Friday, March 27, 2009

Just What We Need: More Reality Television Starring Dads

The nice folks at Fox sent me an e-mail this week reminding me that they plan to an unholy marriage of at-home-dad-reality-TV with celebrity-driven-reality TV in a show called "Househusbands of Hollywood," which will follow a bunch of guys who are married to a bunch of who-dat celebs.

I have to admit to simply not understanding huge chunks of the reality-TV thing, including the whole "Real Housewives" concept, so I'm sure that "Househusbands" won't float my boat, either. But I have this happy feeling deep in my gut that says that whatever kind of dreck the show will offer up, it won't focus on the failings of these guys as dads.

Of course, it'll air on Fox Reality Channel, whatever the hell that is.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

For Dads Only

Last week, in response to my post looking for dad-centric product review, reader Monique wrote in the comments that dad-specific product reviews sounded awfully close the mirror image of the kind of mom-only attitude that drives me bonkers when it comes to parenting magazines.

It is a fair comment, but one that's worth a response.

I don't think it's ever a very good idea to have a single-sex discussion of parenting. Blocking dads (or moms) from a conversation serves no logical purpose; childrearing and the related challenges don't discriminate based on sex, so a just-moms or just-dads approach is meaninglessly exclusionary.

That doesn't mean that moms and dads don't have different viewpoints, or that those differences shouldn't be broadcast. In fact, the more voices we have out there, the better. The problem with the parenting magazines is not that there are pieces that speak directly to mothers, it's that there are *only* pieces that speak directly to mothers.

This is what's great about the blog world. You can read a Laid-Off Dad post and get one perspective, click over to Dooce for another, and keep clicking until you have a pretty good feel for what parenting in 2009 is all about. I think one of the voices that is lacking is a great dad product blogger. Not just a guy who will write on remote controls or the relative merits of manly, high-end tricycles, but someone who will bring a fresh view to everything from breast pumps to the relative merits of P.D. Eastman. The more people we have -- and the more backgrounds represented -- the better that conversation will be.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Join a Discussion on Moms, Be in a Book

There aren't that many academics who have taken a hard look at how men parent, but Andrea Doucet at Ottawa's Carleton University is one of them. She published one of the most in-depth looks at parenting styles of men, called Do Men Mother and she's working on a new one tentatively called Bread and Roses, about breadwinner moms.

To juice the information gathering for the book, she'd love breadwinning moms to join the discussion at the Bread and Roses website. Not sure that'll be a hotbed of conversation for us dads, but for the go-to-work moms who read the site (and the men who love them), Doucet's site might make for interesting reading. It's just gone up, so things are still sparse.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's a Good Time to Be a Urologist

Thanks to Jason, I'm now well-informed about the current state of the vasectomy business, which is apparently booming due to the threat of disappearing health benefits for the soon-to-be-unemployed as well as the fact that cutting an additional private-school tuition check is way harder when the Dow is in the tank.

But you don't need to be an out-of-work stockbroker to give your urologist a call. If you're done with the having-kids thing, don't wait for your wife to take action. Step up and call a urologist. You'll be glad you did.

A New York State of Mind

One of the biggest puzzles of the at-home dad community was that there wasn't any in New York City. For the longest time -- despite the fact that the place is overrun with them (I've been to Park Slope. I've seen it with my own eyes) -- I've looked for formal dad groups in the five boroughs and come up short. That doesn't mean there aren't dozens of informal groups all over the place, but it did mean that no one was really turning to the Internet to find like-minded fathers.

That's changing now, and Crain's New York Business has done a nice job of capturing the newest group (click the link now; I have no idea how much longer it will be good). There is going to be a lot more journalism about the new crop of at-home dads; I hope it will be half as sweet as the Crain's piece.

Cross-Promotion: The Recession and the New Fatherhood

For those of you not reading me at the, I wanted to flag my piece from last Thursday, which calls into question the recent spate of "poor-him" reporting on dads forced home by the recession. I called for some perspective on this:
My wife and I have passed the primary-breadwinner baton between us a half-dozen times in our marriage, each time renegotiating roles and responsibilities. It is not an easy conversation to have, and it is not comfortable to disrupt old daily routines. But it is a part of life, recession or otherwise. The media infatuation with these guys suggests that there is some deep, intractable and society-wide problem caused by men at home. There's not. That doesn't mean that isn't a deep problem within many relationships, but that's an issue of communications and marital counseling, not a national crisis.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Product-Reviewing Dads?

Someday -- when I have ample time and energy -- I'd love to start throwing some dad-specific product reviews in here.

In the meantime, who are the best product-reviewing dads in the blogosphere. Not only am I interested, I had a reporter ask me, too. Suggestions in the comments, please.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Off-Topic: Facebook, Multiple Sclerosis and a Good Cause

It's pretty rare that my personal life ends up in this forum, let alone my professional life, but one of the companies I am involved with* has just launched a pretty neat Facebook application ( that allows people to find walks and bike rides sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and connect with others who are also involved. This doesn't have anything to do with dads, but it's a noble effort. If you're not involved yet, check it out. And if you *are* involved, there's even more reason to check it out to extend those virtual relationships out into the real  world. 

Back to the dad news in a moment.

(* My company works with EMD Serono and Pfizer, who put the app up.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Dumbest Dumb-Dad Story of All Time is Resurrected

Those with long memories will remember that about 5 years ago, I went all apoplectic over a Parenting magazine piece that suggested that women treat their husbands like children. Literally. The only saving grace was that the piece was entombed in the print edition and -- or so I thought -- was now safely rotting in our nation's landfills. But no, it's a zombie piece. It has returned, online, via CNN. If you want to find it, Google it yourself. I will not be linking to it. It's that bad.

But -- for the record -- I am republishing my original post. And if you want the follow-up (the reporter, Fernanda Moore, was stand-up enough to write me afterward), that post is here.
Over the last couple of weeks all sort of people have been asking me the same question: "What do you think of that stupid Parenting Magazine story?" And my answer has been that I hadn't seen it. My subscription lapsed, and, in the interest of keeping my blood pressure low, I didn't re-up. (Longtime RD readers will remember my pissed-off letter to the editor of April 2003. I just couldn't take it anymore. I have a subscription to Parents now, which has a dad's page and doesn't appear out to marginalize half the nation's parents. I'm much happier.) 

But I've bowed to the perverse pleasure of reading really bad stuff and purchased the magazine, which runs this on its cover: "Rewards? Time-outs? Strategies that work on husbands too." (Parenting isn't available online in any meaningful way. You'll have to buy/borrow/steal your own copy.) 

Let me start by trying to undermine the article's purpose. (I'll get into the usual Rebel Dad stuff in a moment.) This is some of the worst marital advice ever offered in print by anyone, anywhere. It is written by Fernanda Moore, a journalist, not a therapist, and it never escapes her entirely first-person take on events. There are no actual marriage counselors quoted, no experts to back up her five-strategy approach, no examples from other parents. This is good; I'd hate to think that there's an institutional backing for her advice. 

Among Moore's successful tactics? Telling hubby to "Go to your room," and "use your words," among other things. In short, the article proposes you treat your husband like a kid. A young kid. A toddler, really. (This stuff wouldn't work on teens.) 

Here's a public service announcement from me: if you order your significant other to his or her room, he or she is unlikely to act like Moore's husband who a) goes to the room and b) returns waving a white flag an hour later. He or she is more likely to act out in extreme anger and make the situation worse. (Moore's husband, by the way, returned home at 7:30 p.m. after telling his wife he'd be home at 7-ish. That was the crime. Seriously.) 

But the element of the story that really irks me is Parenting's decision to continue to push the outdated and dangerous idea that men are incapable of doing anything around the house. The magazine has completely given itself over to the elevation of motherhood above parenthood (count the number of headlines addressed to "mom" to see what I mean), and that's leaving kids shortchanged. Lately, I've been blaming the uncaring American workplace -- not societal stereotypes -- for the daddy disconnect between guys who say they want to be involved and the (lower) number who are. But it seems the stereotypes keep getting a good airing, and Parenting is doing its part to drive a wedge between men and caregiving. 

Mothers may giggle at the breezy, just-between-us-moms tone of the mag, but if a wife is serious about having dad to play a role in the lives of his kids, she'd be well-advised to send Parenting right to the recycling bin.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dads and Breastfeeding

The piece of writing that is now burning up the intertubes is Hannah Rosin's Atlantic attack on breastfeeding. It's one of those articles that needed to be written, but I must admit to having read the piece only *after* DaddyType's elegant takedown. DT should be required reading alongside the Atlantic piece.

My brief pass through the data seems to suggest that the breast-is-best argument is well-supported in a statistical sense, but that the benefits -- at the individual level -- are exceedingly modest. This isn't an argument against breast-feeding, but a sense that the benefits ought to be put in a broader perspective. Rosin is right that -- in certain communities -- breastfeeding has become part of the parenting canon, and that's not a view that has been well-examined.

And for all the ink spilled, Rosin pays little attention to dads. I've done the bottle thing, with both breastmilk and formula, and I have little sympathy for guys who use breastfeeding as an excuse to check out (or moms who let them).

You Know What's Funny, According to ABC? Laid-Off Dads ...

I have spent a lot of time over the past few years gleefully pointing out that there is very little humor to be squeezed out of at-home fatherhood. The "Mr. Mom" no longer works; most Americans simply do not find dads that can't change a diaper or talk about tough issues with their kids to be all that plausible. 

So I don't think I'm going out on a limb predicting that the as-yet-unnamed Kelsey Grammer vehicle, in which he plays a Wall Street type suddenly forced into the at-home role, will crash and burn. Which is not to say they won't have a couple of good episodes (a workaholic's reintegration into the home has potential) but ongoing idiocy is not funny.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Newsweek Calls Laid-Off Fathers Gym-Hitting, Cartoon-Watching Layabouts

Sometimes, I just don't know where to start. Newsweek, last week, ran this extraordinary piece of drivel on how men have historically used periods of unemployment and economic turmoil to hit the bottle (and the gym and the remote). There is some historical analysis there that is utterly inapplicable to the current state of things, as well as heavy reliance on some borderline-satirical websites. 

The fact is that, during economic downturns, the number of guys who pick up responsibilities at home skyrockets -- as made clear in the early 1990s recession. I'm sure it's hip to suggest otherwise, but we're in an era in which fathers are picking up a historical amount of household responsibilities. Are we anywhere near 50/50? No (and that's an issue worth addressing). But we sure ain't couch-bound slobs, no matter what Newsweek may tell you.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

'Wingnut' Revisited: RebelMom Asks A Good Question

Earlier this week, I posted a bit about a Missouri legislator who wanted to give at-home moms -- but not dads -- money for school, arguing that women are nuturers and should therefore get a leg up. It's a silly argument, grounded in outdated and discredited notions of what men do versus what women do.

But RebelMom had a question:
Curious, RebelDad -- would your stance change if she said the bill was for women only because of the strong statistics showing maternal barriers to paid workforce re-entry as well as the mommy wage gap, which endures throughout mothers' careers? That's the harder question ...

(BTW, A first year law student could see that her bill based on her support is unconstitutional.)
My initial reaction was one of support: if this is about remedying discrimination against moms and boosting their ability to re-enter the workforce without paying an undue penalty for their time doing the childrearing, I'm all for it. And the data is pretty compelling that moms take a huge hit when they leave their career for kids. 

But the more I thought about it, the more I worried that this isn't airtight. Though the data isn't as robust, the anecdotal evidence is that at-home dads re-entering the workforce have a tough time, too. I guess the question is whether the wage gap is due more to gender or more to caretaking status. If's a question of gender (and therefore sexism), I'm all for remedying the problem with a gender-specific program. But if it's about society looking askance at at-home parents, generally, then my objections still stand ...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

"The Week the Women Went": Dumb TV Not Relegated to the U.S.

Very few of you probably remember "Meet Mr. Mom," an ill-fated, summer-fill-in reality show from NBC a few year's back that was built around a spectacularly dumb concept: fathers forced to fend for themselves when mom was suddenly taken away to a spa (or somesuch) by evil television producers. The reason you probably don't remember it is because it was a colossal failure (giving me hope for my fellow citizens). 

But the fine folks north of the border are trying a higher-concept version of the same thing. CBC is now six episodes into the latest installment of  "The Week the Women Went," which is following the fathers of a Nova Scotia community as they deal with a week of momlessness. This is apparently the second edition of the show, which has done well by viewers and critics. For obvious reasons, I'm not a big CBC watcher, but my Canadian sources tell me that this is not a one-joke show designed to highlight men's incompetence. 

Still, color me unimpressed by the idea of a "social experiement" that is based on the idea that there is something dramatic (or comedic) about guys being pressed into service as fathers. It's not that I don't think that anything interesting willing happen -- most families are a finely tuned ecosystem that turn topsy-turvy whenever something changes -- it's just that pegging this all to the idea that guys don't exactly know how to cope is a bit tired. I'm speaking without the benefit of any perspective, though, so I'd love to hear from my Canadian readers ... 

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Donate Your Dad-Ness to Science

I get contacted from time to time by researchers who want to conduct inquiries into the heart of fatherhood. And I pass a lot of them on, especially if they sound legitimate (have IRB approval, etc.).

The latest to cross my desk is this one from Temple that seeks a better understanding of "attitudes towards fathers as primary and secondary care givers." Sounds worthwhile to me ... 

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At-Home Dad Playgroup Map Update

Many of you have written to let me know that the playgroup/dad's group map gobbled up your listing in the last couple of months, and I am happy to report that things appear to be working fine now. Unfortunately, due to incompentence on my part or legitimate technological gremlins, I can't seem to add new groups. So I'll be making an effort to move the whole enterprise over to a different, more stable system in the coming weeks (or months -- to be honest). 

This is going to mean some culling of groups that have dropped off the map and some additions of new organizations. If I should be including you (or if your group has moved on), please let me know.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Wingnut Declares Dads Can't Match Moms in the Nurturer Department

Before I go on an rip a Missouri lawmaker for a staggering stupid comment about fathers, let me first say that I am in favor of tax breaks and other government incentives to at-home parents. I feel even more strongly that *all* parents, regardless of employment status, should get some government largess.

That said, let me be the latest to call Missouri state rep Cynthia Davis out for a bill that would give at-home moms -- but not at-home dads -- 600 bucks a year to spend on their own education. Without the blatant reverse sexist, it's a great idea. With Davis' contention that the bill should benefit only women because "Mothers are natural nurturers. Fathers are not. It goes back to the hunter and gatherers type," it becomes borderline idiotic.

I can't possible hope to add much to Peter Baylies' take, so go back and read his last couple of posts on the matter

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Monday, March 02, 2009

It's Stat Time Again! (At-Home Dad Numbers Drop)

Before I get into the Census Bureau's estimates for the number of at-home dads in 2008, I need to acknowledge the fact that I totally missed the estimate for 2007. For some reason, I never saw the number, which was buried in this Excel spreadsheet. I don't feel terrible about it; the Census Bureau apparently completely missed the number, too. So ... even though it is a year late, lets get a drumroll. The number of at-home dads in 2007 was ...


That's 6,000 more than 2006 number, a modest 4 percent rise, and the highest figure ever.

But ...

The 2008 stats are now out, and they are less, ahem, robust. According to the Census Bureau, 140,000 guys were staying home with the kids in 2008. Let me put that in historical context:

2008: 140,000
2007: 165,000
2006: 159,000
2005: 143,000
2004: 147,000
2003: 98,000
2002: 106,000
2001: 81,000
2000: 93,000
1999: 71,000
1998: 90,000

So you're probably saying "Whoa! what the hell is going on here?" As am I. Here is my honest answer: looking closely at the numbers, the number of "all married couples with kids under 15" (the group from which the Census Bureau plucks the at-home dad numbers) is down more than 1 million between 2007 and 2008. The official explanation for this is that the Boomer kids are finally out of the house, and us Gen Xer and Gen Yers are waiting longer on having kids, so the number of parents capable of staying home is down big (more than 5 percent). This suggests that a bunch of at-home dads are now essentially empty nesters. (This would explain the huge, 200,000 drop in at-home moms, too.) This strikes me as suspect, but I'm no demographer, so draw your own conclusions.

This statistical blip is happening on top of all of the other statistical blips that make the current way of calculating at-home parents so dumb. This nutty economy will only exacerbate the difference between "official" at-home dads and the growing number of guys who are doing the gig. 

Lost your job in February and been staying home since? You're not counted (you have to be out of the labor force for 52 weeks). Quit on Christmas Day, 2007 but consult a couple of days a month? You're not counted either (you're not technically out of the labor force). Fired in 18 months ago and going to night school? You're probably not counted (you have to out of the labor force specifically caring for your family). Did your spouse loose her job, only to find another one 3 weeks later? You're not counted. And don't even get me started on divorced dads, gay dads or unmarried fathers.

I've always thought these are bogus numbers, but I take what I'm given. As always, the full accounting of the various ways of describing the at-home dad population are on my at-home dads stats page.

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