Newsweek published a very engaging & comprehensive article for fathers this week. Men’s Lib: To survive in a hostile world, guys need to embrace girly jobs and dirty diapers. Why it’s time to reimagine masculinity at work and at home by Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil. The article hits on men having to reimagine their role – potentially taking on a career that has been traditionally dominated by females like nursing, customer service reps, or teaching (me) as well as stepping up their involvement on the homefront with their family – changing more diapers, preparing meals, washing the dishes, and chipping in with more of the household chores. Additionally, I was pleased to see that Romano & Dokoupil had interviewed some key players on the parenting and fatherhood front like Joan Williams, Jeremy Adam Smith, Michale Kimmel, and Michael Chabon.
The home is a natural place to start. As the novelist Michael Chabon discovered on a trip to the grocery store with his son, society still expects very little from fathers. “You are such a good dad,” a woman told him as he waited in line to pay. “I can tell.” Exactly what she could tell was a mystery to Chabon, who recounts the story in his 2009 essay collection Manhood for Amateurs. But clearly no woman would earn kudos for toting her kids around the frozen-foods aisle. “The handy thing about being a father,” he later concludes, “is that the historic standard is so pitifully low.”
I tend to agree that fathers are held to much lower standards on the parenting front. I believe that is why active fathers get so much credit (and compliments) by the playground mommy & nanny set. Not that I don’t enjoy the constant “pat on the back” for being involved in so many activities with my son, but the growing number of guys like me are not superheroes. Nope, we pretty much do many of the same things that most primary caregivers do. We are just regular guys that place spending quality time with our kids high on the priority list. Not sure that is very newsworthy, but the positive recognition does feel good.
The article ventures into paternity leave as well. the U.S. is now the only wealthy country that doesn’t bankroll a bonding period (parental leave) for either parent….This could change sooner than you think. Recent polls show that majorities of Republicans (62 percent), Democrats (92 percent), and independents (71 percent) now support the idea of paid paternity leave. Big companies—especially those with lots of male workers, such as Texas Instruments, Sun Microsystems, and Ernst & Young—are beginning to offer at least two weeks of paid leave. New Jersey, Washington, and California have already launched programs that offer partially paid leave, and more than 20 other states are currently considering legislation—a bloc that covers almost half the working population.
The article is lofty and brings up some interesting points and issues that we need to address, even if it happens slooooooooooowly. Of course, there is no quick fix, but I always enjoy reading thought-provoking pieces like this that spark meaningful conversations. The writer’s conclude, “Ultimately, the New Macho boils down to a simple principle: in a changing world, men should do whatever it takes to contribute their fair share at home and at work, and schools, policymakers, and employers should do whatever they can to help them. After all, what’s more masculine: being a strong, silent, unemployed absentee father, or actually fulfilling your half of the bargain as a breadwinner and a dad?”