Monday, May 14, 2012

Hooray for Stupid Dads!

Here we go again.  Just when I thought we'd started to really turn the corner and recognize that any parent, male or female, can be great at any aspect of parenting, a "daddy blogger" goes in again for the easy "bad daddy" jokes about why women are better.  The last time I got pissed off about this, it led to a lot of great discussion, and I hope some attitudes even changed.  

Here's the thing: whenever someone goes and makes sweeping generalizations about EITHER gender, it does all parents a disservice.  We wind up with society thinking women HAVE to be the parents because all men are boorish dirty idiots without the brain power or focus necessitated for child rearing.  That dads are just not as good as moms at doing the day in and out of child care. 

Each time someone writes that women are better at X, or men are bad at Y, it reinforces the idea that it's ok to just accept incompetence.

Which brings me to THEYCALLMECODY's post on Babble from lastweek, "Top 10 Things Mothers do Better than Fathers."  Ok, I get it was a pre-Mother's Day fluff piece.  I get that the title is to catch eyeballs.  Really, had he entitled it "10 things my wife is better than me at" it would be almost reasonable.  However, reinforcing stupid stereotypes is, well, stupid.  Here's his list, succinctly. 
  1. Hugging
  2. Injuries
  3. Changing diapers
  4. Preparing healthy food
  5. Keeping Kids Clean
  6. Snuggling
  7. Cooking
  8. Going Out and About
  9. Expressing Emotion
  10. Making sick kids feel better
For starters, it is at least encouraging that he was so strapped for 10 items, that he actually repeated some, as 1 and 6, 2 and 10, 3 and 5, and 4 and 7 are essentially the same things.  That said, let's look at these a little closer.

First let's take those that are just straight up BS, 1,2,3,4,6,7, and 10.  Unless breasts are a requirement for a good hug or touch, there is literally nothing that inherently makes a woman a better hugger or snuggler.  He uses anecdotal examples that are effectively meaningless.  Maybe he's just crappy to hug. Sick or injured kids can be completely cared for by a dad.  My wife passes out at the sight of blood.  Does that make her less of a mom? Does the fact that I don't get all emotional, but calmly clean up the child and treat them while soothing them make me less of a man?  Really, if you are a guy and still saying "rub some dirt on it," you are a douchebag, not a dad. 

Changing diapers is something I pride myself in.  Recently, at a family event, I changed a foul diaper one handed while carrying on a conversation with several other people.  I wasn't even looking at the butt.  All the women in the room clapped when I was done.  I even got to flex.  But it was just changing a diaper.  I got credit because I was expected to be bad at it, and I wasn't.  Nice for me, but maybe those expectations should change.   

As for cooking, I find it stunning that given the proliferation of celebrity chefs of both gender, anyone could make an argument for gender basis of culinary skills, healthy or otherwise.  That's just dumb.  There are a lot of guys who can't cook.  There are a lot of women who can't cook.  Maybe Cody is just one of them. 

This guy is clearly an adult version of Pigpen.  In the section on keeping kids clean, he writes, "I'm pretty sure I have mentioned that I once forgot to have the eldest daughter bathe for an entire week while Casey was gone recently."  Really? Hope you are kidding or you're going to wind up with a visit from child services if she ever goes away for two weeks.  This section is more than just reinforcing gender stereotypes though.   

It's parenting philosophy.  I WANT my kids dirty.  I want them to go out and get filthy.  I will, without a doubt, clean them up afterwards, but the experience of learning what makes messes is all part of being a child.  As an added bonus, he throws in the "boys are just dirty as kids" line.  I have a 7 year old that begs to differ. 

His going out and about section reinforces for me that he's either so incompetent that we should be applauding him for managing to tie his shoes, or that he's disorganized because his wife covers for him.  "I don't know how many times I have taken the kids to the store only to realize I forgot the diaper bag or that I had forgotten to pack the diaper bag."  His penis didn't forget to bring it, his laziness did.  I guarantee that if his wife rode him a bit about it, he'd start to make it part of his routine.  

Finally, he's all anecdotal about how robotic he is emotionally, while his wife is great at it.  Maybe his father was distant.  Maybe he just buys in to the idea that showing emotion makes you a "wuss."  Maybe he's Mitt Romney (I keed, I keed).  As a dad, you need to show your kids how you feel to teach them it's ok to feel and set an example of how to express those feelings positively. 

This guy is probably a fine parent, exaggerating for comedic effect. That said, if you or your partner is a bad parent, that's on you.  Anyone who tolerates their partner's crappiness at parenting is also a crappy parent.  This isn't the 50s anymore and child-rearing is a shared responsibility.  If you allow your partner to get away with being bad, you're also short-changing your child.  Straight or gay, modern parenting is about creating a balance where both of you work to use your strengths.  Defining those strengths explicitly along gender lines is clearly just stupid.  

In some ways, gay couples have an advantage.  Since there are two members of one gender, they  inherently have to go and define their roles explicitly.  Discussing what strengths and weakness they have, and decide what's best for the child, free from the slots people try to put us in.  Heterosexual couples have implicit roles, enforced by silly ideas as presented in this article, that actually does the children and their relationship a disservice.


(Note, this is also posted at the NYC Dads Group blog, here.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

So apparently..

The very awesome Good Men Project liked my last postand even reposted it. Thanks folks! Hopefully you'll tangentially inspire me to post more.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Comical misandry and the involved father; how not to screw up the conversation about the modern dad.

This is cross-posted at The NYC Dads Group blog

The word is getting out about the "new" father.  More involved, sharing equally or even taking a larger role than the mother in the raising of kids.  Our group is filled with men like this;  they're competent with their kids, competent at their jobs if they have them, competent with running the house.  Dads, employed or not, across the country are making parenting a more important part of their life.

That said, we still get the stereotype of being the Mr. Mom, trying and failing at replacing a mother.  Except perhaps around Fathers' day, we are presented as bumbling, laundry-forgetting idiots who can't manage as well as our wives.  Speak to most of us, however, and you find these stereotypes don't hold.  

With more notoriety coming for the involved dad, comes more media coverage. With more media comes the opportunity to correct the stereotypes.  A friend of the NYC Dads group, Adam Cohen, from Dadarocks.com, got such an opportunity at iVillage recently. See this recent clip from their video segment The Conversation Thread.

Now, while Cohen gets a great opportunity to set the record straight, the interview was set up in a way to reinforce the stereotypes, and we think we all can do better.  We've put together a list of a few things to think about when being an involved dad, and especially when discussing it, whether it's on TV or the playground.  We hope these will move the conversation forward and help us move away from 1950's clich├ęs.

1) Don't be the boob. Listen, just because expectations are low, doesn't mean you have to live up to them.  We get a lot more credit for simple things just because people expect us to fail.  Everyone wants to make the Mr. Mom jokes about burning the ironing, burning dinner, and burning your kids up because you forgot the sunscreen. Don't let this be true, and don't let other people get away with accusing you.  

Saying that after you "mess up that laundry 3-4 times you don't have to do it again" might get a laugh, but it makes us all look like an idiot.  Most of the dads we know are excellent at managing their households, cooking, and making sure everything that needs to get done gets  done.  

Victoria Perico, of Savvymommy.com, says that "if we leave anything up to a dad that's major, most likely it will fall apart."  Not only is this complete nonsense, but it makes me wonder why she would tolerate her husband being like that. Our responsibility as an involved father is two-fold.  One, don't be that useless guy.  Play your part and take control over these things. Make sure things get done. Two, when someone calls you incompetent, don't laugh.  Correct them.  

2) Be involved in everything -- not just major discipline.   Don't just be there to back mom up when "it gets escalated."  Being involved with the discipline (and education, entertainment, and everything else) of your children is your job.  You want your kids to respect you? Be there from the beginning.  When posed with the question about fathers' parenting skills, it's not best to start by explaining that you let your wife do the "baseline" parenting.  

To kick this reputation, we can't be the Don Drapers of the world, or even the Ward Cleavers.  We need to make sure that we are there for the school events, scraped knees, and the time outs.  We are not just the nuclear option for our wives when they get overwhelmed.  

3) Be on top of your stuff.  One of the more offensive points in the video is when Amy Oztan, of selfishmom.com, says "Let's face it, I think that in most relationships, men just suck at logistics."  She describes it in the context of her husband.  Points like this need to be challenged.  While this may be true in her household, perhaps some of it is because she tolerates it.  She says "there's always that extra layer of stress," but she says nothing about trying to get her husband involved in doing those things.  When we allow negative behavior from our partners without trying to address it, it is also our fault. 

For starters, handling "logistics" and the small details is not a trait unique to one sex.  I've known plenty of amazing male and female project managers, which is essentially what parenting is.  Just because in one person's household, such as Oztan's, the woman is better at it, does not mean the rule holds true for all couples.  In our group, we have men who run all of the details of their homes while others take a more shared role.  That said, part of being involved is being on top of the things your kids need.  Be a counter-example to Oztan's point, and then correct people when they make such assertions.  

For better or worse, part of the "job" of being an involved dad is helping to change the incorrect impressions people have of all dads.  Set an example, live that example, and correct people when they are wrong. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Anti-vaccination morons have blood on their hands,

This just in from California:
California Whooping Cough: 9 Dead, Infections On The Rise

Because of unfounded, and frankly insane, fear-mongering on the part of some groups, people have stopped getting vaccinated for lots of diseases. Straight from the article (emphasis mine):

All of the whooping cough-related deaths in California occurred in babies too young to be fully immunized against the illness, which is why parents and caretakers are being urged to get booster shots. Typically, babies are given a series of vaccinations, then receive booster shots between ages 4 and 6 and again after age 10.

Many parents forgo vaccines for their children because of concerns about autism, typically fueled by misinformation on the Internet, said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a University of California-San Diego professor and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The vaccines against whooping cough are free of the additive thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury that has been the subject of a long-running public debate about whether it can cause autism.

A federal ruling in March said there was no connection between autism and thimerosal.

"We need to remember that vaccines are probably the biggest reason that so few of us lose our children when they are young," said Dr. Patricia Samuelson, speaking on behalf of the California Academy of Family Physicians. "They used to say in this country, 'Don't count your children until after they've had measles' because so many would die."

Not that the ruling or any of this will stop the conspiracy theorists, but the fact that people are avoiding vaccines that don't even contain the ingredients they incorrectly think cause autism makes them even dumber.

Failing to vaccinate your kids not only puts them at risk, but everyone else they come in to contact with. You are a selfish ass if you fail to do it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

“Anybody that makes their kids a first priority deserves a lot of credit” – says Tony Dungy

This is cross-posted at the NYC Dad's group

Tony Dungy is an involved guy. He’s coached a Super Bowl Champion, he’s mentored Michael Vick as he came out from prison, and when he left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he even almost left coaching altogether to work in prison ministry. His latest project, All Pro Dad, may be his most ambitious effort yet. He’s trying to change dads.

All Pro Dad is an effort to get all dads to be more involved in the lives of their children, and children in the community. Their website is full of information for dads on how to make the most out of the time they have with kids, and there are events all over the country that help bring dads closer to their kids.



In collaboration with Campbell’s Chunky Soup, Dungy and Jerome Bettis were in Times Square this morning to launch the Campbell’s Chunky Soup All Pro Dad’s Pledge. This is an effort to get all dads to promise to spend at least one dinner a week with their kids (no cell phones), and get outside for exercise once a week as well.

For other Stay-at-home-Dads like me, that’s not much of a challenge, but it’s a great reminder to book time specific for your kids. You can take the Campbell’s Chunky Soup All Pro Dad’s Pledge here.

I got a chance to speak with Coach Dungy a little about fatherhood. “I think you want to see your kids get on the right track and Dads are so important in terms of that” he said. For SAHDs he added that “it’s great to have that time to be with your kids. Then it’s what lessons I am going to teach them. I’m here and that’s great, but how am I going to show them how much I love them and get them to know the important things in life? That’s what it’s all about.”

Most of us have that challenge of not being able to spend enough time with your kids and not being able to be at the important events in their life. The thing that you have to be able to do is show them when I am there how important they are to me.

When you are coaching a football team you have 53 players and they are all like your kids. They are all different and you can’t treat everyone the same. They all have different issues, different problems, they respond to praise differently, they respond to criticism differently, and the big thing is getting to know your players and it’s the same thing as a parent.

You have to know your children and know what makes them tick. What’s going on with kids emotionally, what’s going on in their lives affects their performance in school and everywhere else. So you can’t just coach your player on the day of the game you gotta know what’s going on in his life.

While I can clearly get behind the ideas of supporting involved dads, I should add that All Pro Dad is part of Family First, a group whose mission is to “is to strengthen the family by establishing family as a top priority in people's lives and by promoting principles for building marriages and raising children.” All Pro Dad and Family First link their sites to Focus on the Family, an organization which has been in the news quite often in its attempt to define family and marriage in “traditional” terms.

We can all respect everyone’s beliefs on these ideas; however, it is important to recognize that many of our groups’ members (and in fact by some definitions, all of our members) do not live in “traditional” families.

I enjoy the wide range and diversity of our SAHD group members and have found a great community of involved fathers in all shapes, sizes, attitudes… and sexual orientations. We are in fact strengthened by the presence of all of these voices. Dungy’s efforts with fathers are commendable, but perhaps this is something he can learn from our group – and get behind the support of all of us, straight or gay.

A good dad is a good dad.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm almost back

Recovering from long overseas trip.

This made me laugh.  If you know my older daughter, you know this strip (taken from Something Positive):