Thanks to active NYC Dads Group member and frequent guest blogger, Josh K., aka The Angry SAHD, who watched this video clip and was “ANGRY” because as the first dad ever on iVillage, we had the opportunity to shatter some stereotypes about fatherhood. Unfortunately, we did not. This entry is cross-posted on The Angry SAHD site as well. We would appreciate your feedback or comments.
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 1950s clichés.
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 Mr. Mom jokes about burning clothing while 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 of 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 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 community of active fathers, 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.
daddy in a strange land says
A year ago next week, my family was featured on the Today Show for a segment about SAHDs pegged to Marie Claire’s unfortunately framed story about SAHDS being the new “trophy husband” status symbols for alpha moms. Of the guys interviewed for the piece, the ultimate editorial framing of which was not what we’d expected, I volunteered for the video segment. I thought that the videographer, who hadn’t read the piece, did a great job, and that Matt Lauer, in his cross-examining of the magazine editor and “expert witness” psychologist after the video segment, did a great job exploding the editor’s framing (and referring back to me in the video in the process). So really, in terms of how not to screw up the public conversation, a lot depends on the luck of having sympathetic allies involved in the set-up and presentation of the discussion. We can’t assume folks’ll have our back or be on the same page, and if they aren’t and we’re all by ourselves, especially if we’re on their media turf, it’s very easy to get steamrolled no matter our intentions. Anyway, here’s that piece (scroll to the bottom for the video): http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/38628278/ns/today-parenting/#.TjxIGs1qyhc
daddy in a strange land says
FYI, this post inspired my own: http://daddyinastrangeland.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/trophy-husband-one-year-later/