up from 6). And guys are increasingly doing more housework once married than they did when they were single.

What's the conclusion when you shake all of this out? I have no idea, beyond my firm belief that 13 hours of housework is still too much. For anyone.

Friday, April 04, 2008

More Videos (and Photos) on Dads

The National Fatherhood Initiative is running a nifty contest, asking dads to submit via YouTube and Flickr photos and videos that explain what fatherhood means. There's not a ton of entries up yet, but what's there is nice. So check it out (the YouTube page is here and the Flickr page is here) and fire up your camera. The contest ends on May 14. Let us know in the comments if you've submitted.

This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain on Live TV.

According to Andy Warhol, I still have about 11 minutes and 30 seconds of fame left, and I've spent a bit of time thinking about how I spent my first 3 minutes and change.

In retrospect, there are two things I would have really liked to have sneaked into the discussion on Wednesday:
  • The At-Home Dad Convention is a kick, and if you're an at-home dad or considering the leap, it's well worth your time to consider the trip (this year, to Sacramento)
  • You do not need to be an at-home dad to put your family first. I am a go-to-work dad. I work for a great company that expects a exceptional work but allows me to get there on my own terms. This gets lost sometimes because started with an at-home dad focus and remains pretty engaged in the issue. I applaud all the at-home dads out there. But I also applaud any father who demands a work environment that allows the pursue of work-family balance.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dads (and Rebel Dad) on Today This Morning

Still trying to get my head around the Today Show bit today, and there's not much to say beyond a) it's all a blur, b) Aaron Rochlen is a super-nice guy with interesting childhood friends, and c) Renee Zellweger is tiny in person. Beyond that, I have to send you to the videotape:

Welcome Today Show Viewers

First-time visitors who want to get a feel for what gets discussed here are more than welcome to comb through the archives (at right). If you like what you see, consider subscribing to the site via RSS. (Click for MyYahoo, IGoogle, MyAOL or Bloglines).

At-home dads looking to connect with neighbors should check out the dad group/playgroup map. Those looking for a more virtual community are encouraged to check out

If you want the skinny on at-home dad numbers, I've gathered all that I can find on the stats page.

Those looking for other resources on at-home dads should check out my best-of-the-bunch roundup of dad media.

If you've come seeking parenting advice, I can do no better than to point you to the Parenting Manifesto Project, in which I solicited manifestos of 500 words or less on parenting from readers. The responses are truly extraordinary.

If you're looking for more on work-life balance, please check out the Washington Post's On Balance blog. I contribute every Thursday.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mark Your Calendars for Dadstock

On June 28, the second annual Dadstock will kick off in Wisconsin. Unlike the wonderful At-Home Dad Convention, which hold as its goals fellowship among dads and an opportunity to hone parenting skills (with the beer just being an added bonus), Dadstock appears to hold as its goals fellowship among dads and an opportunity to drink lots of beer and maybe play with chainsaws. So it's worth checking out, QED.

(Plus, I love the logo with the bottle and the "A couple of hours of peace and quiet.")