In November there were two great articles about fatherhood in the New York Times. The first one was printed under the title, “The Leave Seldom Taken,” and it can be found here. This piece talks specifically about paternity leave and how taking it, when you work for certain companies, can be a strike against you, but those dads who do take significant time off (we are talking months here, not weeks) after a baby arrives are significantly more involved in the lives of their children–during all stages–and do more domestic duties around the house and beyond. We have probably all known someone who could take a little time off from work to better understand the other side of the equation, i.e. all the behind-the-scenes work.
Obviously, due to financial situations, not all dads can take paternity leave because not all companies offer paid paternity leave. But, when it is offered and a man does not take all of it because he feels like it’s not his responsibility or he fears he would pay the price at work, I think, he is not much of a man. Of course, I am a stay-at-home dad, so I am a little biased. But I encourage you to read the article for yourself.
The second article, “Challenging The Mr. Mom Stereotype,” was about a gathering of the National At-Home Dad Network. The conference, to my surprise, took place in Denver. I wish I had known about it. There is lots of good stuff in this article (read it here), but I loved this passage:
(At the end: a female newscaster asking, “Is dad the new mom?” To which a chorus of male voices shouted at the projector, “No!” But these men are used to that question, or at least what it represents. They see it at the playground as they scan the grass for other dads to talk to, or from male friends who, as Mr. Washington put it, “don’t always get it.” They hear it in the innocent question from a neighbor–“Are you babysitting today?”–or the pediatrician who asks, “Should I speak with your wife?”
I loved hearing about the response to the “new mom” question. Stay-at-home dads, or sahds, are not the new mom, at least this one isn’t. Mr. Mom implies that we are raising our kids in exactly the same fashion as moms raise kids. Spend just a couple hours with a stay-at-home dad and I think you will realize how inaccurate a label Mr. Mom is for a Sahd.
Lastly, just today I was out grocery shopping and the lady at the deli counter said, “Oh, a father daughter day. I just love seeing dads out with their kids.” Before the week ends I’ll hear, “Oh, day off today?” Sometimes I simply say, “Yes,” and other times I look the person right in the eye and say, “No day off today, I’m a stay-at-home dad.”
Not all the things people say to me when I am out with London are like that though. A few weeks ago, a nice old lady at Costco patted me on the arm and said, “The sexiest thing in this world is a man with a baby. Don’t you ever forget it.”