Josh Kross and the NYC Dads Group look at “comical misandry” and the involved father.
NYC Dads Group posted this article on their site after frequent guest blogger, Josh K., aka The Angry SAHD, watched this video clip that shows the first dad ever to appear on iVillage. Josh was angry because there was an opportunity to shatter some stereotypes about fatherhood that just didn’t happen. A version of this article has been posted on both NYC Dads and The Angry SAHD site.
The word is getting out about the “new” father. Involved, sharing equally or even taking a larger role than the mother in the raising of kids. NYC DADS Group is filled with men like this; they’re competent with their kids, competent at their jobs if they have them, competent with running the house. Dads, employed or not, across the country are making parenting a more important part of their life.
Now, while Cohen gets a great opportunity to set the record straight, the interview was set up in a way to reinforce the stereotypes. We can all do better. We’ve put together a list of a few things to think about when being an involved dad, and especially when discussing it, whether it’s on TV or the playground. We hope these will move the conversation forward and help us move away from 1950’s clichés.
1) Don’t be the boob. Listen, just because expectations are low, doesn’t mean you have to live up to them. We get a lot more credit for simple things just because people expect us to fail. Everyone wants to make the Mr. Mom jokes about burning clothing while ironing, burning dinner, and burning your kids up because you forgot the sunscreen. Don’t let this be true, and don’t let other people get away with accusing you.
Saying that after you “mess up that laundry 3-4 times you don’t have to do it again” might get a laugh, but it makes us all look like an idiot. Most dads we know are excellent at managing their households, cooking, and making sure everything that needs to get done, gets done. Victoria Perico, of Savvymommy.com, says that “if we leave anything up to a dad that’s major, most likely it will fall apart.” Not only is this complete nonsense, but it makes me wonder why she would tolerate her husband being like that. Our responsibility as an involved father is two-fold. One, don’t be that useless guy. Play your part and take control over these things. Make sure things get done. Two, when someone calls you incompetent, don’t laugh. Correct them.
2) Be involved in everything — not just major discipline. Don’t just be there to back mom up when “it gets escalated.” Being involved with the discipline (and education, entertainment, and everything else) of your children is your job. You want your kids to respect you? Be there from the beginning. When posed with the question about fathers’ parenting skills, it’s not best to start by explaining that you let your wife do the “baseline” parenting. To kick this reputation, we can’t be the Don Drapers of the world, or even the Ward Cleavers. We need to make sure that we are there for the school events, scraped knees, and the time outs. We are not just the nuclear option for our wives when they get overwhelmed.
3) Be on top of your stuff. One of the more offensive points in the video is when Amy Oztan, of selfishmom.com, says “Let’s face it, I think that in most relationships, men just suck at logistics.” She describes it in the context of her husband. Points like this need to be challenged. While this may be true in her household, perhaps some of it is because she tolerates it. She says “there’s always that extra layer of stress,” but she says nothing about trying to get her husband involved in doing those things. When we allow negative behavior from our partners without trying to address it, it is also our fault.
For starters, handling “logistics” and the small details is not a trait unique to one sex. I’ve known plenty of amazing male and female project managers, which is essentially what parenting is. Just because in one person’s household, such as Oztan’s, the woman is better at it, does not mean the rule holds true for all couples. In our community of active fathers, we have men who run all of the details of their homes while others take a more shared role. That said, part of being involved is being on top of the things your kids need. Be a counter-example to Oztan’s point, and then correct people when they make such assertions.
For better or worse, part of the “job” of being an involved dad is helping to change the incorrect impressions people have of all dads. Set an example, live that example, and correct people when they are wrong.
Lance Somerfeld has been an at-home dad for three years, and resides in New York City with his wife Jessica and their three year old boy, Jake. Lance founded the NYC Dads Group in November, 2008 as a social outlet to avoid isolation and as a necessary resource for fathers. The goal of this diverse community of over 400 caring dads is to provide engaged, active, and involved fathers an opportunity to socialize and support each other as they navigate parenthood. The goal of this diverse community of over 400 caring dads is to provide engaged, active, and involved fathers an opportunity to socialize and support each other as they navigate parenthood. Lance also serves as a coordinator for Daddyshome, Inc., the national at-home dads network. Before choosing to stay home with his son, Lance worked in Corporate Finance and as an elementary school teacher in the Bronx.
Matt Schneider has been an at-home dad for six years, and lives with his wife and two boys in lower Manhattan. Matt is a founding member and co-organizer for the NYC Dads Group. Matt plans workshops, screenings, and lectures with parenting, family, and education experts on behalf of the group. Matt also serves as an advisor to the ThirdPath Institute, a non-profit that works with individuals, families, and organizations to integrate work and life. Prior to fatherhood, Matt was a teacher and a product manager for a major telecommunications company.