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When Men Mother

Last week, I wrote about the so-called “Mommy Wars” — the stay-at-home mom vs. working mom clash — and profiled some very strong opinions on the matter (my own included). However, I see now that my approach was lacking a crucial voice. I failed to capture the perspective of a growing force on this scene: stay-at-home-dads. Big mistake, I realize.

One lazy Saturday a year or so ago, I decided to blow off cleaning my apartment by surfing Netflix. I happened upon a movie called What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Registering its name with the very popular parenting book that shares its title, I tuned in. It turned out to be one of those rom coms with a thousand famous characters whose lives run parallel to one another until they eventually intersect. About a half hour in or so, I recognized a scene that I had caught on some preview either at the movies or on TV. In the scene, a line of some of Hollywood’s most famous male comedians at Central Park or the like, each with a baby strapped to their chests in a papoose, line the horizon in a formidable manner. Between their looks and the punch lines, there’s no mistaking – they’re dads. Tasked with taking care of their little ones during the day, they’ve shed the image of the “Mr. Mom’s” of yesteryear. They’re not replacement moms, they’re dads. There are masculine overtones in their strict adherence to guy code…or should I say dad code? The message is clear: toting around snotty-nosed, poopy-diapered babies should never mean that dude stuff be sacrificed. And like any boys’ club, newcomers had better fall in line or GTFO.

20th Annual At-Home Dad Convention

20th Annual At-Home Dad Convention

This must be what Jessica Bennett is talking about when she says that culture is starting to catch up to a very real social phenomenon in her article “The Brotherhood of the Stay-at-Home Dad” featured in the New York Times. The prominent image of the article looks a bit like that scene in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. A bunch of dads lean in together at Central Park, babies strapped to their fronts and smiling kids on their sides. Years ago, this element of public life would be unheard of. Yet, here we are today with movies where comedy’s biggest names are endorsing this lifestyle and, as in the case of Bennett’s article (which appears in FASHION AND STYLE, no less) there are entire conferences where stay-at-home dads convene. Scrolling the Internet, you see blog after article after essay of stay-at-home-dads chronicling their experience as an emerging class in society. In a culture where women are increasingly becoming the primary breadwinners in their families and private child care is just so darn expensive, these messages are suggesting that stay-at-home dads are here…and for the long-haul.

So though I failed to include stay-at-home fathers in my last post, I won’t make that mistake again. If there’s anything that I’ve gleaned from the Liz Pardue Schultz’ piece that I wrote about last week or Jessica Bennett’s post this week, it’s that parenthood is tough, regardless of how you spin it. Parents need the opportunity to connect with each other over shared experiences, whether it is through an annual conference for career dads or an outspoken blog post. Though not a parent myself, I can attest to the isolation of raising kids. As a nanny, I don’t get moments with co-workers to swap stories over the water cooler. It’s me and baby. (Don’t get me wrong, like I imagine most parents would say, I love this about 95% of the time. But there are times that feel lonely.) That’s why excluding an important voice is a big no-no. Every caregiver deserves the right to be heard. ~ Jenny Nigro, reporting in for M.O.M. Social Media

See also link to the 20th Annual At-Home Dad’s Convention [CLICK]

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