I remember the release of Mr. Mom, the 1983 movie starring Michael Keaton that posited the question, “What if mom went to work and dad had to take care of the house and kids?” A big laugh fest back in the day.
Dad struggled at first, and the house and kids’ lives fell apart. To most people at the time, this was not surprising. But then it clicked for him. Keaton’s character shaved off his scruffy beard, fed the family and got the kids to school on time. He showed the love and sensitivity his son needed to convince the boy to throw away his dirty old security blanket. In the end, people dubbed him Mr. Mom because he had the household running like people thought only a woman could.
That movie is funny and cute for a different reason today. Then, the jokes were about a bumbling father learning to play house; now we laugh because we see how old fashioned and outdated the film is. Seeing a dad who is capable, loving and nurturing as a parent is now more reality than oddity. Sure, we screw up at it at times, just like moms do, but as Lance Somerfield, co-founder of City Dads Group, said in a recent interview with Fox 5 New York, “These days, I think if you [as a dad] are not involved in your kid’s life then you’re not actually the norm anymore.”
Mr. Mom or Mrs. Dad?
I am that norm. I am a 41-year-old stay-at-home father of an adorable, sweet little boy who means everything to me, although he is not easy by any means I still love being with him and raising him and watching him grow. I used to be a paralegal but, after 11 years, I found the work to be unbearable. To be honest, taking care of him all day is harder than my previous career, but it is far more fulfilling. Thanks to the dramatic changes occurring in the fabric of the American family toward participatory fatherhood, which received incredible media recognition recently, people actually believe I can do it and that I can do it well.
Some women argue that dads are congratulating themselves for doing something that they have been doing all along. They seem to forget that, aside from showing the world we are capable of doing what was long known as “women’s work,” in the process, we have allowed women the chance to prove to others that their place can be anywhere they want to be – not just in the home.
Today’s dads are a growing brotherhood of caring, competent fathers who don’t just “babysit” our kids. We raise our kids and help them grow into loving, responsible citizens. Our achievement has significantly contributed to diversifying the American family for the better. And by gaining recognition from the highest offices in the land, as we did earlier this month at The White House Summit on Working Families, we have given all dads – working and stay-at-home – legitimacy as parents in a country where the definition of the American family is continually being re-defined.
We have taught a skeptical public that just because a man cares for his children full-time, plays games with them in the park, and kisses and hugs them that there is nothing wrong with him. He is not “creepy” or less masculine. He’s just being good at the most difficult job in the world — being a parent. It’s a job some of us really love.
We are no longer Mr. Mom. We are “Dad.” We are “Daddy.” We are parents.