Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm Mr. Seahorse

At the Mall of America
Originally uploaded by Rebel Dad
If you like your children's books with a healthy dose of gender-equality (or better yet, widespread destruction of traditional gender roles), you really ought to be reading your kids "Mr. Seahorse," an Eric Carle book on all of the fathers of the sea and the way that the whole pregnancy/egg-hatching thing becomes dad-first when it happens under water.

At the aquarium beneath the Mall of America, dads can do the seahorse thing and put on a fake belly that reads "I'm a Seahorse Dad." Corny, yes. But fun.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Local TV Broadcast That Puts It All Into Perspective

OK. It's official. If you are a TV producer doing a national piece and you don't try to book Jeremy Adam Smith, you're doing your job wrong. I love this piece, which -- visually -- isn't that different from the run-of-the-mill dad story. But it makes clear that we're dealing with changing gender roles and that is what makes this trend interesting.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Donating Your Dadness to Science

More good stuff from the academy. If you meet the criteria, consider checking it out:

Every day, in the United States alone, over 10,000 men become the fathers of new babies. Surprisingly little is known about the social and emotional experiences of fathers with babies and young children. In an interest to improve the well-being of new dads – and to foster the well-being of their children and families – the purpose of this study is to better understand the experiences of dads with babies, as well as the causes and consequences of the joys and challenges these fathers face.


This study is being conducted by Dr. Will Courtenay, in collaboration with the Center for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Courtenay is an internationally recognized researcher and scholar whose work focuses on understanding and helping men and fathers. Dr. Courtenay has served on the clinical faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and the University of California, San Francisco, Medical School.

Taking part in this study means completing an online survey. In the first part of the survey, you will be asked some background information about you and your baby. In the rest of the survey, you will be asked about experiences you’ve had as a father and with your spouse or partner, as well as your attitudes on a variety of topics. You will also be asked questions about your feelings and behaviors that relate to your moods. The survey should take about 20-25 minutes to complete.

The survey is completely anonymous. You will not be asked to identify yourself or provide any identifying information.


For this study, we are interested in the participation of adult males over 18 years of age, who have had a baby (or babies) within the last year. If you are not an adult male over 18 years of age and have not had a baby (or babies) within the last year, thank you for your interest in the study, but please do not continue with the survey.

All fathers of babies are invited to participate, including fathers who have adopted, fathers who are gay, and fathers whose spouses or partners gave birth to their babies.


Fathers have an enormously positive impact on their babies and young children. We understand this from lots of good research. But the impact that babies have on their fathers, is relatively unknown. Your participation will help to generate a greater understanding of the experiences of dads with babies. We hope that, ultimately, this greater understanding will help foster the well-being of fathers, their children and their families as a whole.


If you would like additional information about the study, or have questions about it, you can contact Dr. Will Courtenay at DadsStudy@MensDoc.com to answer any questions about the survey.

Monday, June 22, 2009

While We're Still Feeling the Dad's Day Buzz

I wanted to take a second to put in an additional plug (not the first, and certainly not the last) for the At-Home Dad Convention, which will be held in Omaha this year on October 10. Given that there are a lot of new AHDs (or so the media would have us believe), I'm hoping for a stellar turnout.

So block your calendars now and keep checking Southwest for good rates. Registration rates are signficantly lower this year (thanks to all of the new sponsors), and this should be another great opportunity for dads of all stripes to share experiences.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pampers Has Figured Out That I Am a Dad. I Think.

Every year, I give the Pampers people a hard time because they send me Mother's Day e-mails telling me how great it is that I am a mom and how special moms like me really are. It is one of those subtle reminders that society still doesn't see moms and dads as equally fit parents. (Or equally committed consumers.)

But I should note, in the interest of fairness, that I did receive a Father's Day greeting from them:
Hello BRIAN,

Moms get a lot of focus, but now it's Dad's day in the sun! Dads share their own special bond with their little ones that deserves special thanks and appreciation. ...
Now, you can argue that everyone gets this e-mail -- moms, dads, grandparents, obsessive coupon hoarders -- and that it hardly shows that Pampers has my parenting status figure out. But, heck, I give them credit for trying. And I'll give them extra credit if their Mother's Day e-mail next year is equally gender-neutral.

Happy Dads Day to All

I usually wake up early to give a Father's Day shoutout to all of the fathers out there doing right by their kids, but my first present this morning was a couple of extra hours of sleep (thanks, RebelMom!), so I'm running behind. That said, let me throw out some quick hits:
  • Happy Father's Day, Jimbo. Everything I know about loving kids unconditionally I learned from you.
  • Thanks to RebelMom, not just for letting me sleep in this morning, but for working with me every day to make sure that we're making the best possible decision for the kids ... and the marriage.
  • Thanks to all of the other Rebel Dads out there for making involved fatherhood a reality. And thanks to everyone who has supported those dads: parenting is never a solo effort.
  • Longtime readers my remember back when I tried to chronicle every Father's Day story about at-home dads, back when such stories were rare enough that such a project made sense. (I also had more free time back them.) But various folks *are* scanning the headlines. You may want to check out Daddy Dialectic's link round up ("part 1"). Or check out Daddy Types' "Token Father's Day Story Contest," which is loaded with wonderful stories that I would love to mock, if time permits, in the days to come.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Media Take Note: *This* Is How to Do a Dad Story

Yesterday, my post detailed how the Today Show, a profitable arm of the largest company in the world, could not manage to produce a story on at-home dads with any depth or originality at all. So what *would* a deep, original at-home dad story look like?

Probably a lot like yesterday's USA Today piece on the "new daditude." This is the single best piece of journalism on fathers this year, and maybe the best in memory. I could go, blow-by-blow, through the whole thing, but it would be more efficient if you just went and read it.

What makes the piece so great? For starters, author Sharon Jayson talks to just about every expert on the new fatherhood: they have Kyle Pruett from Yale, who has been doing this forever. She has Aaron Rochlen from Texas, who is as smart as he is a nice guy. She has a couple of other academics who are new to me. She quote Jeremy Adam Smith (of the wonderful Daddy Shift) and she chooses, as the centerpiece of the article, the guys from DadLabs, who are great spokespeople for the idea that fatherhood is a) important and b) not the same as motherhood.

There is also the absolutely needed to-be-sure section of the piece. Whatever revolution in fatherhood may be taking place, it's not happening everywhere at the same pace. And it's worth remembering that before anyone declares victory over old stereotypes.

There will be a flood of stories about dads over the next three days, most of them retreads following old formulas. If we're lucky, though, more and more reporting will take Jayson's piece as a model and try to figure out exactly what's going on with today's dad.

All the Vasectomy News That's Fit to Print

Since I'm a big fan about writing about vasectomies (hey! someone has to do it), I should point you to this week's USA Today column on the subject. It's kind of a good-news, bad-news kind of thing. The good news is that vasectomies seem to be on the rise, a consequence of the recession. (This isn't breaking news, but seeing it in USA Today does raise the profile.) The bad news is that the procedure is still under-used.

There are a lot of bad reasons why the procedure isn't all that common, and USA Today tries to bust those myths. Sadly, there's a lot of work to be done. In Home Game, the Michael Lewis book I talked about Monday, Lewis writes about his traumatic experience with a vasectomy. (It wasn't actually traumatic, but that didn't seens to squelch Lewis' sense of drama.)

So let me say again -- as a public service -- a vasectomy is not a procedure to get worked up about.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Today Show Drops the Ball. Again.

Full disclosure: I think that the men behind the New York City at-home dad group are wonderful guys. They are well-spoken, thoughtful and -- as best I can tell -- excellent fathers. Nothing I am about to say should reflect poorly on them. Also, full disclosure: the Today Show producers sometime show strokes of genius (sarcasm).

That said ... c'mon, Today Show. There are so many different ways into the at-home dad story (or, better yet, the New American Family story ... which includes some sort of acknowledgement that women, too, are part of the equation) that today's broadcast was a huge disappointment.

I swear that every single TV package on at-home dads runs exactly the same way: there is a day-in-the-life montage of one dad, a brief interview with that guy, a clip from "Mr. Mom" and a scene shot at a local park. So take a look at today's clip:

Now compare it to this clip FROM THE VERY SAME SHOW, in January:

THEY USE THE SAME GUYS. The same tagline. The same "Mr. Mom" clip. This from the top-rated morning show.


(And I won't even dwell on the recurring and extensive use of the agonizing phrase "Mr. Mom.")

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Words Matter

Almost all of the commentary I've received around this blog over the almost 6+years I've posting have been positive. But the negative comments almost all fall into the category of people telling me to lighten up: there is no reason to froth at the mouth about the term "Mr. Mom" or assume that a mothers-only internet community should be seen as somehow suspect.

I'm not sure I've always been able to answer that criticism well, but now I can simply point folks to this excellent guest blog over at the New York Times' Motherlode blog. A quick hit from author Paul Hankes Drielsma:
I don’t want to play the role of the “woe is me” father; to the contrary, I believe that everybody loses when we use trivializing language. Scour the parenting forums on the Internet and you’ll find the common lament that “DH” (darling husband) expects a medal whenever he “babysits” junior for a few hours. I have little sympathy for DH in these cases, but maybe a step in the right direction would be to stop using language that suggests hired help — to stop referring to DH’s job in the same terms as somebody who could legitimately stick his hand out at the end of his shift and demand a tip. DH isn’t babysitting, he’s parenting, and just changing that one word changes, for me at least, all sorts of connotations. A parent assumes supreme responsibility, and the only short-term thanks expected are the smiles on those chubby little cheeks. A babysitter assumes some responsibility, but never without those emergency numbers on the fridge, and he or she expects a ride home and fifteen bucks an hour.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Home Game Book Review

A couple of weeks ago, Chris asked me in the comments if I'd had the chance to read Michael Lewis' new book, Home Game, a collection of essays, many of them already posted to Slate, about being a dad. I used one of the themes in the book to build an On Parenting post, but that wasn't really a "review." Here are my fuller thoughts:

Michael Lewis might be the greatest nonfiction writer of our generation. The book is entirely readable. So he has that going for him.

What he doesn't have going for him is any particular interest in fatherhood. He admits upfront that the book might be seen as a report from a "kind of Dark Age of Fatherhood. Obviously, we're in the midst of some unhappy transition between the model of fatherhood as practiced by by father and some ideal model, approved by all, to be practiced with ease by the perfect fathers of the future."

Let this snarky line serve as warning: Lewis doesn't want to hear about how fatherhood is evolving. Indeed, by kid number three, he is no longer changing diapers or doing any of the other things that would seem to define modern fatherhood.

I don't hold his lack of passion for parenting against him. But the undertone of the book is that fatherhood is a nuisance, and maybe men would be better off if we didn't have any of these silly new expectations that dads should actually place an active role in the family. This does not make for an enlightening fatherhood book, and I have no idea why Norton (or Slate, for that matter) would be interested in Lewis' thoughts on an aspect of his like that he seems so often to undervalue.

Every once in a while, Lewis stops the narrative to profess his love for his kids and draw a parallel between all of the annoyances of parenthood and his deep bond. These are the least convincing parts of the book. Not because Lewis doesn't love his kids -- I'm sure he does -- but because they clash so stridently with everything else he records about his experience as a parent.

In short, it's not the best Father's Day gift, elegant though the prose might be. In fact, it might be a better graduation gift, a $23.95 dose of birth control.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Work-Life Balance: Coming to an ER Near You

As important as I think straight-ahead at-home fatherhood is in reshaping what it means to be a dad, I believe that improved work-life balance for guys across the spectrum is every bit as important. Since I no longer have the On Balance outlet to use to spread the idea that workaholism ain't the best way to live, I hope you'll excuse this disgression.

One of the companies I work with just fired up their own blog, on managing emergency rooms. But what made me happiest was that the second post ever on that blog was about the lessons that older ER docs can learn from younger ones, who are more likely to look for work-life balance in the ER.

This "balance" thing is everywhere. And I couldn't be happier.

Monday, June 01, 2009

New York Magazine Drives Against the Convention Wisdom on Laid-Off Dads

I have no idea what to make of this line from a recent New York Magazine cover story (thanks, Matt!) on how the recession is reshaping the Big Apple:
As a rule, able-bodied, unemployed men spend an average of just three and a half extra minutes per day actively caring for their kids, according to Jay Stewart, an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most spend their extra time on sleep and “leisure activities” (including almost two extra hours of TV), though they do spend an extra hour and 42 minutes on “unpaid household work,” which includes passive forms of child supervision (like being in the same room).
First, I suspect this is historical data, so it doesn't automatically apply to New York's newly unemployed. Maybe they are just like the unemployed of old. But maybe not.

Second, let's be clear about what "unemployed" means: by definition, it means that you're actively looking for new work, not making a formal shift to take on the household duties. In fact, against all common sense, the BLS believes that "at-home dads" (according to the silly, undercounted stat released each spring) and the "unemployed" are mutually exclusive groups, demographically.

Third the piece makes it sound like "unpaid household work" is mostly sitting around, ignoring the kids. That's certainly part of the definition, but most of the "unpaid household work" is actually "unpaid household work," not second-rate childcare.

Those are my attempted explanations. There is a fourth: the laid-off guy do a terrible job of stepping up at home. If it's true that the average unemployed guy spends an average of 3.5 extra minutes a day with the kids, that's absolutely unconscionable. Anyone have any perspective on that stat?