Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Changing the Narrative

Putting my resume together, going on interviews, and going back to work has made me reflect on my time with the National At-Home Dad Network.

While I hopefully participated in some part with all of our mission, which is summarized in the logo (Advocacy, Community, Education, & Support) Advocacy is where I choose to focus my energy.

Not every at-home dad thinks advocacy is something to be involved in. I believe in it. Not because what society thinks had a major impact on my daily life, but because I want to leave the world a little better for my kids.  And that means leaving society better as well.

We had some particular successes. 

On the 30th anniversary of the movie “Mr. Mom”, we ran a campaign to get the word Mr. Mom on the banned word list for that year.  And we were successful.

And when the Census Bureau came out with their report, “Who’s Minding the Kids?” and found out that the classify dads in the same category as grandparents or babysitters we started our Dad’s Don’t Babysit campaign.  It didn’t get the census to change the way they count parenting, but it was a message that resonated.

And while we certainly had a focus on at-home dads, the biggest realization was that changing the image of dads, all dads, was a step in advocating for at-home dads. And that meant fighting a narrative that was well established in society and in the media. That of the bumbling dad.  

It isn’t easy to change a narrative already ingrained in society. And unlike adding Mr. Mom to the banned word list, there is no set date to see success or failure. It is an ongoing challenge.

But the exciting thing is I got to see it change. It has changed. It isn’t gone, but that narrative is being replaced.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming this was my success or the work solely of the National At-Home Dad Network. There were already dads fighting to change the image of dads. At times we were able to support other’s work. At times we were able to partner with them. And at times they supported us.

This isn’t about claiming the success, but celebrating the success. And being thankful to be able to play a role in that change. Thank you to all of those who have, and continue, to be part of changing the narrative. Thank you to those at the National At-Home Dad Network that allowed me to have a role in that advocacy.

Here are the lessons I learned along the way:


Changing an existing narrative is a big job, and you can’t do it alone.  Find allies you can support, work with, and who will support you. And think outside the box as you look for them.  Think of groups that will benefit from the changing narrative. Think of those who the narrative negatively impacts. 


You are going to get opposition. Many people have lived with the narrative for a long time and they are not eager to change.  As hard as it may be, listen to them.  Find out what it is about the narrative that appeals to them. Don’t start out on defense. People want to be heard and we often spend too much time thinking about what we are going to say next rather than hearing what the other person is saying.  If you are going to change the narrative you need to understand what it is that make people embrace it so you can create strategies to change it.


You want the narrative to change, and you want it to change now. But that isn’t how it works. It is going to take a lot of work and a lot of time. If you are in it just to make the world better for you it probably isn’t work for you. But if you want to make society better for other people, for your kids and those behind you then it is a worthwhile endeavor.  


Yes, facts matter. But when you are looking to change a narrative you need other narratives to replace it.  You need stories. Stories connect to people in a human way that facts don’t.  So gather stories.  Get good at telling those stories. Make sure those stories are supported by facts, but you still need good stories.


Especially online, people are going to get nasty. But if you get into the muck with them you aren’t going to advance your goal. I was willing to engage with anyone in a mature discussion, no matter what their opinions were, but when they start getting into name calling and such going to that level with them doesn’t help. Remember, there are other people watching/listening. It is hard to just turn away when someone starts down that road. But don’t go with them. 


At the end of the day you won’t convince everyone. That is just the way it is. No matter the facts, or how good your story some people will cling to the old narrative. You need to be OK with that. And know that sometimes it isn’t about getting people to your point of view, but moving them slightly on the spectrum. Opening their mind. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

An open letter to Stay-At-Home Moms from a Stay-At-Home Dad

As a stay-at-home dad I have certainly dealt with stay-at-home moms. They are our peers. I've exchanged kid watching with them. We've joked about poop together.

But when Jenna Karvunidis got Pissed Off about stay-at-home dads featured in the newspaper (and a lot of women agreed with her) I thought maybe there is some miscommunication between some stay-at-home moms and their male counterparts.

I get it. You see us in the grocery store and some woman comments on how great it is dad is out with the kids. Meanwhile you are your second grocery trip of the day because your husband just invited his boss over so you have to pick up extra food and your 6 year old just took off down the isle with a box of Captain Crunch screaming "Ahoy there captain." And you think, where is my pat on the head? Why is he getting recognition for going to the store with just one damn kid?

The truth is we don't enjoy the lowered expectations. These are not compliments on our great parenting ability they are condescending acknowledgement of our existence. Like when your kid gets excited because a monkey on TV was "wearing pants like a person."

It would be like every time you went to the drive through pharmacy to pick up another med for an ear infection the man behind the counter said, "It is so great your husband lets you drive all by yourself." Trust me, this is not kind of compliment that builds you up.

We don't want to be complemented on meeting the minimal requirements of parenting. We don't think our contributions are somehow greater because of our gender. We are your peers. We know what it is like to have to function after staying up all night with a sick kid cleaning up vomit. We know what it is like to spend a day doing 6 loads of laundry knowing that it is only going to reappear to be done again. We know what it is like to declare pizza night because at some point, even if you like to cook, the daily grind of coming up with a healthy meal every single night is too much.

We are the few men in the world that know what your job is like. We are you allies. We want respect for parents who stay home full time, not just the dads.

And while seeing us in the media may make you "rage vomit" you need to understand that we are working from a media deficit. It may seem like we are being praised for doing what mothers have been doing for ages, but it is because we have been portrayed as totally incompetent of taking care of kids. Still today this is Nick Mom's bread and butter for laughs.

They have been so bombarded with these images that when they see a dad taking care of his own kids without loosing an arm it is like seeing sasquatch.

Granted, we each have our own battles.

The mommy wars are real. Women who work outside the home and those that stay-at-home seem to be entrenched in a battle of who is most important. Certainly not all, but enough to write books about it and to be immortalized in countless blog post.

We are Switzerland here. Almost by definition we have wives in the workforce. We understand that women are smart and talented and have great potential in the workplace. We support that. We want women to have equal pay not just because it is right, but because it impacts our family budget.

But we also know how much work staying at home is. We do it everyday. We don't devalue women who have taken on the same role we have. We are your allies in wanting respect for those who choose to stay home and raise other human beings. Why a stay-at-home mom would choose to devalue a man doing the same job is beyond me.

And it seems like there is a competition among stay-at-home moms. With your Pinterest boards showing the elaborate crafts you need to do for each and every holiday. The 800 post on the proper way to celebrate National Waffle Day and the 200 recipes for waffles you have to dig through to find the best one.

Maybe this is where we can teach you something. It is OK to just use the boxed waffle mix. Your kids will be fine.

Parenting doesn't have to be a competition.

So instead of starting a new war between stay-at-home moms and stay-at-home dads. Instead of referring to a dad taking care of his kids as "momming." Before you get worked up into a frenzy about the next article to talk about stay-at-home dads. Let's meet at the park, let the kids play and talk about how you get those damn ketchup stains out.

Would you take a minute to help me make a difference. I am asking ChicagoNow to follow their own Comment Policy. Please sign the petition.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Are we there yet?

So Jenna Karvunidis from High Gloss and Sauce is mad at stay at home dads.

What great crime against society did they do this time?

Was it daring to volunteer as a helper at school?

Was it asking if her kids wanted to play together?

Oh no, much worse than that, they were featured in a story in the newspaper.

Oh, the humanity.

She writes, "I love how they throw that in there like dads are extra special for momming AND doing things men traditionally do (I guess.)"

She has to say, I guess, because the article doesn't say these are men's jobs. But she does refer to a man taking care of his own kids as "momming." She is blind to her own prejudice.

Most stay-at-home dads I know look forward to a time when the bar isn't so ridiculously low for men. We look forward to a time when there are not articles about stay-at-home dads because there is nothing seen as unusual about it.


We're Not There Yet

Because stay-at-home dads are not valued the same as stay-at-home moms.

We're Not There Yet

Because dads don't have equal access to play groups.

And while some groups are working on that.

We're Not There Yet

Because dads don't have equal access to parental leave.

We're Not There Yet

Because PBS Parents showed this right before father's day.

But would never think of showing this right before mother's day.

We're Not There Yet

Because a children's television channel devotes itself to jokes like this and women think it is funny.

We're Not There Yet

Because dads are still shown as the incompetent parent and the butt of jokes in the media.

We're Not There Yet

Because dads are still told they are going to hell for raising their kids rather than a salary.

We're Not There Yet

Because men have to worry about taking the baby out because a place may only have a changing station in the women's restroom.

We're Not There Yet

It is true what stay-at-home dads do is not all that special. Women have been doing it for years and many still do it today. The bar for fatherhood shouldn't be "showing up" and stay-at-home dads is one group trying to raise the bar. But until we value parenting when a man does it as much as we do when a mommy does it, until we include dads when we talk about parenting issues, until we get past this idea that moms are naturally better parents, we're not there yet.

What is particularly frustrating about Jenna Karvunidis complaining about this article is that she has complained about dads volunteering at her kids school. She has said she is not comfortable having men in her playgroup. She is the problem

The original post has been removed so the text is below if you care to read it.

Get your buckets out, I'm about to rage vomit. Did you see the cover of the Trib today? ChicagoNow's very own stay-at-home-dad is on the cover for his stay-at-home-dad gig, the hardships of which are praised mightily. Of course they're praised now that a man is doing it. All hail the mighty stay-at-home dad! Dads! They so amazing!

I've got news, people. Women have been doing this job for centuries. Show me a cover of the Sunday Tribune about a mom doing the exact same thing. Has a mother ever been praised in all of history - genuinely praised, not condescended, but legitimized - for doing this job in all of its mundane facets? He's grocery shopping on the cover. A mom does it - a billion moms a day do it - and she's "spoiled" to be home with her kids. I live a life of "leisure" full of bon bons and soap operas. Sure, we traded our mothers moo-moos for yoga pants, but the same dismissal is there. But the second a man does it? A stay-at-home-dad? Oh, hell, it's a damn hardship on the front page of the Chicago Tribune. Yes, journalism is dead.

"[The stay-at-home-dad] scrambles to find time to work out, install a sink, do laundry, clean the play room and get dinner started". IT SAYS THIS. Yes, please, tell us how you struggle. Isn't it just "adorable" how a dad does "mom" stuff and it's a real accomplishment and we're supposed to pat his head? And please, yes, tell us how many sinks you installed. I love how they throw that in there like dads are extra special for momming AND doing things men traditionally do (I guess.) I refinished all the furniture upstairs when I was behemoth pregnant and had two children in my care. My mother-in-law shingled a roof during my husband's nap time. Where are our lollipops?

Listen to this, "[these dads] care much less about being perfect". Hmmmm, guess why? Guess why dads don't have to worry about being perfect? Because they're praised just for showing up. I'm sick of this! If a mom were quoted in the paper as wiping her child's mouth with the sock she is currently wearing, well, I can't even imagine.

I'm not criticizing dads staying home. Families all have to make decisions that work for them. Childcare and income responsibilities don't need to be assigned by gender. The problem I have is that women who stay home are perceived as pampered and their work is invisible, but a man in such a role is celebrated with a front-page article. Why is it suddenly such a hard job when a man has to do it? Why is staying home a legitimate contribution when the contributor has a penis?

If you want to remove the stigma from stay-at-home-dads, then don't treat them like special snowflakes. Legitimize the work women do and there will be no stigma when a man does it.

Rage. Beast. Angry. It especially smarts they chose this man, who put my maternity pictures on his Facebook page and solicited "thoughts" about my body. Remember? The pictures I posted when I wrote about being pregnant with a dead baby? Cool times.

I guess the Tribune is right: stay-at-home dads don't have to worry about being perfect. (They just have to show up.)

Would you take a minute to help me make a difference. I am asking ChicagoNow to follow their own Comment Policy. Please sign the petition.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yes, Vivia, there really are Stay-At-Home Dads

So I rarely blog.

So writing two blog post in as many days is crazy.

Writing two blog post in two days about the same person, fucking nuts.

But looking at Vivia Chen's twitter feed she shared another blog post she wrote on the same subject.

This one at the law jobs blog where she pontificates that maybe women lawyers just don't make enough money to have spouses staying at home.

I don't know if female Wall Streeters are more open about being the breadwinner in the family than their sisters in Big Law. But as I noted in Time, the arrangement "might be more palatable if the wife makes an outrageous amount of money." In other words, if the wife is an I-banker pulling in gazillions of dollars, maybe everyone will learn to make peace with the gender reversal.

"The problem might be that women lawyers aren't making enough money to feel they can justify having a househusband," one female lawyer explained to me. "Making half a million or even $1 million doesn't compare with what bankers bring home."

I don't know whether that means female lawyers can't afford stay-at-home spouses or that only the super rich have the freedom to break gender stereotypes.

Again, WTF?

My problem is not that she wants to talk about how gender roles play out in her social sphere. But it is like she doesn't even know there is an outside world.

This October I went to Denver for the 18th Annual At-Home Dads Convention. Yes, 18th annual. So while growing At-Home Dads are not some brand new invention of the super rich.

And I hung out with, learned with and learned from about 80 other guys who are the primary care givers in their families. Guys that change diapers, take the kids to school, cook dinners, do laundry and all the other things associated with running a household.

While sharing your financial records is not required for acceptance I feel pretty confident that most don't have wives making "gazillions of dollars." In fact there are several guys that were there on scholarship. The National At-Home Dad Network has a special scholarship fund to help guys who want to come but wouldn't be able to because they just can't afford it.

What Chen, and people like her, seem to miss is it isn't all about money.

Sure, you need money to live and function. For most, but not all, our wives made more or at least had more earning potential when we started having kids. Money is one factor in a list of things that led many of us to stay home.

But the primary thing was making a choice. Making a choice to have a parent stay home and take care of the kids and the household.

What Chen seems to dismiss is the sacrifice families make to have a parent, mom or dad, at home full time. Maybe it means giving up summers in Paris or living without cable. But somehow we survive.

So Viva (I hope you don't mind me calling you Viva. After two ranting blog post I feel we should be on a first name basis) it isn't just about money. It isn't about some magic number of dollars, like a gazillion, that we come to and say this is the point I will stay home with the kids.

Now I'm not saying your kids are ruined if both parents work. Each family has to make decisions on what works best for them. Just stop pretending that this is some choice left only for the super rich. Stop ignoring the reality of stay-at-home dads who wives don't make a million dollars. Don't be oblivious to the scarifies many families make to have a dad stay home to raise the kids and care for the household.

No, we may not have your net worth, but a lot of us are pretty fucking happy!

previous post: When Reporters Should be Embarrassed by Their Lack of Knowledge

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

When Reporters Should be Embarrassed by Their Lack of Knowledge

So, the New York Times comes out with a big article, Wall Street Mothers, Stay-Home Fathers

This leads Vivia Chen of the Time blog to write, When Stay-at-Home Husbands Are Embarrassing to Their Wives

Several dads responded, and they did a fine job.

Dave Lesser wrote Sorry Honey, Vivia Chen Thinks I Embarrass You

Eric Boyette wrote Frankly, my dear...

Understandably the focus was on the "embarrassing" part. I mean it was in the title. But there is something else in her article I found more disturbing.

The NYT article was focused on women in the top echelons of banking.

And this is the type of world Chen lives in, which she is happy to tell us. "I’ve been covering the elite echelons of big law firms for over 10 years"

And in her writing on at-home dads she could feel the embarrassment. "I sensed that reluctance when I did a story on female partners at big Wall Street firms with househusbands a few years ago."

So understand that her article is what she "feels" based on her mingling in a world of seven figure salaries. But at the end of the article she writes this:

"What remains to be seen is what happens when the economics are not so 'obvious' — when women work at more pedestrian, less lucrative jobs."

Wait. WTF?

No, we don't have to wait. It is happening. Just because Chen doesn't hang around with us mere mortals doesn't mean it isn't happening.

I know a lot of at-home dads. I'm guessing a lot more than Chen and all of them have wives with "more pedestrian" jobs.

She is suppose to be a reporter, but you don't have to pull your head very far from your diamond encrusted ass to know these dads are out there.

There are articles written about them.

There are conventions for them.

There are studies about them.

For Fuck's sake, do a google search and you can find hundreds of blogs written by them.

So maybe in the world of seven figure salaries and vacations in the Hamptons and private jets Chen's spider senses are right and some of those women are embarrassed by their at-home husbands.

But to write off the rest of us like we don't exist.

To call yourself a reporter and not even take the time to fucking Google your subject matter.

So Vivan Chen, the truth is we don't have to wonder what happens with at-home dads in families with more "pedestrian" jobs. For most of us it is working quite well.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What are you trying to say?

I didn't want to get misrepresent what was said, so whenever possible I embed the actual Facebook or Twitter post. Any direct quote from Facebook or Blog replies are in red.

So a little corner of the interwebs kind of went crazy last week.

Apparently it started when D.A.D- Dad All Day shared this Facebook post.

Now this is something many at-home dads have to deal with.

In response, High Gloss and Sauce penned this column, Advice to stay-at-home-dads from a cold, cold playground mom

This is not a new idea. If you search Google you kind find all kind of articles on the subject.

Personally I have seen it before so I didn't even comment on her article, but several dads jumped on about the sexism in her statements.

And several dad bloggers had blogs replying to the post.

What I found much more interesting than her article was her reaction to the push back.

She said that she doesn't want drama.

However she seems to create drama.

One dad did accuse her of editing her blog. After she pointed out that she had deleted comments he quickly apologized because it was a comment, not the blog post, he was thinking of. Here is that exchange.

Somehow that became multiple Facebook & Twitter post about how she was unfairly attacked for editing her blog.

In her latest post she writes "I'm not willing to take on the internet militia and defend every idea into cyber death (I do have other things to do in my day,) but if you want to have a conversation with me about how I protect and value my marriage, I'm an open book - in person, online or if offered, the opportunity to sky write."

But while she will take to Twitter and Facebook about one person mistakingly accusing her of rewriting her blog, and she will interact with those that call her names and will certainly reply to those who defend and support her, she doesn't seem interested in replying to civil questions about what she was trying to say.

At the end of the day I think the problem is that it is unclear what she is trying to say.

This is the paragraph from her original post that probably sums it up best.

So why are the ladies not meeting up with you? I'll say it to you straight. It's because being a stay-at-home mom is a precarious position itself. We have zero income and rely on the goodness of our relationship with our spouse in order to care for our own children all day. I'll just be honest with you. I love my husband to pieces and pieces. I'd pick him out of all the stars in in the sky, but even if he morphed into a troll who demanded I fix him 300 sandwiches, I'd carry on like I do without missing a beat. I get to be with my kids all day. That's a gift. If there was any drama or reason for him to leave me, it would mean leaving my kids to get a job in some cube somewhere. No, he's never expressly said "thou shalt not hang with stay-at-home-dads", but I believe the message is implied along with not setting his car on fire and sneaking poison in his breakfast. If I want to keep my spot in life, it's just easier to not rock the boat.
She got mad when someone understood this to be similar to cheating. (she compares it to poisoning her husband) "Is anyone actually reading my post? I also did not say play dates with SAHDs is tantamount to cheating. Geez, my husband couldn't care less what I do. I just don't think he'd be wild about me play dating with guys int he same way I do with other moms."

But then what is she saying it is?

It is obviously about sex because when asked about hanging with gay dads or lesbian moms she said, "I'd make an exception for a gay dad. Lesbian moms are no problem at all. I've known a few of them and it didn't cross my mind to be anything out of the norm. It's really the straight man thing."

And she shared how she would be comfortable right now. "I'm hugely pregnant with my 3rd right now too, so I'd be equally as comfortable. Think about when you only had one toddler and you darted around town though. Hanging out with a guy all day? I'm just admitting the truth."

She said it is not about at-home dads motivations.

If you read my post, I underscored the idea that it has nothing to do with the motivations of the SAHDs. No one is accusing you of anything."

But then offers this as "proof"

UPDATE: I just received this email from a supportive SAHD,

"I understand where you're coming from ... I'd bang you if I had the chance ,)

(that's why I go out on group play dates only )"

Point = proven.

One email from some creep (and if you email some stranger, especially if both of you are married, and say you would "bang" them I think creep applies) doesn't prove a point any more than this mom proves women shouldn't be in charge of children.

And she complains that, "It gets really awkward when you have to nurse and they're lurking around play group."

If you don't like breast feeding in front of people of the opposite sex, or in any public situation, I totally understand. I don't like showering in the giant open room that is the YMCAs men's shower. But we are not lurking to catch a glimpse of your breast. Most of us are married and have fine breast we can go home and see without the drama and without an infant attached to it.

Not only are a lot of people confused about what she is trying to say, I'm honestly not even sure if she knows what she is trying to say.

She says her husband doesn't care, but he wouldn't like it.

She says it is not about the motivation of dads, but a dad saying he would "bang" her is proof.

She says she hates internet name calling, but calls people who disagree with her "little man boys."

If you can figure out what her original post is about can you share it with the rest of us?

This image accompanied her original post. I guess it is suppose to represent at-home dads?

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Participation Medals

I saw another one of these post blaming all the world’s woes on participation medals in sports. Apparently all your great parenting can be undone by a $2.00 medal.

It made me think back to my younger days. I played some organized sports and truth is I cannot remember if we got medals or not. I do remember playing in little league and quitting after a year because spending Saturdays sitting on a bench and possibly being put into the game in 9th inning to strike out because the game was already out of control wasn’t all the fun.

But the greatest baseball games I played in didn’t have umpires. They weren’t organized by parents. We didn’t have matching shirts or team names. They were the summer days I spent at my grandparents and the neighborhood kids would show up at the park.

Sure, some kids were better than others so we learned how to divide up to make it an even match. And everyone played. No one just sat on the bench because they weren’t good enough. If we couldn’t field full teams we had to agree on rules on how to play.

Maybe the problem isn’t whether your kids get medals or don’t. Maybe it is because they cannot play without it being “organized.” Maybe it is because parents take youth sports way too seriously.

It seems to me that if there is anything to worry about it is the kids who are earning the trophies. The ones with great sports talent who along the way are taught that their sins outside of sports, can be forgiven because their play on the field is so great. The ones who will never learn that there are consequences for their actions until it is much too late.

That seems to me to be a much greater threat than the 7 year old who got a participation medal after 8 weeks of baseball.

The other argument is that it’s not like real life.

It is not suppose to be “real life.” They are kids.

In real life you probably aren’t going to be playing a sport.

If you want to get your kids in a sport for real life then get them in track, because no matter how old you get you can run. You can run 5Ks or 10Ks or marathons. But watch out because you know what, in those everyone gets a participation medal.