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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

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

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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Monday, 13 December 2004
a paycheck for every at-home dad
Now Playing: Mr Mom by Lonestar!
Topic: music
New Page 2

At-Home Dads

At-Home Moms

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

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.' "

Posted by athomedad at 1:24 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 13 December 2004 2:03 PM EST
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Friday, 10 December 2004
Parents on strike update:
Just as I predicted yesterday Dr Phil

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 day!"

Posted by athomedad at 8:05 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 10 December 2004 3:55 PM EST
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Thursday, 9 December 2004
I ain't gonna do your stinkin dishes, but can I live here?
The big parenting

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.

Posted by athomedad at 1:23 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 10 December 2004 8:06 AM EST
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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Is there life after kindergarden?
Is there life after Kindergarden

I was cruising through the many dad journals today and found a post in Homo Domesticus  written by a Texas dad  who is home with his 6-year old son Jacob.  With his son in the first grade, he found himself in discussions with his wife that you may/will have once your kids are sitting in school buildings six hours a day. He writes,  "Trish and I decided that I would get the rest of the year to decide what I wanted to do with myself."  what's funny is that like Jammer,  I have had the same discussion with my wife from time to time, even one last night. She said "so what are you goals for the rest of your life?"  I felt a little defensive, since I didn't do the best clean-up job yesterday and she cleaned the breezeway that was littered from a Christmas party we had last weekend. But on the other hand I even wrote a chapter on it in my book on it with a few dads praising the benefits of staying home,  but then again you can wonder in a weak moment....  the kids aren't here, am I really helping them?? After a talk about the benefits the kids get vs. the finances, and an agreement that we would re-visit the issue in a year my wife understood. But I needed more proof. 

Now imagine this fine boy below (that's my 9 year old son son David) looking at you...  and having this conversation... 


   Q  What would you think if I was not home all day?

   A  I'D HATE IT! 

  Q  Why?"

  A  Because you wouldn't be home!

  Q  Why do you want me home

  A  I don't know

  Q  What don't you know?

  A  I like the feeling that you are home and I like the feeling when you are home when I get home

     That's good enough for me, I'm staying home.

Posted by athomedad at 1:57 PM EST
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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
A cool guy to invite to your next playgroup.
Topic: work at home dads
Stuff to do at home while your kid is throwing up

This morning I interviewed John Patrick of Livonia, MI while he was rocking his 4-month old son with his foot. He was plugging away at his computer, making updates to one of those web site ideas that start with a whim and has gone out of control. Patrick started staying home a few years back when he and his wife didn't want to stick their kid in daycare. With some time, and a little computer experience from previous jobs, he took his love for 80's style music and started a music band web site Motor City Rock. It's the typical web success story as he starting out listing a bunch of local Detroit 80's bands and started getting 30,000 hits a month. Since then he has added over 700 Detroit area bands and spends 3-4 hours a day keeping it going. In the last 10 months he's gotten 1.8 million visitors. What's unusual is that even with this traffic the site is ad-free and he generates no money from it. "I don't want to to take anything away from the bands who have done all this work." He says, "but I am running out of money to pay for all the bandwidth." He was approached by the University of Michigan to use their servers but they got spooked by the amount of .mp3's on the site, even though all the bands have authorized him to offer them for free download. "A lot of the 80's music is from tapes hidden under these guys beds and would have rotting out anyhow" He finally found a fan of the site to use their servers and is planning a re-design. To make money he may accept donations in the future on his site. He also held a benefit to raise money and did so well they want him back. "My son knows what I'm doing and is pretty cool with it" I do all my work in the morning from 7:30-10:30 and find time to do the vacuuming, cleaning and cooking. My son entertains me in the afternoon and I save the time at night to be with my wife. All Detroit playgroups should take notice and invite this guy to your next "dads night out".

A few news snippets I've been saving:

Screen cleaning at-home dad: Mark Snaza of Minnesota tried to use baby wipes to clean his screens. it didn't work so he made a better wet towel for the job and made a business out of it.

Make money from bad people: Stewart Abramson of Pennsylvania makes some bucks from people (telemarketers) who bother him on the phone. He calls himself "a stay-at-home dad who works as a business consultant in his home".

Former at-home dad Unlike the Census Todd Goldade seems to have a gut feeling there are more at-home dads, in this report from WDSU-TV in New Orleans, "Goldade made the decision to be a stay-at-home dad and let his wife continue her education at Columbia in New York. "Back then it wasn?t a big hot thing to be a stay-at-home dad, but now it?s getting more popular," said Goldade. (Does the US Census know about the last two people I mentioned?)

Bizarre at-home dad headline of the week: "Paraplegic Stay at Home Dad, Plans on Building a Million Dollar Health And Wellness Business" in this story there is absolutely nothing about his kids or his disability, but lots of info on "a liquid nutritional solution that contains the best working adaptogens on earth. This product is backed by 40 years of government funded research and years of clinical testing...blah, blah... arrrrghhh!! (sorry)

An at-home dad Jeopody question: Question: The last person to be defeated by Ken Jennings before he ended the longest winning streak in TV game show history? Answer: Who is stay at-home dad Rob Kimbro of Princeton, N.J?

New Playgroup listing today from Wisconcin: Kris Nalker of Stay-at-home dad of Kenosha and Racine (KRDADS)

Posted by athomedad at 12:23 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 7 December 2004 5:45 PM EST
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Monday, 6 December 2004
do stupid dads on TV = stupid dads?
New Page 1 Verizon

Prompted by a single letter of complaint a commercial that had been airing for months with no complaints suddenly got the negative attention treatment by Glenn Sacks host of his radio show His Side. Associated Press's David Crary decided to do a piece on it. The story was picked up on Nov 9th and was given wide coverage by the media that week, hitting about 200 dailies for a week long news cycle.

View Verizon Commercial
(Windows Media Video - 338KB)

About 3 weeks after the news cycle had ended on the negative publicity, Verizon finally caved in to the one-article week long media assault and pulled pulled the ad last week. It's questionable weather the commercial was nearing the end of it's it's cycle anyhow, but I don't think they will be volunteering that info.

When I first watched the commercial I could see how it would strike a nerve...if you were a dad. It did bother me a little at first when the smarty pants mom says to dad "Tom leave her alone" in a dismissive way with the full support of her daughter. A little degrading? Well yea, but doesn't this sometimes happen in real life for moms and dads alike in a "bad moment"? When dads look at the commercial it make then feel stupid, so they naturally don't like it. I showed the verizon commercial to my sister and she loved it, she though it was hilarious,, I said why? she said, "it make the mom look smart!" mmm ok I then called my 12-yr-old son, John into my office and he liked it too, why? It made the kid look smart and he's a kid so he's must be smart too!

OK well then we need equal time, here it is, you might have seen it, the wife tries to trash her husbands Toyota Tacoma over a cliff , but in the end it escapes without a scratch. Watch it here. Now admit it dads wasn't it funny?? Well I made my sister watched it, Guess what she hated it, it made her feel stupid.

It's not that smart looking dads are on TV any less, it's just that they get less attention.. There are ads depicting good fatherhood, too we just aren't paying attention to them Good families simply make boring media copy and it doesn't sell. Case in point the ad below, it a wonderful ad by New York Life showing a loving relationship between father and daughter. You might have seen it but the media isn't about to draw attention to it. .

View New York Life Commercial
(Windows Media Video - 338KB)

One dad "Kevin" at our message board sums up the negative attention of the Verizon ad, " I've seen the commercial - and I think getting one's jockeys in a bunch over it is just taking things a little too seriously - or too personally. I'm think skinned when it comes to that sort of thing, though. I read the article and when I did, all I could see in my head is a scene from 'Overboard' when Kurt Russell says to Goldie Hawn 'Lady, you're so [bleep] bored you gotta invent [bleep] (things) to [bleep] (complain) about!'

You probably noticed I've added a map to my site to make it easier to search around for playgroups. Check it out. Some playgroup updates: Nat Heffeman is rebuilding his Lexington, MA playgroup, he's down to "just 2 members right now; myself and a neighbor. I'm starting a recruitment drive to get some new blood into the group" .- If you live in his area sign up!! e-mail him at.. . Also welcome Stuart Unger who is starting a second playgroup after moving. You can e-mail him at about his new Louisville At-home Dads (LADS) group.

Posted by athomedad at 9:46 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 16 December 2004 11:46 AM EST
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Thursday, 2 December 2004
sex and non-sex will get you sex
Topic: sex
The survey says

I promised a few posts ago to mention some of the dads feedback at the at-home dad convention, but got sidetracked by the US Census and the media's mishandling of the at-home dad numbers. We had about 80 dads show up this year, and a tad over 50 commented on the convention. The general consensus was that this years keynote speaker, Kyle Pruett was the best ever with 45 dads rating him as excellent. Many wished he stayed longer and several wanted him back next year for an encore. I agree.

Also receiving positive comments was Rebel Dad's Brian Reid, a newcomer to the keynote speaker scene. (You can check his comments here) His talk was titled: The Keynote/Discussion We?ve All Been Clamoring For : Sex and the At-Home Dad: Triumph, Satisfaction or Oxymoron? The dads (and a few moms) clamored over to check out his presentation. He was able to hold the floor for the 45 minutes with the dads wanting more. One dad was impressed that he was able to talk about sex without getting too crude. (There were a few off-color jokes thrown around which didn't bother me, although one dad complained about it after the talk.) In talking about how at-home dads can get more sex, one mom said, "when my husband cleans up the house, and has that supper ready for her on the table that's all I need... I am ready [for sex]!!!"

"Are you having good "non-sex?" was one topic, He elaborated with this statement from his presentation, "What I miss is that we used to lie in bed (especially on the weekends) talking and just really bonding". This is true and in more cases than not will lead to more sex.

Brian did a great job in getting the dads to open up. One particularly quiet dad who was seated away from the audience by himself at the back of the room finally spoke up. He was listening to one of Brian's questions about how much sex [and "non-sex"] the dads were getting when he proudly yelled out, "I found the best thing to do is nothing, I don't expect anything and don't even try to come on to my wife. I started this 2 years ago and my sex life has never been better" as the dads were taking this in, one dad near the front row jumped up, turned around and quickly and shouted in an enviously-jealous-but-sarcastic way, "YOU BASTARD!"

The crowd roared and Brian had the crowd. Good job... can we pencil you in for next year?

Posted by athomedad at 2:09 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 22 December 2004 12:41 PM EST
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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Who's that man messing with my blender?
Topic: tv shows
When wife swap first started sniffing around for families several  months back I suggested to the one of the assistant producers that

When wife swap first started sniffing around for families last summer I suggested to the one of the assistant producers that they try an at-home dad swap. They inched ahead a few weeks ago when wives were swapped and one at-home dad stayed put as his wife took off. (His new wife made him get a job). Tonight at 10pm (EST) ABC's Wife Swap does a daddy switch tonight at 10pm, where one of the dads Zev Paiss of Boulder Colorado works at home with his wife and cares for his two daughters  Zipporah, 5, and Halonah, 6.  I spoke with Zev and his wife this afternoon and found that the producer first called him last June and he said no, as his wife though it would be "too chancy". They persisted but he still said no, but added "too bad you don't swap a dad!" Finally they called back again and offered to switch dads and he bit on the offer.

Even if you are not a fan of reality shows you will enjoy watching this "part time" at-home dad Zev trade places with a Kenny Davis. (He is shown at left with Zev's wife Neshama). Davis a 10 hour-a-day motorcycle mechanic from Colorado Springs. Davis has a girlfriend, with three teens at home (12,13 and 16). 

When asked the most striking difference between his family and the "new" one, he immediately said,  "My 5 and 6-year old kids do more chores then his three teenagers do!"  Apparently the Davis's yard was a mess so he made the teens clean it up. "They seem to have more pride for their yard after they cleaned it up" 

ABC's short description?  The husbands hit the road-and the skids-when an environmentalist dad whose family is focused on communal living and saving the planet swaps lives with a hard-living, leather-wearing biker dad with his 'born to be wild' family. 

Posted by athomedad at 2:41 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 2:42 PM EST
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Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Five brand new reasons why you are not an at-home dad.
Topic: Census Figures
I came home from the children

The media came a calling today wanting to know why there are only 98,000 at-home dads left in America. The census released a new report this afternoon which included a 98,000 number that was actually released two months ago from 2003 numbers. The number was down from last years 105,000 stat from their June 2003 report (these numbers are from actual March 2002 data, Are you still following me here daddy?). I'm sure you are a little confused and I'm sure part of it stems from me using too many run-on sentences in my rush to throw this out. In any case most reporters (with the exception of those of the caliber of Marilyn Gardner at the Christian Science Monitor) who report on these press releases stop reading them at the 98,000 number and the inevitable headline "MR. MOM GOES BACK TO WORK!" may be shouted to us in tomorrow's USA Today. I tried to explain that a difference of 8,000 dads is statistically meaningless, the 98,000 number even more so because it excludes dads at-home full or part time (1.4 million), dads with wives who didn't work the entire 52 weeks (besides sick days, ect), and single fathers to name a few. Of course those in the know realize this is old news.

The new news is that In today's report the census has come up with 5 brand new reasons why you may not be an at-home dad. Please deduct the following dads.

  • ill or Disabled (455,000 dads)
  • Retired (108,000 dads)
  • Going to School (90,000 dads)
  • Could not find work (111,000 dads)
  • Other (157,000 dads) (What are these other dads doing? I'd like to see another break down on this..)

Include these dads in and you have 1 million dads easy... and we haven't even touched the dads who work at-home.

In the last ten years, I have talked to just about every type of dad that has been excluded by the census who consider themselves an at-home dad. They don't seem to love and care for their kids any less then the dad who says on a census form that they "wanted to be home to care for home and family". As the census explains in today's report "Estimates of the numbers of stay at-home fathers caring for children under 15 are based not on the parents activities as childcare providers but rather on the primary reason they were not in the labor force for the previous 52 weeks." So the number starts at about 2 million working and non-working at-home dads, then when all the criteria is met we end up with the 98,000 figure. With the same formula the number of at-home moms are estimated to be 5.4 million. Go figure.

Update: USA Today was the first out of the gate this morning with the headline: Census: 5.4 million mothers are choosing to stay at home with a short tidbit on the US Census report. Reporter Sharon Jayson did manage to get one quote for the dads from David Molina, an at-home dad to twins near Phoenix, who tried working but stayed home "It was not worth it," he said. "It was a rat race. It got to the point where both of us were having to stay later at work than we could and we would call each other at 4:45 and say for the other to pick up the kids."

Update #2:   Peter Grier and Sara B. Miller of the Christion Science Monitor chime in on the  Incredible shrinking US family and the 98K number "The Census Bureau judges that there are only 98,000 true stay-at-home dads in the whole country, despite the number of cinematic depictions of fathers who lose their jobs and find happiness ferrying kids to school and constructing art out of toilet-paper rolls" ....

Note: Right in middle of the  same article while discussing households the Monitor had a blog moment by writing  "Sponges living by themselves in a pineapple were statistically insignificant and thus were not included in the Census figures. That would be "SpongeBob SquarePants," a Nickelodeon production"


Posted by athomedad at 10:36 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 6:28 PM EST
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