There are now more than 50 blogs in my at-home dad blogroll at right. Most of those are thoughtful musings on daily life, but the freedom of writing online means that there's not actually very many examples of short, pithy pieces about what it's like to be an at-home dad. So it was most pleasant to run across this first-person piece from the Guardian (UK). It does a great job of capturing the job without sugar-coating it:
I realize that the complaints I have are the complaints of a billion housewives since women started keeping cave; looking after children and a home is low-status, poorly rewarded and self-esteem sapping. It's also hard to do well. It turns out that being a househusband is very much like being a housewife - what sex you are makes very little difference.
And the author unloads with an astute insight about why it's so hard to accomplish anything even when the day doesn't exactly end up filled:
Of course there are short periods when Jack entertains himself with pots or pans, or in his sandpit. But these periods cannot be relied upon, or scheduled round. The actual work of househusbanding may only take five hours a day but those five hours are smeared across the 13 hours that Jack is awake in a wholly unpredictable manner.
Housekeeping Day: I've cleaned up the convention wiki a bit. As it turns out, Hogan won't be there (he has an innocent family-related excuse), but I think we're still at about seven guys. Most of you I've not met before, so I'm excited about the event. And let me throw in an additional bone: the first ten people to sign up on the wiki and show up at the event will get a not-yet-available-to-the-public black REBELDAD bumper sticker.
It looks like we're narrowing down a time: Sunday morning. How early is early to you guys?
Also: I've added some new blogs at right: * In The Schutte House: It's a nice family blog, plenty of photos, and it seems to have flown beneath my radar for quite some time. Apologies. * Dad Writes: A thoughtful new entry that bounces around from family postings to personal posting to the occasional political post. From a dad who hopes to have his kids up on a surfboard as soon as she's walking. * Opinionated Parenting: This is the he-said, she-said blog where Laid-Off Dad does battle. It's a pro blog, and the "debates" of the first few weeks have had a forced feel to them, but it's well worth watching.
The next step, of course, is getting the OPML file of all the sites updated. I've found that having all the blogs in my newsreader has allowed me to can read all of the wonderful dad blogs out there, but Bloglines blogs are ranked in the order they're updated, I also know there are a lot of blogs in the list that haven't been updated in some time. The next update to the blogroll at right will be a culling: if a site hasn't been updating in six months, I plan to take it off of the list.
Coolhouse Update. I finally did get in touch with the PR folks for Febreze, which is running the moms-only sweepstakes for "cool moms." Here is the logic, as described to me:
1) Marketing research suggests that Febreze appeals to a certain subset of the household-product-buying community (the "cool moms" subset, apparently. Uncool moms, stay away).
2) The promotion was built with that community in mind.
3) The lawyers said that you can't promote a sweepstakes to that community (moms) and then let dads enter. That would apparently make it "misleading." So in the interest of orienting a promotion toward "mominating" cool moms, dads had to be excluded.
The legal part of this makes zero sense to me, and appears a pretty off-the-wall defense of exclusion as a policy. But everything else seems straightforward: they have a target audience that market research suggests is key to their financial success, and if you're not a part of it, Procter & Gamble has no problem ignoring you. Though I was impressed that they called back and explained all this, I'm still boycotting Febreze. And until I see some more progressive marketing from them, I'll make a good faith effort to avoid all P&G products. (No Pampers, no Pringles, and once I burn through the rest of my Mach3 blades, I'll move to Schick.)
This isn't a move designed to bring a Dow Jones Industrial Average member to its knees. P&G has revenues of about One Hundred Million Gazallion Dollars a year, so this is about principle. Honestly, it doesn't take much to make me happy ...
Quick Desperate Housewives Overanalysis, Goodbye Edition: I am retiring my weekly scan of the most famous SAHD on TV -- D.H.'s Tom Scavo -- out of a lack of material. The show's creators have utterly ignored him, and as long as that remains the case, I won't waste any bandwidth on him. I have been inclined to see the lack of the bumbling dad stereotype as cause for celebration, but Boston-based blogger Meredith O'Brien has a different, and worthwhile, perspective:
Never mind that little Parker has a stay-at-home parent in the form of a father to be with him every day. To play ball with him. To share stories. To read. To wrestle. Instead, viewers only see Lynette crying because of what she's "done" to her child by going back to work. Yeah, I get that the show is called "Desperate Housewives," NOT "Househusbands," but, still, why is it that all Lynette gets is guilt while her husband just gets invisible?
Parenting sells itself as the magazine that "gets moms." But lets be clear: if you want to subscribe to Parenting, you are more than welcome to do so. That's a statement of the obvious, right? Not necessarily.
The folks at Procter & Gamble, the makers of Frebeze fabric freshener, are clearly targeting moms with their Cool House sweepstakes. They talk about "mominating" a "cool mom" who has "the best snacks" and the "friendliest family." I assumed all the talk about moms, etc. is just offensive single-sex marketing, kind of the like the whole "Mama's got the magic" Clorox ad or selling Nissan minivans by claiming "moms have changed."
Then I read the sweepstakes' fine print:
No purchase necessary. Nominators must be legal residents of the 50 U.S. or DC, 16 or older at time of entry. Nominees must be mothers/female legal guardians, residents of the 50 U.S. or DC, 21 or older at the time they are nominated. Void where prohibited. For Official Rules/entry details, visit www.coolhouse.com starting 12:01 a.m. (ET) on 8/22/05 through 11:59 p.m. (ET) on 10/31/05.
Nominees must be mothers/female legal guardians...What!?
I plan to call the public relations people at P&G to see why they thought it necessary to exclude half of the parents in the country in their contest, and I'll let you know if I hear back. We dads have to put up with a world that generally ignores male caregivers, but it's rare that we encounter a situation where there's an actual "moms only" sign. So I'm through with Febreze. Lots of traffic on the dads-at-home Yahoo! group on this one.
Interested in thinking deeply about the at-home dad numbers from yesterday? Check out Half Changed World's followup post on the topic. By the way, Chip been suggested that we urge the Census Bureau to come up with a more sensible measure of at-home parent numbers; I'm now working on a letter to the Census folks, and I'll post it when I finish.
It's apparently open season on SAHDs. I've received a couple of e-mail invitations to try out for this show or the other (including a second request from Wife Swap. Remember them?). Russ at the Daily Yak has the details. If you are foolish enough to take Wife Swap up on their offer, tell 'em Russ sent you. He gets a finders fee.
The topline figure -- as Elizabeth mentioned yesterday -- is pretty shocking: 147,000 at-home dads, up 50 percent from a year ago. (Please see all of the reasons I dislike the Census stats before taking this as an endorsement). Let me lay it out for you:
The document Elizabeth forwarded along has some other interesting stats. Of the 147,000 of you who made the cut (I'm not counted), the most common age group for at-home dads is the 40-44 year-old group, followed by the 35-39 age group. I had expected to see things tilted more toward the Gen Xers with little ones, but it looks like that's not happening yet.
And this isn't the province of guys rich enough to make the choice a no-brainer: 25,000 (17 percent) are in households making $100,000+, while 95,000 (64 percent) have family incomes below $40K. (See the Half Changed World post for a more complete analysis.)
Twenty-nine percent of at-home dads have only kids under 6, 40 percent have only kids between 6 and 17 years old.
It's been a while since we've had a straight, by-the-numbers at-home dad newspaper story, but now the Chicago Sun-Times is on the case, with an unusually well-reported piece. There are some nice profile bits, and the author manages to track down Peter Baylies, which is always a good thing.
Bonus points, too, for being the first offline publication to mention the At-Home Dad Convention coming up next month. The Chicago folks are so well-represented it's hard to know if it'll boost turnout, but getting the word out is always a good thing.
Finally, it looks like I may have missed the annual report on my favorite statistic. According to the Sun-Times, the Census Bureau has our number at 147,000 (you'll remember I was trying to read the tea leaves earlier this month). I have no idea where that number is published (convention beer to anyone who can find the data on the Census site), but it looks like its popped up a couple of other places in the last few months. By those numbers, stay-at-home dads have risen 50 percent in a single year. Even given the usual statistic caveats, that should merit a closer look by the media, no?
I confess: despite the introduction of an at-home dad character, I haven't been watching 7th Heaven. But Blogging Baby has, and they highlight the current state of affairs over there.
Coming (eventually): I have some new blogs to add at right, some additional info to add to the wiki and -- always putting you the reader first -- a black RebelDad bumper sticker. And there's a whole bucketful of news I hope to get to one of these days.
I don't know if I should be creeped out or puffing out my chest. But the New York Times says that the "schoolhouse" is the latest, best business networking spot, driven by "the wave of involved fathers." The story ends up focusing largely on the networking part of things, talking to parent after parent from ritzy private schools who talks about the deals being struck and the lucrative friendships being forged.
There's not a whole lot on whether father's are really more involved than in the past -- the author just makes the statement and moves on. That's probably a good thing: the idea of active fathers makes so such sense intuitively to the New York Times that they don't feel they have to bother to defend their statements on the rise of active dads.
And, of course, there is the caveat that NYT trend stories are not always to be trusted. But I'll choose to accept this one. (Thanks to Daddy Types, who dug this one up.)
Quick Desperate Housewives Over-Analysis: If things continue the way they're going, I'll retire this feature. It seems for all the world that Tom is a capable at-home dad whose role reversal is hardly worth any attention. I may eat my words, but I must give credit where its due: on a show that traffics heavily in stereotype (often to great comic effect), they have still managed to avoid introducing a doofus dad.
As an aside, the show's voiceovers were dedicated to fathers, and were -- as are all of the voiceovers -- a bit on the treacly side. The one at the front of the show suggests that working dads felt no guilt or regret at being away from the kids all day, a statement I can only wish was true.
Earlier in the week, one of the dads involved in the planning of the At-Home Dad Convention (Chicago, Nov. 19) asked me to post the details on the event. He was a new reader, so he hadn't seen past posts on the issue, but I figured I'd do a quick roundup of links. In addition, I've added a "CONVENTION" link to the RebelDad convention wiki in the top navigation bar. I have modifications to make to the wiki -- I'll get to that next week.
So here is everything you need to know about the convention in one place:
Why is it that everyone thinks the perfect diaper bag is some sort of hard-to-find Holy Grail? I can't think of how many parenting mag articles I've read on where to find good/hip/cool bags. And Parents joined the club this month, pushing three daddy bags. First, there's the "DaddyBelt" which was apparently designed by "a weapons expert turned at-home dad." It was inspired by a carpenter's tool belt, I think, but ends up looking like a fanny pack on 'roids.
They also plug the "Marshall Bag," which looks to be a single-strap backpack. But like the other two bags flagged in the story, it comes in camouflage, which apparently makes it a "cool, affordable option ... just for guys."
Then there's the "Diaper Dude" line, which, from what I can tell, is just a glorified messenger bag.
Look, all anyone really needs in a diaper bag is that it be big, pocket-laden and waterproof. And there are tons of great bags -- in a variety of styles and colors to meet your needs -- already available that do just that. They are called courier bags. I use one from a company called Courierware. It is black. It is indestructible. I can stuff it to the gills with kids stuff. I can also fill it with ice and keep a six-pack cold for hours.
It seems like every major city has a former bike messenger who makes these bags by hand, and they are all outstanding (and hip, even if you can't get them in camouflage). There is Push, in Toronto, Chrome, in San Francisco, RELOAD, in Philly, Dank, in Milwaukee. The list goes on. I assume that however badly I treat my bag, it is designed to be used by people who treat it even worse.
Belated Desperate Housewives Over-Analysis: Restraint continues over in the script department, with no effort to paint Tom Scavo as an in-over-his-head SAHD. Could it be -- audible gasp -- that a dad staying home with his kids has little comic potential on its own? (Doubt it, but still impressed that they've failed to mine that tapped-out vein.)
Uh Oh. The pile of stuff to post on is growing, but things are calming down, so I should be better able to shovel it out to you in the days to come.
For starters, I ran across this bit from the UK suggesting that men may get a right to six months of paternity leave, which comes on top of the two weeks of paid leave they get. According to the Times, 60 percent of men take the paid leave. That's encouraging, I would think. Sounds like businesses are a bit upset about all of this, and if I have any readers on that side of the pond who can keep me posted on how this plays out, I'd be curious to keep up with it. Longtime readers know that I believe that getting men to take paternity leave is key in boosting the number of involved fathers (and at-home dads), so any move in the right direction, anywhere in the world, gets applause from RebelDad headquarters.
Look, I know most of you hate the parenting mags and their relentless mommy focus, but I have to (for the second month in a row) give a shout-out to Parents, which published snippets of Eric Snowdeal's blog about his micropreemie. The blog was (and is) fantastic, and I'm thrilled that Parents found the site and excerpted it. It's not a "mommy article" or a "daddy article": it's just a wonderful story with a happy ending. So check it out, or save the money and just read Eric's blog.
The same issue has some reviews of dad-oriented diaper bags, but I'll get to that later.
The Post article takes the American Academy of Pediatrics as pretty much blaming working moms for SIDS, saying that affection-starved women are taking the kids to bed with them and leaving them with uneducated caregivers. Money passage:
The recommendations come as more and more American women are juggling the competing demands of work and motherhood. That has led to increasing numbers of new mothers to sleep with their babies in what some advocates call the family bed, as mothers search for any additional time to bond with newborns.
Here's the problem: the the AAP statement (pdf) make no reference to "American women ... juggling." It makes no real mention of mothers at all. Instead, the AAP talks a lot about "parental" care, which makes me very happy. Dads are involved in care. They're involved in SIDS prevention. This isn't a mothers-only issue, nor should it be. I expected better from the Post.
I'm late to the party when it comes to commenting on the upcoming Martha Stewart at-home dad shindig (tickets may still be available). Martha is celebrating National Men Make Dinner Day and has invited SAHDS to fill her audience. There is much here to rant about, and Mr. Nice Guy has done a wonderful job of ranting on the subject. Please read his post. It is done with a truly wonderful level of bile and disdain. (Blogging Baby, too, has picked up on MNG's post.)
I did some checking into National Men Make Dinner Day, and I must say that I find the website utterly obnoxious. I would post the most obnoxious parts, but I honestly can't settle on which parts are worst. Your suggestions are welcome.
A couple of additional points worth making: 1) National Men Make Dinner Day was created by Canadians, so it isn't binding on most of you. 2) It was created by a Canadian radio station, which suggest the general level of critical thought that has gone into it. Obviously, this is a very drawn-out joke based solely on a silly, outdated sexist stereotype. And since I don't laugh at sexist stereotypes, no matter their target, I'll instead chuckle at Martha, who is apparently putting her considerable media heft behind an un-American holiday being promoted by some DJs from the great white north.
Holy cow. Last year, around this time, the Census Bureau published its annual and deeply flawed at-home dad estimate. So I have been waiting patiently for the new government demographers to release the 2004 figures. They haven't. So I did some investigating m'self and found this hard-to-parse chart. After a great deal of screwing around, I managed to make it readable. I'm glad I took the time.
It doesn't say how many at-home dads there are (in 2003 there were 98,000, by the government's poor reasoning), but it does have the next best stat: the number of children being cared for by at-home dads. And that number is staggering: 268,000. (In 2003 it was 175,000. In 2002, 189,000). So we're talking about a 53 percent jump in one year. That is amazing, and we can expect a similar jump in the overall at-home dad numbers, if the Census folks ever decide to do that math.
Let me quickly lay out two caveats. One is that the number is still a gross underestimation of our numbers, the same reasons I harp on every year. By excluding part-time workers, shift workers, seasonal worker, students, husbands of maternity-leave-taking working women, etc. etc., the overall number remains suppressed by a factor of 20. Two is that the because the number of at-home dads counted remains small, there's a larger margin of error. For all I know, the real jump was more modest. But with a 53 percent increase showing in the stats, I'm confident there was some sort of real jump.
So what's at work here? Allow me some jubilant overreaching: at-home dads could be turning a corner. Granted, we're still outnumbered (by a factor of 50) by at-home moms (up by a modest 1.6 percent in 2004), but I believe that the times, they are a changin'. The recent boom in movie and television characters who are at-home dads reflects what Hollywood writers -- and everyone else -- has noticed. There are more dads on the playground, more dads at the grocery store. It is entirely possible that we are near a tipping point, in which some of the social stigma surrounding at-home fatherhood has melted away. My local landscape has become slightly more gender-neutral even in the four years since I started the dadhood thing. Looks like I'm not alone.
More on this later, I'm sure, and I'll keep looking for the Census Bureau to release the actual at-home dad numbers.
I keep meaning to post the latest from stay-at-home dad/Playboy magazine writer/general funny guy Buzz McClain. He got a vasectomy and wrote one heck of a piece on it for the Washington Post. (And if anyone has an MP3 of Chad singing his vasecomy ode -- Goodbye to Sperm -- at the At-Home Dad Convention a few years back, I'd love to post it.)
Good Morning America, in pursuit of synergy, decided to run with a deeper look at the Desperate Housewives at-home dad situation. They had an expert on yesterday talking about how to shift to the dad-as-caregiver model. It's all sound -- if obvious -- advice, but the expert, Tory Johnson, emphasizes a crucial point: "Dad is not a baby sitter." Of all of the small insults that get hurled our way, the casual "oh -- so you're babysitting today!" from the store clerk is one of the most irritating. It makes childcare sound like an obligation, something best left to the 14-year-old next door. I don't ever babysit. I parent. It's nice to see that acknowledged.
We're doing what comes naturally: loyal reader Evan just sent me a most wonderful New Scientist article on how men are actually hard-wired to be caregivers. (The story is behind a subscription wall. Sorry.) It's a neat way to think of things: that though the past few thousand years have built up a stereotype of man-as-provider, we are actually far more inclined to co-parent than one might suggest.
Central in the article's evidence is that men undergo massive hormone changes around childbirth, suggesting that the event has been tremendously important in evolutionary history. This isn't a new point -- Yale's Kyle Pruett, At-Home Dad Convention superstar, loves talking about it -- but it is worth repeating.
Quick Desperate Housewives Over-Analysis: Tom Scavo, our new at-home dad, is a disaster when it comes to housecleaning. And this doesn't bother me much. For some reason, I don't have a problem with men being portrayed as slobs, as long as they're shown to capable parents. This reflects my own biases. I consider myself a decent parent, but I am, without a doubt, a recovering slob. I'll keep an eye on the subplot -- I imagine the writers can't resist the temptation to go the tired overwhelmed-and-outmatched-newbie-dad route -- but so far, they're failing to get my dander up.