Monday, September 29, 2008

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Involved Fatherhood

Via Working Dad comes a Parenting magazine story that -- gasp -- doesn't make me fear for the future of humanity: a piece on why moms sometimes feel threatened by involved fathers and why such inter-parent competition doesn't do anyone any good.

Now I am on record as believing quite firmly that we do not have some sort of epidemic of gung-ho fathers crowding mom out of the picture ("momblocking," as the term of art has it), and I am not sure that families in which super-active fathers really deserve much pity (or even much attention). But given the absolutely pitiful record of mainstream parenting publications have of even acknowledging that half of the parents in this country are men, this piece makes me believe for a moment that they're turning a corner in understanding the role that modern fathers are playing.

The story gets extra bonus points for noticing the 250 percent rise in time dads spend with the kids over the past 30 years. (And additional bonus points for noticing that we still have a ways to go). But I have to give demerits for, um, writing from a completely mom-centric view of the world. And for serving ads for the asinine "moms like me" social network.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Welcome to Stepford

Sometimes, I'm sad that marketer basically ignore fathers as people who play a key role in family life (and purchasing decisions). And, sometimes, I'm thrilled that men are spared unspeakably silly marketing designed to make household chores seem hip or fun or special. (If Free to Be You and Me has failed in any way, it's that we must still suffer through ads for "detergent or soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach.")

This week -- via an ad on parenthacks --I learned about Samsung's "Moms Like Me" social network. It's a plain-vanilla social network (there are plenty for dads, if you're interested), but the glue that supposedly holds this group together is ... wait for it ... "life, laundry and the pursuit of cleanliness." This is a social network that defines themselves around what laundry says a person. It is deeply, deeply frightening.

There is also the disturbing fact that this is a gendered effort, designed to be causally moms-only. This sexism would be more offensive if they were excluding guys from something potentially worthwhile, but I'm in no particularly rush to bust down the doors. (As an aside, the most active forum on the site is an extended discussion -- titled "Samsung really needs to get with the times with its sexist attitude" -- that was kicked off by a guy.)

Amazingly, the bizarre Samsung site means that LG takes second place is in the weird-and-sexist washer/drier marketing campaign contest. That effort comes with the tag line "A woman has needs. And right now, I need this wild cherry steam thing." Seriously.

Monday, September 08, 2008

You've Come a Long Way, Daddy

Every once in a while, when I am despairing about the way dads are portrayed in the mass media, I am reminded of how much worse it used to be. Today's example comes from Sweet Juniper, who pulls out a '70s era book about how dad fares with the boy when mom goes on a trip. It's really worth the click (as is SJ's commentary).

Friday, September 05, 2008

Massachusetts Re-Evaluates a Silly, Sexist Policy

Via WSJ's Juggle comes word that Massachusetts is looking at how it enforces a law that guarantees new moms 8 weeks of unpaid maternity leave (yes, FMLA offers more leave, but you have to be working someplace with more than 50 workers). Amazingly, the law is gender-specific: only women get the protection of this law.

Now, the state is apparently considering investigating complaints from men under the law. This is, of course, good news, but it amazes me that a legislature -- particularly one in as progressive a state as Massachusetts -- would have this kind of mom-only law in the first place. Trust me, a lot of us need the time ...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Back to the Past

According to the Daily Mail (UK), what men really want is demure housewives and what women really want is big strong guys to provide for them. Or so the paper would have us believe, publishing the results of a survey that found that the trait most desired by men seeking a woman was "taking care of our home." The top trait that women are looking for is "listens to what I say," followed by "financial stability."

This is hard to square with the way we are actually living our lives these days, and some of the stats are just laughable (do a quarter of women really look for a green thumb when they select a mate?). But what do you expect from the paper that brought us the dumbest story of 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On Parenting, Sarah Palin and Dads

You can't contribute to a parenting column like On Parenting and *not* talk about Sarah Palin, so Stacey Garfinkle and I teed up the subject today. I took the position that no discussion of whether her parenting responsibilites will intefere with her ability to do her job was appropriate:
I'm scared because it makes the dangerous assumption that a parent cannot remain fully engaged in both family and professional life. I believe you can find work-life balance no matter what your responsibilities may be. That balance may not look like "equally shared parenting." It may not look like my life, or yours, but there is no doubt in my mind that you can be an effective parent and a go-to-work parent.
But the element that I didn't explore is the curious case of Palin's husband, who would -- it seems almost entirely likely -- end up doing the stay-at-home dad thing if his wife ends up in the Naval Observatory. There is next to no discussion of what his life would look like in Washington, five children in tow. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe no one cares. I still think it's weird that no one is talking about it. 

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Thanks + More on Dads and Daughters

1. Thanks to Eric and Shawn from the local dad's group here in Champaign for hanging out last week. Nice to meet some of the guys. And if you're also here in central Illinois and not a part of ECI Dads, then surf on over to the Yahoo group.

2. Joe Kelly of Dads and Daughters was nice enough to comment on my post last week about the group shutting down, but it's worth reprinting here:
Thank you very much for your very kind words and your good wishes for what's next for me. 

Well, I will continue to devote myself to promote progressive fathering and stepfathering. I want to continue being of service to you and others as we fight that good fight.

Some folks have asked what they can do to help; I’ve taken the liberty of making a few suggestions:
  • Please tell friends, colleagues and other networks about my Future of Fatherhood website ( and the expertise I offer on progressive fathering, stepfathering, girls’ issues, and helping agencies and organizations better serve—and better use—fathers.
  • Recommend me to organizations, institutions, associations, colleges, schools and others who might be interested in—or persuaded to be interested in—hiring me to speak to their constituencies and/or provide in-service training to staffs on how to mobilize & utilize fathers as a resource in their work.
  • Pass along opportunities you think might be a good fit for me. For example, you may know of an advocacy organization or university interested in hosting something like a research and advocacy Center on the Future of Fatherhood as a base for progressive fatherhood, leveraging me and my years of knowledge & expertise on fathering issues and the dad-daughter relationship. 
  • Pass along suggestions for opportunities which I haven’t listed here—because they haven’t occurred to me!
  • My new personal website, (being rebuilt & enhanced as I write) is an excellent place to refer people—including those interested in father-daughter relationships. It has:
  • Information about my Presentations, Resources, Books & Consulting 
  • Materials from my Dads & Daughters® books, articles and tips—including poplar items from the DADs website. 
Thanks so much for your support and ideas as I help carry the work forward. As always, please let me know if I can be of service to you now or in the future.