Saturday, May 30, 2009

Note to Media: Please, Please, Please Don't Link AHDs to the UChicago Bozos

So some kid at the University of Chicago thought it would be funny to launch a new student organization dedicated to the advancement of men. It's the sort of nutty thing that happens on college campuses all the time, during that wonderful hair-on-fire time of life where intellectual capacity tends to far exceeds your empathy, experience and understanding of the social fabric. As a student newspaper editor, I published way too many similar pieces from similarly smart people with nary a clue as to how the world actually works.

So my issue isn't with the naive kid at Chicago, who -- left to his own devices -- would probably end up with small group of guys who drink beer a couple of times a month and bitch and complain. Eventually, they'd wake up to reality, and that would be that. No, my issue is with the media frenzy around him. That this would be treated as an issue worthy of newsprint or the broadcast spectrum actually makes me root for the downfall of the mainstream media.

I'd be more than happy to ignore this, except that GMA Weekend -- in a feat of extraordinary journalistic gymnastics -- ended up tieing this student group to the at-home dad trend, then giving the stage to chief spokesperson for the up-is-down, black-is-white idea that men's voices are somehow being silenced in America, Warren Farrell.

Let me be clear: the bozo in Chicago ought not be speaking to the idea of at-home fatherhood. Warren Farrell ought not speaking for at-home fatherhood.

So reporters and producers: do you want to talk about how fatherhood is changing, and place that in the context of larger societal shifts? Drop me a note, and I'll get Jeremy Adam Smith in the studio with you in under 90 minutes.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Why Dads Should Count Our Blessings That We're Not the Target of Laundry Ads

Just a little levity for a Friday night:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Buy This Book: The Daddy Shift

Getting scooped by the New York Times is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I like staying on top of the whole at-home dad thing and being the first and most curmudgeonly commentator around. On the flip side, if the NY Times is beating me to an at-home dad meme, that means good things for at-home dads. After all, the Grey Lady's reach is a bit further than mine.

So let me graciously concede that the Times did a great job of scooping me by drawing attention to Jeremy Adam Smith's excellent book, The Daddy Shift*. She published a two-part interview with Jeremy yesterday, and it is well worth spending the next 30 minutues reading over it. A snippet:
... And yet men and women are living their lives according to scripts that are hundreds, maybe thousands, of years old, scripts that are not terribly relevant to our twenty-first-century reality. Women worry that they are being bad mothers when they go off to work; dads worry that they are bad fathers when they don’t. Some moms feel responsible — sometimes in overcompensating, overbearing ways — for kids and housework, and blame caregiving dads when something seems to go wrong at home.

But I discovered, in examining my own experience and in interviewing parents around the country, that these drawbacks can be overcome. The happiest couples I interviewed were the ones who prize time with kids and are able to articulate what they are gaining through a reverse-traditional arrangement. They value work and care equally, and are grateful to each other for the contributions each makes to the household, and so they value each other.
Needless to say, The Daddy Shift is a book well worth reading (and I may post a more thoughtful review once I have the time to sit down and really write). Jeremy does more than just gush about his choices regarding fatherhood, he makes a compelling argument that the whole institution of parenting is changing for the better because the definition of the "good" father is getting an overhaul.

* I'd say nice things about the book even if Jeremy did not include an absolutely unnecessary thank-you in it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dad, Beware the Sandwich Generation

File this under I-have-no-idea-what-to-make-of-it: the Wall Street Journal earlier this month reported on a survey that found that adult children were generally more willing to have mom move back in with them than dad. The Journal does a good job of teasing out all of the reasons why, but -- for the at-home dads out there that are doing the sandwich thing (caring for both children and aging) parents, I figured it was worth flagging.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The NY Times, Late to the Movement

I know this is a month late, but -- I assure you -- you won't be any worse off for having missed it: the New York Times stumbled across the trend of the economy creating involved fathers out of the rubble of the financial sector.

Now, let me give full credit to the Times. They appear to have actually tracked down a whole community of these guys, which is a damn sight better than a lot of the other reporting on this topic, which has tended to recycle the same few gentlemen (not that there is anything wrong with those fathers). But the general message isn't new: "Holy crap, men around here are sudden being forced to parent. Can they possibly adjust to this new and alien lifestyle?"

The answer is -- of course -- that, yeah, the guys are doing just fine. It's a bit weird with the new role (what new role isn't), but no one appears to be off their rocker with misery. Which is no shock to the rest of us.

(I guess I cannot let it pass without notice that the so-called paper of record saddled the story with a headline that included the phrase "Mr. Mom." So let me say to the headline writers of America, for the millionth time, "Mr. Mom" is -- at best -- a lazy, outdated phrase. At worst, it's a pejorative. Please, please look for some alternatives.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

On Excellent Fortune: Happy Mother's Day, RebelMom

No one other than Pampers ever asks me what I want for Mother's Day, which is only fair, given my sex. But, for the record, all I want on this holiday is more families in which moms and dads* work every day to be loving and supportive of each other and the kids and ready and willing to change the world for the better. (It's not a modest wish, but it is heartfelt.)

I already live in such a family, and full credit goes to the amazing RebelMom.

Happy Mother's Day, RM!

* Or moms and moms or moms and grandfathers or stepdads and stepmoms or aunts and uncles or partners or whatever family structure works for you.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

My Third Annual Open Letter to the Morons at Pampers

Dear Pampers,

When my youngest was born, I signed up for your nice e-mail service, in hopes of knocking a buck or two off of diapers every once a while. As part of your e-mail marking plan, you send me an e-mail *every Mother's Day* that attempts to butter me up. Allow me to quote from the latest edition:
Happy Mother's Day, BRIAN,

Whether it's your first Mother's Day or beyond, it's always a great day to bask in your family's appreciation. ...
I cannot watch TV or open a magazine without someone telling me how the recession/new gender roles/Gen Y fathers/etc. are changing fatherhood and how no aspect of parenting, beyond the actual birth and breastfeeding, is the sole domain of moms anymore. Certainly, there are millions of dads out there buying diapers. It's not exactly a secret.

And yet, every year, you blanket me (and, presumably tens of thousands of other dads) with a sweet reminder that one of the largest consumer-products companies in the history of the world still assumes that every person who wants diaper coupons is a women.

That's dumb, and it makes us guys feel less warm and fuzzy about your brand.

Happy Mother's Day,

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

"Even the Most Enlightened, Feminist Males Struggle" With At-Home Role, Says ABC

Somewhere, an engineer at Google is developing an algorithm that allows a computer to write the in-vogue working-man-loses-job-and-starts-doing-the-kid-thing story without any human intervention. All the computer would have to do is find a guy, automatically insert a generic harmless quote about adjusting to the role. There would be a quote from the spouse expressing support for her mate -- and concern about being the sole breakwinner. And there would be some expert commentary on how this is a trend that may or may not be here to last.

I don't think that a computer program assembled last night's ABC News piece on layoffs and at-home dads, but it's certainly possible. The only element of the story that caught my eye was the "expert" quote:
'Even the most enlightened, feminist males struggle when they can no longer be the primary earner,' said Deborah Carr, professor of sociology at Rutgers University.
Now, I don't want to claim that the transition to at-home fatherhood is all chocolate and roses, but for most guys who make the decision (or have the decision thrust on them), losing the primary earner status is not a huge deal. It's like any other transition in life: scary, kind of weird, certainly an adjustment. But not a struggle.