Dads in the news

Congrats to Brian at RebelDad for his new gig as a regular guestblogger in the Post blog On Balance.  I’m a bit jealous of his exposure (# of comments I got for my post on labor force participation statistics: 1; # of comments Leslie Morgan Steiner got for her post on the same topic: 187), but also somewhat glad that I’m not the target of some of the nutcases who comment there.

Yesterday Brian pointed out a SF Chronicle article on stay-at-home dads.  He responded to a Salon post critical of the article by writing:

"What makes at-home dads interesting is not that they walk their kids to school or go to the playground or do laundry or whatever. It’s that they are refusing to play by the outdated gender roles. Parents should have a wide range of choices about how they balance work and home, and one of the largest obstacles to this free choice is the idea that there are certain things men simply don’t do (and that women, therefore, must do). At-home dads help shatter this idea, which helps not only SAHDs, but also go-to-work women (who face less of a "second shift" at home), go-to-work dads (who have additional freedom to ask for flexibility) and at-home moms (whose choice is validated by an expanded — and more diverse — peer group)."

I’m not sure that’s quite right.  I think that reverse traditional families (my term for families where moms work and dads are at home) very much challenge gender ideologies.  But we don’t challenge the "ideal worker" model — the idea that employers are entitled to employees who are largely unencumbered by family responsibilities, who don’t have to run out the door in the middle of the day when the daycare calls because a child is sick, who can stay late without hesitation.

My husband has been staying home for over 5 years now.  At this point, I’m tired of stories about stay at home dads that basically treat them as dancing bears.   I’m much more impressed by stories about other things — finances, transportation, whatever, that take stay-at-home dads for granted.

5 Responses to “Dads in the news”

  1. bj Says:

    I think “reverse traditional” families do challenge workplace ideals. I don’t know any folks personally, so I only watch them on television (oh wait, I mean read their blogs). And you & Bitch, Ph.D. (whose family is changing, though) in no way match the extreme traditional gender divisions we read about in the blog world. It would be interesting to do a comparison of child-facetime between blogging families with traditional gender roles and reversed ones.
    I am (perhaps partially sexistly) convinced that the women who the sole earners in a family spend more face time with their kids even when the kids have SAHDs and also spend more time coordinating their kids lives.
    And, I base this on reading blogs (which is my only source of information these days :-).
    bj

  2. EdgeWise Says:

    The ideal worker model sucks for parenting.
    My experience as a father, was I had to basically lie to my company to get them to agree to let me “work from home” (really mostly work outside of regular hours) one day a week. I told them that our scheduled day care provider had bailed, and there was no time to get on any of the waitlists in quality infant care.
    The truth is we never really looked. I gambled that my company’s policy against work from home would would give way if I pressed. They are understanding about other “unexpected events” like a sick worker working from home occasionally. Plus, we had the luxury that we could afford to have me be unemployed for a little while. We don’t want our baby in day care until she’s older and less vulnerable, and I want the time to be with our child by myself.
    My wife has more experience with infants than I do, and until she started pumping, had a monopoly on feeding our daughter. I really want to be able to establish my own competence with our daughter without anyone else’s oversight. Otherwise I feel like I’m just a temporary stand-in for my wife, even though my wife acknowledges I’m already better with our daughter than she is at some things.
    It doesn’t help my confidence that my wife’s mother assumes I’m incompetent and is helping by being constantly critical of my infant handling and trying to take her away from me to “show me how it’s done.” My wife’s mother is going to watch our daughter one day a week, and I’m glad that she’s not going to be more familiar with our daughter than I am.
    Anyway, a little off topic I guess. Thanks for your patience and perspective.

  3. jen Says:

    I am also in a reverse traditional family, and I know I don’t challenge my workplace. I do challenge a few obviously sexist assumptions on the part of some folks: that all women quit work after their second kid, that women aren’t competent leaders, that women can’t hack certain environments, that women will cry. But when it comes to the big stuff, my family support system allows me to behave like a man. I stay late when asked, I travel out of town when I need to. I do the things they expect: I put in the hours and then ask for more money. Even worse, I get out of my second shift at home by hiring help to clean the house, or (these days) asking the kids to help.
    Statistically it’s true that kids with a working mom and an at-home dad get the most parental face time of any kids in any caregiving setup. But that doesn’t mean it’s bringing about change at the workplace.
    These days I’m feeling like even the flexible schedule thing may be too much of a battle. (Although I’ve long had the opinion that the structure of compensation in this country — the social security and unemployment withholdings, the health care expenditure — seriously tilt American business away from part-time workers.) But we should at very least be able to do better about letting people transition in and out of full-time care. I was appalled to see some commenters at the WAPO immediately assume that RebelDad had sucked at his job, and that’s why he stayed home. I think this is an unspoken, but common, assumption about both men and women. To me, that’s the first step: getting more people who’ve completed an at-home tour of duty back in the workforce, in places other than school buildings. If you have more folks like that around, proving daily that parenting integrates into all sorts of lives, you start making some progress IMHO.

  4. Jennifer Says:

    I’m also in a reverse traditional family, and I think I do challenge the stereotypes at my workplace slightly (but only slightly). Only that I leave at 5 on the dot, and some mornings take C to school and do the parent in the classroom volunteering.
    But that’s not that unusual these days in people my age; it’s slightly unusual at my level of seniority in the company. Did you see the commenter on salon who said that the daddy wars these days are between the 50 something man with the stay-at-home mother at home, who won’t give the 30 something who works for him the flexibility to spend any time with his kids?
    I agree the change needs to come in the workplace; reverse traditional families where the mother still insists on being able to spend time with her kids can help that in a small way (as well as subverting stereotypes more generally).

  5. Jeremy Adam Smith Says:

    “I’m much more impressed by stories about other things — finances, transportation, whatever, that take stay-at-home dads for granted.”
    This is spot on and I completely agree. The standard SAHD story is getting boring, fast; it’s time to leave it behind and treat the SAHD as a fixture on the landscape.
    Caveat: there’s room for stories that tackle the relationship between men and work, and childcare — but in an honest way. I confess I’m as tired of defensive SAHD boosterism as I am of the SAHD-as-talking-dog story. Yes, it’s wrong to “assume that RebelDad had sucked at his job, and that’s why he stayed home” — that assumption should be battled whenever it appears. But: some SAHDs did in fact suck at their jobs, when they had them; some are facing a transitional moment in their careers and are taking a break; some just have no career direction; some tried to make a go at creative careers while their wives went to law school, etc. and now find themselves dependent — so what? We’re complex creatures. SAHDs can’t all be poster children, with rugged good looks and successful careers behind them, tough yet still caring, handy around the house yet still able to change a diaper. It’s another version of the dreaded SuperMom. Why automatically condemn men who might be better suited as househusbands, as though a lack of career is some kind of moral failure?
    To put it a different way: we may want to promote the idea that dads can stay home, but we should try to avoid covering up the particularity of individual stories with some Platonic, macho ideal.
    (BTW, I blogged on the Broadsheet post myself at http://daddy-dialectic.blogspot.com/.)

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