Archive: Dads

What Dad Really Wants on Sunday

By Rebeldad Brian Reid When I was a kid, I don't remember Father's Day being a commercial endeavor at all. Maybe a card was involved, or a sleeve of golf balls or a trip to the batting cages, but that was it. Flash forward a few decades, and now Father's Day has been given the consumer treatment. Even People magazine feels compelled to cut into its Brittany Spears coverage to bring readers a mammoth gift-ideas section. I'm all for doing as little as possible to note the day. But if you really want to make a big deal of things, forget about gift-wrapping a new GPS unit and try out: Breakfast at the greasiest spoon imaginable. As a kid, my father used to take me to a joint called Roosters that served two eggs, two pancakes, two strips of bacon, two pieces of toast and all the butter patties and...

 

By Brian Reid | June 10, 2008; 07:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Salary.com's Assumptions About Division of Labor

By Rebeldad Brian Reid A couple of years ago, Leslie wrote about a nifty little PR gambit by Salary.com, which came up with a Web site that purported to calculate the value of work done at home by both go-to-work moms and at-home moms (it was later extended to dads, too). The original column received a lot of comments on whether there was any great perspective to be gained in attaching a dollar amount to labors at home. Salary.com is still at it, two years later, but what is really interesting is not how much they think we're worth around the house, but what they're assumptions are about what parents do all day. The Web site comes up with the final salary numbers by figuring out what real-world jobs a parent does at home, making the assumptions behind the final "salary" every bit as interesting as the number. Among the...

 

By Brian Reid | May 20, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (56)

At-Home Dads Not Kissing Under the Swings

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The usually spot-on "Brazen Careerist" Penelope Trunk dropped a bomb on my little corner of the blogosphere last week, putting up an anonymous guest post from an at-home dad who she said was "more honest with me about his life than any other stay-at-home dad I know." The honesty in the guest post that followed was mostly in the form of a confession of sorts about the time he cheated (or almost cheated ... it's not entirely clear). Trunk ends the piece by asking "Why do women hit on stay-at-home dads?" That question alone is more intriguing than the answer, which is that at-home dads -- in the experience of the many, many fathers I know -- don't get propositioned at all. They don't even end up in uncomfortable situations. But a quick glance at pop culture suggests the opposite: At-home dads must either be on...

 

By Brian Reid | May 6, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (72)

Do Dads and Mom Have the Same Back-to-Work Plans?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid This is apparently the season for at-home dads to consider returning to work. First, M.P. Dunleavey penned a piece for the New York Times about her at-home husband's impending move to go back to work full time. Then, The Washington Post Health Section, Mark Trainer raised the question of when his stint at home would end. Both Dunleavey and Trainer make similar points by the end of their respective pieces: At-home dads rarely see their gig as open-ended. There is a point at which almost every at-home dad decides that re-entry back into the workforce is inevitable. Dunleavey even goes one step further, suggesting that perhaps the eventual return to the workforce is taken more seriously if you're an at-home dad than an at-home mom: In all my musings about the difference between the lives of male and female breadwinners, this is one I hadn't considered....

 

By Brian Reid | May 1, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Men, Alimony and Balance

One of the shocks of getting divorced hit me the day my first husband petitioned for alimony. When we'd met, he had earned four times my salary, but he hadn't saved much and had credit problems. To help him through graduate school, I took out loans for his tuition in my name. I had police reports and family court documents to prove why we were splitting -- that he'd physically abused me for four years. Despite these factors, he could still apply for alimony -- financial support from me. I fought him on this request and won, although to get out of the marriage I lost more than I gained, financially at least. However I learned a lot of priceless lessons, including the fact that most U.S. divorce laws are as nutty, unfair and incomprehensible as love itself. Alimony paid by an ex-wife was fairly rare in the early 1990s...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 16, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Beyond the At-Home Dad Thing

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, I had my 15 minutes of fame, appearing on the Today Show as something of an expert on at-home fathers. That was a somewhat uncomfortable position to be in: I haven't been an at-home dad by any definition for a couple of years, despite my continued interest and blogging. If anything, I've morphed into a great believer in the idea that you can charge hard in your career without ignoring the little ones. It's not that I don't believe that at-home dads are doing wonderful things. They are redefining gender roles and are overwhelmingly committed to their kids. I have all the respect in the world for guys who have made that choice, and I want them to have as much support as possible. But I'm increasingly mystified by the press attention paid to at-home fathers. At the end of day, what I did...

 

By Brian Reid | April 10, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Joke's On Dad, But That's Not Funny

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I've always believed that the comics section of The Washington Post may be the truest part of the paper, in the sense that a three-panel strip, done well, can tell us a lot more about the human condition than a 3,000-word story. Not every strip can get to that level of truth every day. "Calvin and Hobbes" used to do it, as did the dearly departed "Bloom County." And "Doonesbury" did a damn fine job of illustrating "truth," too. But "Doonesbury" creator Gary Trudeau is taking a break, and The Post is trying out some new strips. The first up is one about an at-home dad/writer called "Daddy's Home," and it's been running for the past couple of weeks. I want to like any effort that puts dads-as-parents in the spotlight -- I really, really do -- but "Daddy's Home" is an illustration of how much...

 

By Brian Reid | April 3, 2008; 09:47 AM ET | Comments (19)

Playing Games with Balance

By Rebeldad Brian Reid About a week ago, I stumbled on a simple yet extraordinary autobiographical video game called Gravitation. It's the brainchild of a guy named Jason Rohrer, and it chronicles -- if that's the right word -- his efforts to achieve balance. The gameplay, elegant as it is, almost defies expectation. Essentially, you have the choice to play ball with your child (modeled in the game after Jason's son Mez) or do "work" by collecting stars. But each decision about work or family affects the way the game progresses. Start to finish, the experience takes only 8 minutes, and it's probably best to experience the freeware game (if you can get away with it today) before reading about it. I caught up with Jason to talk through how the game came into being and how it reflects his day-to-day reality: Most people tend to think of work and...

 

By Brian Reid | March 13, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (12)

Is There Value in Mom-Only (or Dad-Only) Playgroups?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid When I try to piece back together the first couple of years of parenthood, it ends up being a mosaic of different playgroups. There was the regular Wednesday morning coffeehouse run with all of the other infant-toting parents on the block. There was the weekly city-sponsored playgroup, which leavened the chaos of a room full of toddlers with a professional leader who knew a thing or two about kids. And then there was the library story time gang and the noontime post-preschool gatherings at the playground. All those groups were crucial to keeping my wits about me during that time. They were a kind of inoculation against the isolation of spending most of your time with pre-verbal children and the boredom that often creeps in when each day starts feeling exactly like the day before. Making the playgroup rounds as an at-home dad meant that I...

 

By Brian Reid | February 21, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (74)

Working Women Are Happy (And So Are Their Husbands)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid It's been awhile since we had a nice balance brouhaha, but I knew there was one boiling when I saw this headline at the BBC: "Mothers 'are happier' having job." The folks over at Salon picked up on it, too, running a piece that declared "The whole 'working mother' thing actually works." Of course, I couldn't trust the media to get all the facts right, so I dug up the research, from the UK's Institute for Social and Economic Research. According to the study, satisfaction with life is lowest for women who don't do paid work; those who work full-time have the highest ratings. I'm not a social scientist, but all of this seems compelling and seems to stick a pin in the idea that working women are caught in a life of two-sphere drudgery. On the flip side, it's not fair to label at-home parents...

 

By Brian Reid | December 20, 2007; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

How Not to Write About Parenthood

In my little corner of the world, where news about dads is scrutinized as closely as the play-calling of Joe Gibbs, there's been a huge buzz around a first-person piece of daddyhood in this month's Men's Vogue. Penned by Pultizer Prize-winning war correspondent Charlie LeDuff, it details one man's move from the stereotypically macho to the saccharine-sweet. And while I think it is absolutely fabulous that LeDuff is loving at-home fatherhood and can't help but talk about it, the article is nonetheless symptomatic of everything wrong with first-person writing about family life, and it serves as a useful guide for what magazine (and newspaper) editors ought *not* to do: 1. The mere act of becoming a parent and experiencing the joy of raising a child is not, in itself, interesting. Parents probably already know that joy. Those without children probably don't want to hear additional prattling. Living an interesting life...

 

By Brian Reid | November 15, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Perfect Man?

After 42 years of searching, I've found the perfect man. My apologies to the most important man in my life: It's not you, honey. It's a total stranger who took a year off to care for his daughter and lived to tell the tale of playgrounds, playdates, the joys of having a glass of wine with the stay-at-home mom crowd, and surviving interrogation from his hard-charging doctor father (What do you do all day? When are you going back to work? I never changed a diaper -- why are you?). I spied Brian Braiker's October 8 Newsweek article Just Don't Call Me Mr. Mom over the shoulder of a gray-bearded gent on an airplane last week. I was prepared to hate Mr. Braiker, a Newsweek staffer and father of two. Did he expect glorification for attempting, for 12 measly months, what millions of women do every day for our entire...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 22, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (103)

Newsmagazines Discover Dads!

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Time and Newsweek have both discovered fathers this month. To be more specific, they have discovered that 21st century fathers may have some traits make them different from the pops of past generations: They're diaper-changing guys who aren't afraid to sit down to a tea party with a doll and a couple of stuffed rabbits. Time's take was the more comprehensive of the two and nails all of the biological research and demographic stats that confirms the trend, though the story would have been far better if they gave up on their obsession with the pointless question of whether being a dad means being less of a man. But even after reading through the stories, no one they really defined what the "new father" really looks like. That omission of the standards for fatherhood in 2007 left me a little cold about the recent mini-boom in...

 

By Brian Reid | October 11, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (105)

Parenting Magazines and the Missing Fathers

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I've ended up at the pediatrician a couple of times in the last couple of months, which has given me the opportunity to catch up on my parenting magazine reading. For some strange reason, after my first was born, I started receiving these magazines -- Parents, Parenting and Child all appeared at one time or another -- for reasons I never really understood. (Perhaps they were gift subscriptions. If so, let me know and I'll send you a much-belated thank-you.) Eventually, the magazines stopped arriving. This was a good thing. Inevitably, reading through the issues, my blood pressure would rise. Even leaving aside the "beauty tips," nearly every article was explicitly targeted at moms, with story after story filled with "mom tips" or "mom advice" or "a real mom's story." It was as if half of the parents just didn't exist. In the pediatrician's office, I...

 

By Brian Reid | September 20, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Should Leave for Moms Equal Leave for Dads?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid As most of you know, family leave policies are one of my favorite hobby horses, and I have a pretty straightforward view of things: The more paid leave offered for the birth of a child, the better. Work-life balance is improved, worker retention is better and parents get time with the kids that they might not otherwise have had. Of course, in the United States, long paid leave isn't required by the government, so such policies aren't exactly standard. In fact, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, good leave policies are exceedingly rare. The IWPR looked at the 100 companies on Working Mother magazine's list of the most family-friendly workplaces and found that even among these standout companies, half provide six weeks of leave or less. That's pretty unimpressive. But even more interesting is how dads are viewed by these paragons of family-friendliness. Half...

 

By Brian Reid | September 13, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (114)

The Wonders of Commercializing Fatherhood

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Anyone who has spent any time over at my other side project, rebeldad.com, knows that I spend an inordinate amount of time moaning and complaining about how dads get marginalized in the media. And when I talk about the "media," I mean the media writ large, not only the news media. Fatherhood continues to be a sitcom punch line. Dads are almost entirely missing in action in parenting magazines (there's a whole post coming on that one). And men showing their paternal side in commercials? Forget about it. Take a look at the back-to-school ads, and let me know if you see a single one where the parent skipping through the mall or the office supply superstore or the department store is someone other than mom. Ditto ads for toys or household products or just about anything else (except, perhaps SUVs). The net effect is a...

 

By Brian Reid | August 30, 2007; 07:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Fringe Benefits of Housework

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I rarely use my coffee table to display coffee-table books anymore. I don't have the room in the budget for huge, overpriced tomes full of glossy pictures. And I don't really have room on the table, either, what with the half-completed artwork and medical journal articles and laptops and whatnot. But I am tempted this summer to clean off the table and plop down a wonderfully scandalous book: Porn for Women. If you click the link, you'll see that Porn for Women is actually something of a joke, a hardback that contains nothing but photographs of fully clothed, aproned men performing housework. At least, I think the whole thing is something of a joke. While I don't think the sound of the vacuum sends my wife's heart aflutter, I have collected enough information on the link between housework and sex to conclude that the best way...

 

By Brian Reid | August 16, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Rid of Time Sinks

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The chief challenge in balance, on a personal level, is making time for all of the stuff that needs to be packed into a day. And while there are now about a hundred thousand books out there that will teach you to do more, faster, it seems like the best way to extend a 24-hour day is to ruthlessly eliminate those time sinks that steal hours or minutes and give little in return. I've identified a number of time sinks in my own life, three of which I have made progress toward eliminating: TV: Once upon a time, before kids, I followed a huge number of TV shows. I was conversant in ER, NYPD Blue, the X-Files, all those now-defunct Thursday comedies and a handful of other shows I probably would not admit to watching if confronted. At the same time, I was working 10-hour days...

 

By Brian Reid | August 9, 2007; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Boys are Alright

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Former Postie David Von Drehle has the cover story in this week's Time, writing about the "Myth About Boys." It's well worth the read, even at 4,000+ words, for the way in which it cuts through all of the breathless warnings about how boys today are a bunch of video game-obsessed, super-medicated, borderline illiterate thugs-in-waiting. As it turns out, the stats suggest that Von Drehle's generation was far more screwed up (and that I came of age during a golden age of teen delinquency). But what was really interesting, from a balance point of view, was Von Drehle's attempt to explain why boys might be doing marginally better: Maybe our boys are doing better because we're paying them more attention. We're providing for them better; the proportion of children living in poverty is down roughly 2% from a spike in 1993. And we're giving them more...

 

By Brian Reid | August 2, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (168)

Daddy's Home

Listening to National Public Radio last week I heard seven precious words: Scott Simon is away on paternity leave. Don't get me wrong: I like Scott Simon. But I was thrilled to hear he's taking NPR's paternity leave. Only a few years ago, the bravest expectant dads would slink into my office to whisper that they were considering taking time off when their babies arrived. Would they get fired? Not get a promotion ever again? Be ridiculed while they were out? (I'm happy to report none of their fears came true. What actually happened was that people barely noticed they were gone.) A male public figure like Scott Simon taking leave to be a dad first and foremost is a small, important step to expand child-care policies as a mainstream workplace concern, instead of being relegated to "oh that's a woman's issue" domain. More good news for moms and dads:...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 18, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (403)

Happy Father's Day, Dad

In honor of Father's Day, I asked writer Joel Rose to share his thoughts on fatherhood. Thank you, Joel. By Joel Rose My father worked nights. A 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift. I woke at 5 to be with him. He always brought home the newspapers, the New York Daily News, the Mirror, and a bag of jelly doughnuts. We sat at the kitchen table looking at the box scores and talking sports, me just being with my dad, us being together. He called me "Boy." By the time I came home from school, he was gone. I still get up at 5. I make coffee, go to my desk and work. Once my boys get up, I'm theirs. I follow them into the kitchen and make them breakfast. While they're eating. I make their lunch. I give them their vitamins and a glass of water, pick out their...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 15, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (325)

Parenting Like a Man

By Rebeldad Brian Reid As the father of two girls, the phrase "you throw like a girl" makes my skin crawl. Boys have no intrinsic advantages in tossing a baseball. The only real difference is that boys tend to be handed baseballs more often than girls. Girls -- strong-armed as they are -- are taking back the phrase as a source of pride, and you can now get all sort of athletic apparent emblazoned with the "throw like a girl" motif. Along the same lines, "parenting like a dad" has long had a derogatory ring that harkens back to a stereotype -- cemented into the collective unconscious in 1983 with Mr. Mom -- of the bumbling fathers. But now we are also beginning to take the phrase back. The latest in this welcome and overdue effort comes from Men's Health, which is running a lengthy piece titled "Raise Kids Like...

 

By Brian Reid | June 7, 2007; 07:40 AM ET | Comments (460)

The Transformative Power of Dinner

By Rebeldad Brian Reid About a year and a half ago, a Wall Street Journal piece by a lawyer named Cameron Stracher caught my eye. It would have been a standard-issue op-ed decrying the loss of family dinners if not for the brief author's bio at the end of the piece, which noted that Stracher had a blog, dinnerwithdad.com, all about his efforts to make it home to eat dinner with his family most nights. He'd even sold a book proposal on the topic. At the time, I had my doubts that a high-powered lawyer and law professor who commuted 55 miles each way into New York City could actually pull off regular dinners. And, quite frankly, I couldn't see what the big deal was. I had to wonder: Had family dinners become so novel, so incredibly rare, that the topic deserved a book-length treatment? The book is out now,...

 

By Brian Reid | May 31, 2007; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Ol' Snip-Snip

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Biology is inherently unfair. No matter how seriously you take gender equity, men can't bear children. No pregnancy. No childbirth. No way around that. For my wife, pregnancy and childbirth were not particularly fun. And despite the occasional 1 a.m. runs to the Quickie-Mart to feed the crave du jour, there wasn't much I could do. So when the time came to discuss ... ahem ... permanently capping our family size, I willingly volunteered to have a vasectomy. Heck -- it was the least I could do. My wife, in good humor, agreed that a little shared sacrifice wouldn't be a bad thing. I went under the knife last month. I must report back, however, that there is no way that my procedure comes anywhere close to balancing out the physical-effects-of-pregnancy-and-childbirth ledger. Yes, it's a long 30 minutes in the operating room, but I was shuffling...

 

By Brian Reid | May 3, 2007; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Do Older Dads Make Better Dads?

"This may surprise you," said David Popenoe, a director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. "But in many cases, older fathers' testosterone levels have dropped, so they to be more nurturing." That quote's taken from last Thursday's New York Times article He's Not My Grandpa. He's My Dad about late-life fatherhood. Turns out there's a tiny minority of dads who are older than 60 when their children are born. According to the piece, there are only about 2,000 or so births a year to fathers this age. But the reports from the dads are fascinating. "It's so pleasant," said 73-year-old dad Dr. J. Allan Hobson, a retired Harvard Medical School professor and the father of twin 10-year-olds. "My success as a scientist depended upon my neglecting my first set of children. Now that I'm retired we have a lot more time together." "I must say the feeling is...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 16, 2007; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (397)

With Workplace Help, Dads Would Step Up More

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I spend a lot of time, here and elsewhere, defending the modern father -- particularly the young dad -- suggesting that fathers today are more engaged in family life and more willing to put work second. I draw on my own experiences, the experience of a network of other guys committed to work-family balance and a growing list of surveys and polls that suggest guys want more time with the kids. But let me be honest: Neither I, nor the guys upon whose experience I draw, are particularly representative. There remains a yawning gap between the picture of fatherhood that I like to paint and the reality on the ground. Yes, guys are doing more, but let's put this in perspective: Dads are averaging less than an hour a day of child-care (counting weekends). That's a heckuva lot better than 1965, when fathers only put in...

 

By Brian Reid | March 29, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Slugs in Recliners

Last year, I told you about some fascinating University of Maryland time-diary studies from the past 40 years analyzing how moms and dads in America spend their days. Yesterday, a Washington Post recap of the research cited sociologist Suzanne Bianchi's key findings that working and non-working mothers today spend 14.1 hours per week tending "primarily" to their children -- feeding them, caring for them, playing games -- vs. only 10.2 hours per week for moms in 1965. Despite all our guilt, moms today spend more time with our kids, on average, than our mothers did. And more time than fathers -- mothers today put in twice as many hours as men in terms of childcare and housework. And dads? Well, the changes are equally noteworthy. Fathers today have nearly tripled the hours they spend with their children. They have more than doubled weekly housework from 4.4 hours in 1965 to...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 21, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (440)

Happily Ever After?

As women spend more time working -- and have let/ encouraged/ demanded their husbands do more with kids -- fatherhood has changed dramatically in the United States. Because of this, dads' roles as parents have changed even more in the last 25 years than moms'. Along these lines comes I Think I Love My Wife, a movie that opens March 16 starring, co-written and directed by comedian Chris Rock. Rock, who is married and has two children, calls the movie "a serious comedy about dads and marriage and parenthood." The basic plot, as far as I can tell from previews, reviews and Rock's February 28 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, is that the main character's life is idyllic -- beautiful wife, lovely kids, good job, trustworthy friends. But he's bored with domestic bliss in a midlife, "is this all there is?" way, and easily distracted by a friend's seductive...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 13, 2007; 07:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Dads Key to Solving 'Care Crisis'

By Rebeldad Brian Reid In her Monday post on the comprehensive, if not entirely on-base Nation piece on the child-care crisis, Leslie asks, "Is Childcare A 'Woman's Issue?' " It's a good question. Child care certainly shouldn't be a 'woman's issue.' And, Leslie's conclusions to the contrary, it is less of a woman's issue than ever before. Today's dads are down with the cause. They are in the trenches. There has never been a time when men have been more involved, and the foundation of any political change will be further increasing voices of fathers in this discussion. Men are playing a bigger role, with younger dads, in particular, becoming increasingly involved in family life. Indeed, if there is a failing in the Nation piece, which exhaustively lists every possible policy-based care solution, no matter how expensive, it is that the author neglects the importance of changing attitudes -- not...

 

By Brian Reid | March 8, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

I've Seen the Ads, But I'm Not Buying

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Madison Avenue needs to get with the program. Twice in the last week, someone has sent along a link to a television commercial that derives -- or attempts to derive -- humor from the idea that dads are dolts at home. The first is a McDonalds spot from last year that shows a global cast of children chatting excitably in a number of foreign languages. In the last few moments, we learn what the kids were so worked up about, as a scene from the United States plays and a boy screams to his brother: "Dad's making dinner!" An international cast of dads is shown next, each clutching a bag from the Golden Arches. It's a sweet ad, until you think about the message: In all cultures, in all languages, dads don't/can't make dinner. Similarly, a reader forwarded me a video on Kia's site in Canada...

 

By Brian Reid | February 15, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Book Deals, and the Deal with Books

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Every couple of weeks, someone in the comments wonders aloud whether I'm fishing for a book deal. This week, I'd like to come clean: There is no book in my immediate future, much to my chagrin. Initially, rebeldad.com was designed to be an open reference for a book about at-home dads. I was fortunate enough to get hooked up with a high-profile agent and I hammered out a proposal about three years ago. But, despite the best efforts of my agent, I couldn't find a big publisher to buy in. The comments I received were consistent: The writing was fine, the logic was sound, the topic was interesting. The problem? Guys don't buy parenting books. After two years of trying, I finally threw in the towel. I still wander the parenting section of Barnes and Noble, wondering where the books about dads are. A couple of...

 

By Brian Reid | January 18, 2007; 07:26 AM ET | Comments (0)

In Search of a Role Model

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Ever since I transitioned from my life as a freelance writer/at-home dad to a full-time worker, I've spend a lot of time wondering if I really have this balance thing down, if I'm doing right by my kids, if I'm performing well enough at work. What I'd love is a role model for 2007-style fatherhood. But there's no one telling the 21st-century dads what their lives should look like. This is a blessing and a curse. The bookshelf is full of mother-authors vying to promote their viewpoint that moms should stay home or moms should work or moms should "sequence" or moms should home-school and so on. These would-be role models for how moms ought to be tend to be shrill and antagonistic, but at least there are some models for motherhood floating around out there. For dads, there's not much - no one is wagging...

 

By Brian Reid | January 11, 2007; 08:15 AM ET | Comments (343)

Daddy Wars

When I talk to parents conflicted about balancing work and family, I often suggest they talk to their kids because, often, kids are far more pragmatic and less angst-stricken than parents (or than parents think kids are). Several months ago, I wrote an On Balance entry about kids' views on working moms. ABC News recently took the same tack and asked kids their opinions about dads juggling work and family in Moms Are OK at Work or at Home, but Dads Still Face Stereotypes. The story recaps work by University of Maryland researchers Melanie Killen and Stefanie Sinno, who asked 121 boys and girls ages 7 and 10 about working and stay-at-home roles for moms and dads. The kids thought it was good for moms to stay home -- and good for moms to work. "The researchers found that kids think moms can do both -- work outside the home...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 18, 2006; 09:15 AM ET | Comments (289)

Defining the "Daddy Wars"

By Rebeldad Brian Reid A few weeks ago, I wrote that the silly cover piece in The New Republic on the "Mommy Wars" may have actually launched the Daddy Wars. (The author, James Wolcott, takes a rather dim view of the stroller-pushing, sippy-cup-fetching "Middle Aged Dad.") But to be fair, I don't see much of Wolcott's sentiments out there. I troll the Web for news about fatherhood a lot, and beyond the Wolcott bit and a sublimely bizarre two-year-old rant from Cathy Seipp, I don't see a whole lot of backlash against involved fathers from other fathers. Still, with all the heat and noise around Mommy Wars -- a term and a concept that I believe overstates conflict between mothers and distracts from thoughful discussion of balance -- I've been wondering for some time if I could define the phrase "daddy wars." Are dads in the middle of any great...

 

By Brian Reid | October 26, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (126)

In Praise of the At-Home Dad Convention

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Humorist Dave Barry once warned that giving men responsibility for housework was a recipe for disaster. "The trouble is that men, over the years, have developed an inflated notion of the importance of everything they do, so that before long they would turn housework into just as much of a charade as business is now," he wrote. "They would hire secretaries and buy computers and fly off to housework conferences in Bermuda, but they'd never clean anything." When I heard of the National At-Home Dad Convention, I felt a certain inescapable curiosity -- could this be the farce Barry warned about? The idea that my peers absolutely required a weekend of keynote speakers and breakout sessions to keep current with the latest fathering trends struck me as inherently silly. I had to see it for myself. So about four years ago, I attended my first convention,...

 

By Brian Reid | October 5, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The New Daddy Wars?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Say what you will about The New Republic (and here in Washington, you probably do have something to say about it), but it's generally a pretty thoughtful magazine. Not always right, but thoughtful. TNR has covered parenting issues with some depth in the past, and Jonathan Cohn put up a blog post on the magazine's site earlier this year aptly noting that discussing Mommy Wars without daddy voices isn't likely to move the discussion very far. So I was actually excited to see that they gave the cover treatment to the "Mommy Wars" this week. But despite the intellectual heft of the piece, by James Wolcott, it's not particularly interesting or novel; really, do we need another piece taking hundreds of words to point out that Caitlin Flanagan is a hypocritical pseudo-housewife? But what is interesting to me was Wolcott's intro, and though the article is...

 

By Brian Reid | September 28, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Are Today's Dads Really Different?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, in the discussion over the super-silly Forbes piece, I let loose with one of my favorite points: today's dads "are much more interested in getting family and work time in the right proportions" than previous generations. But I was so busy scratching my head over the whole Forbes flap that I didn't get around to reading the study lying on my desk, "The Effect of Fatherhood on Men's Patterns of Employment." It's an interesting piece of work that pretty much contradicts my argument, coming to the conclusion that dads are working every bit as long as men without kids. There's only one problem: One of the two sources of data the researcher relies on is a survey of men born in 1958. And while guys born in '58 pioneered a lot of things -- disco, stagflation, the personal computer -- I don't think they're...

 

By Brian Reid | August 31, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (115)

Beware the Gatekeeper?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, Time Magazine raised an interesting obstacle to involved fatherhood: "Gatekeeper Moms." According to Time, new moms acquire parenting skills more quickly, and -- as the de facto kid expert -- then begin cutting dad out of the day-to-day care rather than watch him fumble with the bottle/diaper/bedtime routine. It's not generally portrayed as a sinister, intentional thing, but rather a natural consequence of the economics of child-rearing: Let the expert (mom) handle it. There are all kinds of smart objections to the "gatekeeper" idea. It emphasizes the dads-can't-parent canard, it blames moms for poor father involvement, it suggests that biology is destiny because breastfeeding is often the gateway to gatekeeping, it reinforces gender roles and so on. What's worse, gatekeeping is nearly impossible to measure, so it's tough to draw any conclusions about the extent or history of gatekeeping. Indeed, I'd wager that this...

 

By Brian Reid | August 17, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (137)

Do At-Home Dads Help or Hurt Work-Life Balance?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid For a long time, I've assumed I was doing right by society and my kids by being an active dad. I was thrilled to find academics that linked involved fathers to everything from reduced contact with juvenile justice to lower rates of teen pregnancy. And I thought that by throwing gender roles to the wind that I was part of a tiny revolution that would change the way that the home and the workplace operated. But lately, I've been forced to reconsider whether at-home dads do much to promote work-life balance or actually hurt the cause. It all started with a wonderful profile of at-home dads in and around San Francisco by the San Francisco Chronicle. Though a compelling and honest look at an interesting group of guys, a Salon piece raised a reasonable question: Aren't stories about at-home dads just celebrating traditional work-family choices? Does...

 

By Brian Reid | August 10, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (118)

Nabbing Dads From the Very Beginning

As I mentioned last week, I am (again) a new father, which meant that I had the opportunity to spend a healthy chunk of my summer at Inova Fairfax Hospital. Though, admittedly, I didn't have the hard job; it wasn't an unpleasant stay. The nursing staff was exceptional, and there is a deli in the atrium that makes cloak-and-dagger sandwiches on the grill that are just to die for. Fairfax is one of the busiest hospitals for deliveries in the country, and they have the routine down, from the baby security system to the instant availability of lactation consultants to a list of prenatal education classes that goes way beyond just the standard-issue Lamaze-type class. They have classes for parents having multiples, parents preparing for Caesarean section, classes for siblings, classes for moms with asthma, even classes for grandparents. The gaping omission, of course, is anything aimed specifically at fathers....

 

By Brian Reid | August 3, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (137)

Introducing Rebeldad

My name is Brian Reid, and Leslie has been nice enough to invite me on board to be a regular guest blogger. My official charge is to look at work-life balance questions from a dad point of view, and I'm thrilled at the prospect. The wonder of On Balance is the readers ... and the aggressive and thoughtful and passionate comments that flow after every post. I've written on the subject of work-family balance in the past -- some of you may have visited my blog at rebeldad.com -- largely from the point of view of an at-home dad with a bad freelance journalism habit, a juggling act I performed, with varied success, for the better part of three years. I remain incredibly interested in guys who make the choice to stay home and the way that society shapes their choices (and the way, in return, those pioneers then shape...

 

By Brian Reid | July 27, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Free-for-All: Dads Just Want to Stay Home

My husband likes to joke that he'd love to stay home with our kids. He does not mean he wants to play Candyland, make their lunches, ferry them around town to basketball/art camp/computer class/speech therapy, grocery shop, and try really hard not to scream at them at 6 p.m. What he means is he'd love to skip work, see the kids more, work out at the gym, take a nap every afternoon and occasionally play golf, while someone (me or a babysitter) actually took care of our children. For him, "staying home" is code for "goofing off." Perhaps I should take Perry's banter more seriously. Richard Castellini, senior career adviser for CareerBuilder.com, reports that the company's recent "Working Dads 2006" survey showed that 40% of working dads would stay home with their children if their spouse or partner earned enough to support their families. The survey included more than 225...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 30, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (123)

Father's Day

In honor of Father's Day this Sunday, I asked my husband to explain his views on dads, moms and "balance." Cat Poop on Sundays By Perry Steiner Dads are simple, very simple. We want to have fun with our kids, share laughs with our friends, have sex with our wives, and occasionally play or watch some sports. We like hanging out without being nagged. We go to work. That's about it. The truth is that a lot of men don't struggle with the same work-home balance issues that moms face, and we don't understand or relate to most of it. I've sat through dozens of conversations with Leslie and her friends on women's struggles of work vs. family. I'm probably one of the few men who has read her book. As a clueless husband, I was shocked by it. Shocked by the never-ending anxiety. Shocked by the extreme highs and...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 16, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daddy Difference

A June 1 article in The Washington Post ran under the headline Father Knows Best: Education Linked to Dads' Parenting Skills with the news that dads with higher levels of education are more involved in their children's daily lives. The survey involved about 4,900 men age 15 to 44 nationwide who were interviewed in 2002 and 2003 by the National Center for Health Statistics. Based on the findings, researchers estimated that about 28 million American men have children under the age of 19. About 75 percent live with their kids. Those with more education tend to interact the most, the survey found. Among dads who had attended college, about 87 percent said they played with their children daily, compared with about 76 percent of those who had a high school diploma or less. Roughly 65 percent of more educated fathers say they routinely bathe or dress their children, compared with...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 5, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Man and His Shed

My favorite dialogue from "Lizzie McGuire," the Disney series my kids' glue their eyeballs to every afternoon, takes place when Lizzie's father discovers that her nine-year-old brother has dug a cave to hide from the women of the family. Son: "Do you ever feel like you just want your own place to chill, where no one can bother you?" Dad stares insightfully at the boy as if no one has ever understood him in such a profound way: "Every day of my life, son." Echoing this sentiment, last Thursday The New York Times ran a House & Home piece called "A Hideout All His Own: What's a man who craves his own space to do? More and more are creating retreats in attics, basements and sheds." The shed part cracked me up. But I see a larger truth here. Men need their own space. One of their primary male-dominated gathering...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 22, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (94)

A New Generation of Dads

A few weeks back, I asked dads to weigh in on compromises they make for their kids. I was surprised by many of the responses. These words would never come out of the mouths of the fathers I know: "I patterned my life to accommodate my son, our only child. That's not to say I want an uber baby...Rather, it is to say that my ultimate gift to the evolution of mankind is my child. Maybe he'll grow up and do stupendous things. Maybe he'll just remember to come home for Thanksgiving. Either way, I hope he is happy, adjusted and that you or anyone who come into contact with him will be better for it." -- Major, 42, Chevy Chase, Md. Maybe part of my problem is that I don't know any men who feel comfortable articulating what their ultimate gift to the evolution of mankind would be. The...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 13, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (42)

The Daddy Track

For reasons I've never understood, someone always seems to be maligning The Mommy Track--that lower paid, slow-motion career progression some professional moms (like me) choose in exchange for more time with their kids. I happen to think The Mommy Track is pretty nifty. At least a few dads seem to be catching on, too, if this blog is representative. "I've changed my career to support not just the raising of my three girls, but also to support my wife's career. My choices -- an unconventional path -- have actually enabled my professional and personal growth. If you are willing to take risks, pretty cool things happen." -- M., San Francisco, 42 years old, father of 3 girls under 12 Good point, M. I agree totally. "I am an attorney. I made a conscious choice to work in a smaller firm where I make about half of what I could in...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 31, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Heart-to-Heart

While I was brushing my teeth recently, my husband looked at me in the mirror and asked: "That stuff in your blog about how I don't help out with the kids, that's old stuff, right? Or at least an exaggeration?" I thought about letting it pass. It was late, a bad time to risk a fight. But this blog is about telling the truth, so I did. "No, honey. It's true. I just don't complain anymore. And I don't think it's your fault. You're just not as good at the childcare stuff as I am." He didn't get angry. "But everyone tells me I'm such a great dad." "You are a wonderful dad. You do a lot more with our kids than my dad or your dad did. But moms can never really work full-time unless husbands start doing more childcare and household stuff. You know, staying home for sick...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 29, 2006; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Peek Into One Stay-at-Home Dad's Life

I got an e-mail from Max, a Milwaukee stay-at-home dad of two-year-old twin girls. This view of one dad's life was so interesting, I thought it should be a guest blog on its own. Here you go: I didn't imagine being a stay-at-home dad, so there was a certain mental obstacle to overcome. My father was the "traditional" head of the household and always worked at the same job when I was growing up. I sort of expected that would be the case for myself. In 2002 I finished my MBA and was ready to be the big breadwinner. My girls were born one month after I was laid off in 2003. Not being able to find a job so my wife could stay at home was painful. I felt I was letting everybody down. My wife was able to take six months off after the girls were born. Since...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 28, 2006; 09:13 AM ET | Comments (111)

Calling All Supportive Dads

Hey everyone -- Every week or so, I will be asking for commentors to share how they balance their lives. So, if you are willing to let me interview you for this blog, send me your contact information. This week, I'm looking for stay-at-home dads or sympathetic dads like Springfield Dad or Supportive Guy. If you want to talk about your thoughts on balancing work and family, let me know how to reach you. My e-mail is leslie@lesliemorgansteiner.com...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 20, 2006; 08:15 AM ET | Comments (7)

 

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