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men who change diapers change the world
I heard a knowing giggle
from my two boys as we were walking into the movie "Lemony
Snickets: A Series Of Unfortunate Events". They were covering their mouths,
trying to hold on to their secret. I looked down at them and nearly ran into their
inside joke. It was
a huge poster for the Meet the
Fockers movie. I could read their minds. I have an excuse to say a near
swear word! Ok, hurray for Universal Studios for good
marketing, but that's not why I'm writing about the movie. Dustin Hoffman plays an at-home
dad in the flick. With the tonnage of reviews, what would the critics call
him? A Mr. Mom or a stay-at-home dad? The most widely distributed
movie reviews were from AP Movie Writer David Germain and Reuters reporter Sheri
Linden. Checking both sources, they decided to use the stay-at-home dad
term. The Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune, (also widely syndicated)
followed suit. The only major reporter using Mr Mom so far was NewsDay's
Seymour. It was refreshing to finally see an absence of the Michael
Keaton descriptor from the major news outlets. It could be an early
indicator that the media may lighten up a bit in next year Father's Day
articles. Below are the early results and links (more reviews will be out today
and into the weekend).
AP Movie Writer
|Reuters||Sheri Linden||stay-at-home dad|
|Boston Globe||Ty Burr, Globe Staff||stay-at-home dad|
|Chicago Tribune||stay-at-home dad|
|New York Post||Kim Burnes||stay-at-home dad|
|Lincoln Journal Star||L. Kent Wolgamcott||stay-at-home dad|
|NewsDay||Gene Seymour||Mr Mom|
Hold on kids! I'll be home in a sec.
Just a few weeks ago, at-home dad Jamie Martin was playing football with his two kids at home. Having been retired for a few years he got a phone call out of the blue from his previous boss, The St Louis Rams. They were offering his old quarterback job back. With star quarterback Marc Bulger recovering from a bruised shoulder, and backup Chris Chandler playing as if he had one, Martin got the nod to take the field last Saturday after Chandler's poor 1st quarter play offered no choice. He ended up completing 16 for 31 passes and gaining 188 yards but did lose the game to Arizona Cardinals 31-7. The St Louis Dispatch reported that Martin hadn't thrown a pass in an NFL game in two years, which, "is a lot different than just tossing the ball around in the back yard." Looks like Bulger will back next week and if he holds up, Martin ought to playing football with the kids on a regular basis again after the season's over.
Here's an excellent Monday morning read from Tom Chartier out of LewRockwell.com. Tom played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years It's titled I am a Bum, and proves that this guy is the ultra coolest at home dad of all.
Here's an excerpt:
You see I've managed to weasel my way into a couple of coveted situations and if weaseling your way into things isn't The American Way I don't know what is. First, I'm a house husband. My job is to hang out with my son. Oh sure, this means I won't get the penthouse suite, a company limo and will never get to sit with Wayne Gretzky in his luxury box at the Staples Center but I don't really care. I will also never get to make underlings squirm in terror at the thought of being told their services will no longer be required, but "say hello to the wife and kids and don't forget the fruit basket on your way out." Oh sure, it's a sacrifice but I am willing to make it. Oddly enough, unlike most of the big Kahunas out there standing center-ring running the show, these things don't give me any satisfaction. I don't even enjoy humiliating people, ruining lives or squashing bugs. So I guess there's no point in me running for office but...I don't care! And of course as Mr. Mom, I have to go to the store, do the laundry, clean the house and cook dinner. So what? I go to the store and come back with a heap of steaks, ribs, grillin' salmon flanks, corn on the cob, charcoal, ice-cream bars and cases of beer. Real American men live for these things. Do we ever let our wives even touch the BBQ? Hell no! That's our turf! And, I do not come home with broccoli, cauliflower or meat loaf fixins! Yeah, I gotta make the spawn do his homework but again so what? I don't sweat the small stuff. Whadaya mean you didn't get it done?! Oh well, neither did I and I'm a huge success. So let's go work on that balsa wood airplane kit and see if it flies. I do what most American men fear in their worst nightmares breaking out in a cold sweat, I take care of the house and kids! NO!!!! Well, let me tell you, they don't know what they are missing. read entire article
I'm off to a Christmas party tonight, and it looks like my fellow daddy bloggers are quiet too, some probably decking it till 2005. I didn't feel like posting today either but I was reading this one media story from the Hawkeye newspaper out of Burlington, Iowa. Apparently a prisoner escaped from their local jail. Looking for clues, they found he listed his last occupation as a stay?at?home dad. If you are going to a Christmas party tonight and see this guy (he's probably the one drinking the most vodka) call the sheriff's office.
Oh yes they also wrote: "he was previously charged with escape in August, but those charges were later dropped." (I guess when they caught him outside the prison last time they didn't have enough evidence.)
I have great respect for people like Charlotte Schoenborn, a 20 year Health statistician veteran who headed up this government report. When reading it, I felt like I was looking at the chart at left, it's cool, and straightforward, but didn't mean anything to me. That's why we need people like Charlotte to dig through the data and turn it into this user friendly report released yesterday from the National Center for Health Statistics. This dumbed down "E-Z report" knocked out the following bullets:
Married adults are less likely than other adults to be in fair or poor health, and are less likely to suffer from health conditions such as headaches and serious psychological distress.
Married adults are less likely be limited in various activities, including work and other activities of daily living.
Married adults are less likely to smoke, drink heavily or be physically inactive. However, married men are more likely to be overweight or obese than other men.
Adults who live in cohabiting relationships are more likely to have health problems than married adults and more closely resemble divorced and separated adults.
The association between marital status and health is most striking in the youngest age group although it persists throughout the age groups studied.
This morning I asked Charlotte the loaded question, "Why are married men were more likely to be overweight than "other men?". She wasn't allowed to give out her opinion and wanted to leave it to "us" to come up with any speculation. So I offered her just that, "Could it be that the married man tends to be around the house more, and has more time around the frig?" She paused a bit, then, commented, "Could be... a stable environment could mean a stable food supply".
Don't think I could have worded it any better...
It looks like Japan is beginning to experience the media treatment we got in the mid 90's when at-home dads were "discovered". Back then, the US media was set abuzz when the US Census reported the nearly 2 million at-home dads number that was heard around the world. Japans Aera Shimbun magazine caught the drift of the US reports and even did a story on the trend (they used the photo at left)
Now Japan has 3 home dad media events colliding at the same time, creating the perfect At-Home Dad media storm.
1. Japan's report from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry stating "The number of househusbands entitled to receive the same benefits as their female counterparts has doubled since fiscal 1996 to 80,108 in fiscal 2003" The Japan Times has a piece where they note of slight signs of emerging social flexibility over gender roles, quoting from an yet to be released government report, (it's coming out in June) saying the number of working women was set to rise sharply by 2020 and that "househusbands will become less unusual" around that time.
2. A new TV show titled At-Home Dad (mmm sounds familiar) featuring two at-home dads one unemployed and the other a veteran dad.
a sample of the commentary below courtesy of www.j-fan.com
Miki: Say, I hear the husband next door is quite a guy. He's a
Kazuyuki: Huh? The man next door? You mean he's a male homemaker?
Miki: Yes. I hear the wife is doing quite well in her job, so the husband quit his job and became a homemaker.
Kazuyuki: He quit his job? Doesn't he have any pride as a man?
Miki: Hey. People all have their different circumstances.
What took my interest was this quote from same Japan Times above from an expert on child-care issues, she believes that the TV drama became popular because it showed a married couple's lifestyle that goes "half a step ahead of the times." Is the show a precursor of things to come in Japan?
The best expert I could find to
answer this question was Casey Spencer of the LA
Playgroup. He hadn't seen the At-Home Dad show but had a chance to visit Japan with his
family for a few years and has offered me his "crude first take on the
In my opinion, Japanese TV shows play on crudeness and exaggeration. "Travel shows" are an example: overly enthusiastic, chatty actors visit a hotel or restaurant, tour the grounds, and interview chef ? then gorge themselves in graphic close-up shots with all of the munching, slurping and food-dribbling that bad taste will allow.
I think the dad TV show will appeal to Japanese women, who get great mileage out of complaining that their husbands never do anything around the house ? a stereotype that is well-earned, at least by past generations. Then again, the same women raise their sons to be spoiled, dependent, helpless babies who naturally grow up needing ongoing care & feeding. A favorite (but only quietly repeated) phrase among women is, "A good husband is healthy and absent."
I will agree that the current crop of Japanese mothers want more of what they see as the American dream ? freedom from stereotypical roles. and more social and economic equality - - - which will demand that men pitch in more than one or two begrudging hours per week.
If the show is actually a kindly one, it could possibly teach Japanese fathers a thing or two. They DO want to be closer to their kids, to teach their children hands-on skills and ways to cope, but most of the role models were away at work 70 hours per work so there is no model. And the moms cleverly get in the way of Daddy taking over their sacred turf - - - even as they grumble that he can't iron a shirt or open his own beer can.
My son keeps asking me to play that Mr Mom song by the country band Lonestar, so I re-checked Billboard magazine?s Hot Country Singles & Tracks , and it popped up to # 7 after hitting the top spot in recent weeks. A University of Minnesota college student, Nick Woomer, also checked out the song and wrote this neat piece on it in his college rag. After he offers these lyrics: ?There?s bubble gum in the baby?s hair/ Sweet potatoes in my lazy chair.? he notes, By the song?s end, our narrator realizes he?s been a little too cavalier about jobs traditionally done by women ?Baby, now I know how you feel/ What I don?t know is how you do it.? He then writes:
What can we learn from this dumb little ditty? A lot, although two particular points stick out: First, ?red staters? recognize there is high social value in unpaid labor (homemaking, coaching your child?s baseball team, generic volunteer work, etc.). Second, ?red staters? love to spend quality time with their children ? in fact, it?s probably their cardinal value..... What this suggests is that ?radical? ideas ? correctly packaged and effectively communicated ? could potentially seem very appealing to ?red staters.?
Take Universal Basic Income: The proposal that every person in the United States (from Bill Gates to the homeless guys begging for change outside the liquor store) should receive an unconditional income ? regardless of whether he or she works. What kind of person would buy into a crazy idea like this? The kind of person who can relate to a song like ?Mr. Mom,? that?s who ? and a lot of academics (as you?ll see if you visit the United States Basic Income, Group?s Web site at www.usbig.net.)
He argues that although there would be freeloaders in the system (they would be sitting around and smoking pot all day)
1.Universal Basic Income would be at a low enough rate so that people who wanted a more comfortable lifestyle would have to work for it.
2. Almost everyone would have a lot more quality time to spend time with family and friends.
3. Would create Massive pressure on employers to make their employees? lives easier.
This is indeed a modest proposal, and although I don't see the "Woomer Bill" passing any time soon it's great to hear this voice of the future. Stay tuned, I'll let you know if it passes in 2030.
Parents on strike update: As of This morning, those striking parents from Florida are still camped out in their yard till the kids clean their rooms. Erin Ailworth of the Sun Sentinel gets this latest statement from mom and dad, "We'll be fine unless it goes down to 20 below," said Cat Barnard, 45, who, along with her husband, has spent the week camped out on the driveway in protest of their two messy kids, Ben and Kit. After all, 56-year-old Harlan Barnard said, he and his wife have four things to keep them warm: their orange and green Ozark Trail tent with its wind shield, their snug sleeping bags, a comfy air mattress and each other. Instead they joked, "Welcome to 'Lifestyles of Those at the End of Their Rope.' "
Dr Phil makes a house call - My premonition yesterday came true. The doctor came knocking at the door of the Barnard family door via a FedEx letter according to this morning's Orlando Sentinel article. If the family agrees, he is going to get his gig about families that don't do chores. In the same article we have an update on the kids response to the strike. The 17 year old son had a "meltdown" and "The 12-year-old sixth-grader has been cleaning her room and "moving in the right direction,"
This reminds me of a joke about a dad who's working wife kept asking him what chores he did all
day, Finally he said , "OK when you come home tomorrow you will see what I
do". The next day when his wife came home form work she was greeted with a
kitchen filled with dirty dishes, undone laundry, dirty bathroom and no meal on
the table. The kids were in the living room eating cheeto's watching
Nickelodeon. She finally found her husband in the upstairs bathtub taking a bath
while drinking a Budweiser. "What are you doing??" she yelled.. He
answered with a smile, "I just wanted you to see what I do all
The big national-media parenting story of the morning stems from a wonderful idea from Cat and Harlan Barnard out of Florida. Seems they got fed up with their kids for not doing chores. So on Monday this week they decided to camp outside and do absolutely nothing on their front lawn till the kids (12 and 17) actually do something. Their house is the usual mess if you do nothing for a few days - dirty clothes, dirty dishes and crap all over the house that doesn't get picked up.
The kids have decided to use their own strategy, and wait a few days and hope the parents give up. Of course, the family is swamped with calls from the media, (the last call I made to them found their "message box full") You can bet this will prompt a show on Dr Phil following up with helpful chore tips while he plugging Family First.
If you can't wait for Dr Phil, here's a few
from my book if your kids are still young. I doubt this couple tried early
intervention, so it's almost too late. The best bet for them is to use
the family dog to clean the floor. One dad told me, ?You need a dog to keep
the discarded cheerios eaten.? but he warned ?Get a dog that doesn?t shed
or the baby eats the hairballs.? Just be careful of overusing this
method?the last thing you want is to have your dog puke all over your nice
clean kitchen floor."
Update: Breaking news! There has been some progress, the oldest daughter actually did the laundry for the first time in her life. I will keep you posted.