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men who change diapers change the world


Tuesday, 14 December 2004
The perfect at-home dad media storm.
Topic: international dads
Economy

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 homemaker.
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.

3. A book titled "Shufu no Tashinami" as reported here The title means Wisdom of Househusbands; it is described as a "handbook for househusbands." (that sounds familiar too!)

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 subject:"

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.


Posted by athomedad at 2:10 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 14 December 2004 2:18 PM EST
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