October 7, 2010

Stay-at-Home-Dad complains about the special treatment he gets as the one dad amongst the moms at a library storytime.

And the commenters — this is in the NYT — assail him:
I was all ready to be sympathetic to the father, but by the end of this piece I was irritated. People were trying to be nice and you ended up getting special treatment. Welcome to being a man! Has this never bothered you before? Or were somehow you able to suck it up in other situations?

I'm sure that if he continues to have such a negative attitude about his role as a stay at home dad, and all the activities involved, that all the moms will be more than happy to ignore him. I know I would.
It continues. And yet... the guy got his little essay into the NYT. But it's ironic... if his point is he wants to not to be noticed.

This is all deja vu for me. 30 years ago — 30 years! — I was married to a writer who was the stay-at-home parent, processing this kind of material in writing. It became a novel, published in 1991 1988. I thought we were in the middle and toward the end of this situation as a new cultural phenomenon. 30 years ago. And now... it's still fodder for a NYT parenting column. Good lord! Will these sex roles never go away?

69 comments:

Big Mike said...

Good lord! Will these sex roles never go away?

Nope

Maguro said...

Yes...how odd...it's almost like men and women are different somehow.

PatCA said...

I guess he's the new "victim" so we have to pet and coo and pity.

mc said...

Journalists are too lazy to dream up a new narrative.

So we are stuck until the journalist's media teat is all dried up. Newsweek just sold for a buck and that was too much.

Even so, it'll still be a while.

Harsh Pencil said...

Gosh, it's like being a stay at home dad is fighting thousands of years of cultural evolution or something.

traditionalguy said...

Did someone say "sex roles"? If this is a casting call, then I am available despite my busy schedule. It's not that easy being a sex role bit part player, but at least I get Union Scale. They have re-made True Grit but with a new John Wayne...comparing those two versions should show whether men have morphed into new "One eyed old fat men with pretty big words" or not.

campy said...

I wonder if the library lady's behavior was a subtle way of conveying the message, "Let's all be alert that we have this potential molester among us today."

Moose said...

Personally, when I'm working from home and helping out with the kids at school functions it provides me with endless amusement.
Yesterday I was helping out at a fundraising walk for my 7 yo's school.
I hopped into line with my daughter and was chatting with her. A mommy, with no identifying t-shirt or badge proceeded to interrogate me as to why I was there.
I looked at her and politely answered her questions. She didnt give up until my daughter hugged me and vouched for me ("Hi daddy!").
Mommies like their position of power in the childcare world.
And they never let you forget it.

ironrailsironweights said...

I wonder if the library lady's behavior was a subtle way of conveying the message, "Let's all be alert that we have this potential molester among us today."

My thoughts exactly.

Peter

Big Mike said...

@mc, actually Newsweek sold for substantial negative dollars when you consider that the buyer had to agree to cover their debts.

ndspinelli said...

This dude needs to "man up." When we first had kids I was just starting my business and my bride worked full time. I did lots of stuff w/ my kids that didn't entail being in groups. When we did, it was almost all moms. That's what I expected. I was sometimes looked @ derisively, sometimes w/ that haughty mom face, it ran the gamut. This was one of the many times my not giving a shit what people think paid dividends. There are few liberations more powerful than not giving a rat's ass what other people think or say.

There are people for whom I care what they think. But, they would all fit @ my dining room table.

ironrailsironweights said...

Yesterday I was helping out at a fundraising walk for my 7 yo's school.
I hopped into line with my daughter and was chatting with her. A mommy, with no identifying t-shirt or badge proceeded to interrogate me as to why I was there.
I looked at her and politely answered her questions. She didnt give up until my daughter hugged me and vouched for me ("Hi daddy!").


Of course the natural tendency is to speak up for oneself, but in retrospect it probably would have been better for you to simply have ignored her questioning or told her that it was none of her business.

Something similar might well happen to you again, so you could have another opportunity to put a meddlesome woman in her place.

Peter

Pogo said...

A Very Special Episode of the NY Times.

Marshal said...

The interesting point about the reactions is not how they run against the author. The interesting point is how society treats these same complaints when made by women's studies professors or minority grievance activists.

In those cases anyone suggesting the slights seem minor or within the normal range adults should deal with on their own is immediately branded a sexist / racist / homophobe. And further the mere existence of such a person justifies additional funding for the social program of the week.

But turn the tables and the response is "Welcome to being a man!". My only disagreement is to change man to "adult". But it seems activists believe such a change would raise the standards for the rest of society to an untenable level.

Salamandyr said...

Will these sex roles never go away?

No, not entirely, ever. It's too much a part of our biological makeup.

Bless you for using the proper term, rather than the execrable weasel word, gender.

Alex said...

Men work the coal mines while the women pop out kids and cook while barefoot. Right Cro-Magnon conservatives?

deborah said...

Peter:
"Of course the natural tendency is to speak up for oneself, but in retrospect it probably would have been better for you to simply have ignored her questioning or told her that it was none of her business."

Better yet, say 'you first,' with a friendly smile, and then keep asking questions.

Drew said...

For five years, until just recently, I was the stay-at-home (working from home) dad of two girls. While there were certainly times, at parks or the library or preschool, that I was the lone dad in a sea of moms, I think one of the big surprises to me were all the times that the numbers were about equal, and this during the day when, according to tradition, dad are supposed to be at work.

I don't know how it is out in New York, but here in flyover country I guess we men are far more liberated from our gender roles.

Young, urban-dwelling hipsters seem perpetually amazed by this parenting thing -- like they're some freakin' pioneers or something. Drives me nuts.

Moose said...

Deborah:

Huzzah! Good response. I'll need to use that one next time it happens!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

WTF!

He is taking a 16 month old child to a 'reading' group. What a waste of time. His kid was probably bored out her mind.

If he wants his child to learn to read at the age of 16 months, then I suggest some one on one time reading to her with books that have interesting picture. Curious George would be a good start. Since he is so ultra sensitive about the Mommies and Daddies role in children's literature, Curious George just has the "Man in the Yellow Hat" as the adult figure. I wonder if he can handle that.

The women sound like ultra liberal ninnies and so does he.

The entire excercise was solely for the benefit of the adults and had nothing to do with what would be interesting or beneficial for the children.

Self absorbed Yuppies. Blech.

deborah said...

;) @ Moose

New York said...

Good lord! Will these sex roles never go away?

Paging Amy Alkon.

Oligonicella said...

"Will these sex roles never go away?"

No, thankfully, the sexes are still here and nicely defined.

Alex --

"Men work the coal mines while the women pop out kids and cook while barefoot. Right Cro-Magnon conservatives?"

Since women cannot physically do the labor and men cannot physically bear children, your solution would be?....

deborah said...

Speaking of daddies, I think someone needs to set up a play date:

?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

To be fair to the guy, it must be horrible to be treated like Big Foot just crashed the party.

I have no idea how you would alter the attitudes of the women in the Healdsburg area. (Has anyone here been to Healdsburg and met some of those people? I have) Especially in such an artifically concocted situation as this "reading group" for infants.

Maybe he should network with parents who are 'less elevated' socially and just take his kid to a fun play group or playground.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Better yet, say 'you first,' with a friendly smile, and then keep asking questions.

@ deborah.

Perfect response!

edutcher said...

Well, the Gray Lady is certainly reaching out to all the metrosexuals after 40 years of championing the cause of psychotic feminism.

What you say is, "I lost my job (or whatever), so I watch the kids while the wife works. And besides, what the Hell are you doing here? Aren't you betraying the sisterhood?"

As for sex roles, it's gonna take more than a couple of TV movies and bad romantic comedies to end a couple million years of hard-wired behavior patterns.

Drew said...

The entire exercise was solely for the benefit of the adults and had nothing to do with what would be interesting or beneficial for the children.

DBQ, I think you've uncovered the point of so many of these organized preschool activities. They're not organized for the toddlers -- they're for the parents to connect with other adults. And are probably intended to be mom-centered because they were designed for moms, specifically to connect with other moms. (Are they even more specifically for career moms who, having now become a stay-at-home mom for maybe a year or two have never really made connections with other moms?)

In that sense, a dad is definitely an interloper in the moms' world.

As a dad, I'm okay with that. I don't want to be a part of "mommy-land". I didn't want to be part of any group activity. We did fine organizing our own activities.

(Maybe the writer of this article wanted to be one of the moms, and was forever frustrated that he was seen as a dad, rather than one of the girls.)

deborah said...

Thanks, DBQ. Remember when Freeman got kicked out of her son's playgroup because of her political views? Hee-hee.

prairie wind said...

A hunchbacked gentleman hobbled over with a circa-2000 digital camera (you know, the huge ones that bragged about taking 2-megapixel images) and explained that he took pictures of every newcomer for the group’s archive.

This writer is an ass. I know that from his description of a man with a camera. The photographer isn't good enough (hunchbacked hobbler!), the camera isn't good enough (it's--gah!--old!).

Drew said...

I hate the word "play date." It suggests that play has to be organized and scheduled rather than just . . . happen.

My six-year-old daughter will occasionally ask to have a play date -- with the little girl who lives next door. I point out that the two of them play together nearly every day, terrorizing the neighborhood with their ear-piercing shrieks of laughter. A "play date" is unnecessarily redundant, but the term is ingrained.

c3 said...

he should have stayed home and baked cookies

deborah said...

Drew, I hate 'play date,' too, but it came forth unbidden.

lol you sound like a fun dad.

Julie C said...

I've known at least a dozen SAHDs in my time here in my little slice of paradise. We've got them taking active roles in the PTAs, and as far as I can tell no one treats them differently. We're happy to have the volunteers, and they all do a great job with much less of the drama you find with some of the womenfolk.

I kind of sympathized with this guy. Changing the words to all those irritating little songs just to single him out ... this guy should spend more time at the park or playground and less time in organized activities until his child is older.

peter hoh said...

Been there, done that.

Yeah, there are times that it can get a little strange, but push through.

Man up.

FWIW, here in the Twin Cities, I routinely see men with infants and toddlers during the daytime.

blake said...

Me and all the mothers
We're praying that the sun gonna shine
And if the winos and weirdos
Steer clear of the playground
Everything will be just fine

I saw an actual father!
But there was something wrong with something he did
He and his son were climbing up in a tree
And somebody said he'd kidnapped the kid

Then the mothers they all started screaming
And pointing at the man in the tree
The sharp-shooters arrived and they shot the man dead
You know, that guy, he could've been me

A grown man should no go tree-climbing!
Yeah, It's about time that that guy grew up!
But most fathers are really like winos and weirdos
In the long run, they always screw up

Me and all the mothers
We're praying that the sun gonna shine
And if the winos and weirdos
Steer clear of the playground
Everything will be just fine

sydney said...

My husband has been the stay-at-home parent now for about 15 years. I have to say, it seems the people who have the most trouble understanding our lifestyle are those of a left liberal political bent for some reason. I can never understand that. Ain't I living the feminist dream?

And ndspinelli:

"I was sometimes looked @ derisively, sometimes w/ that haughty mom face, it ran the gamut."

They were jealous.

mc said...

@bigmike,

Clearly noted.

I am a bit reminded of Bart Simpson when he bought the old factory building, though, as you mention, Newsweek was essentially a toxic asset.

I loath Meacham. Didn't he assert that the rag was going to become more searching and intelligent and on and on...Then the issues came out and ugh. Had to be seen to be believed, what drivel.

IowaHawk had the best send up...

I truly don't think matters in society and politics and economics will change for the better until we get some profound change in the media culture, but I sound like a skipping record.

jamboree said...

I'm sorry, but were you not paying attention to Hillary v Obama? Or for a younger cultural trash landmark - try MTV's Jersey Shore. Double standard alive and well - woman who challenges even an inch becomes the pariah, the Dirty Girl.

Gender is much more root level than race. It is deeply embedded in every single culture. We aren't even close to the time you speak of.

That's fine, whatever. Things are improving. But what annoys me is when women who exist in very narrow, rarified little world pretend we are - and vote accordingly.

mc said...

Hi Jamboree,

You are wrong.

Women have attained all they wished for and are still not happy. I won't approach the psych involved in that though I will point out several road signs.

In my observations women are attending and completing college more than men. They are making more money though they do take time for having children. Men often stay home to raise the children, thought the concept formerly known as Latchkey kids is also more prevalent, but not highlighted and condemned.

Women engage in behaviors which previously would have had them stigmatized. The stigma now falls upon the individual who uses derogatory terms for those who engage in risky behaviors.

Glass ceiling? Show me the money. What stock holder would abide by an appointment which showed less potential for earnings, male, female, black or white?

Hillary Vs. Obama? I'll grant you that the thin atmosphere of editors and wonks fidgeted for a few moments before deciding that the first black president made a better story than the first female, but that is not a point in your arguments favor.

They decided that the first female president wasn't much of a story.

Sometimes after you win you have to admit that you have prevailed and other struggles call.

If you don't it all becomes awkward and uncomfortable.

Freeman Hunt said...

This guy sounds like a bit of a drama king. Maybe that will help him fit in with the drama queen crowd.

The new person at a kid event is often specially catered to or looked at, man or woman. People want you to feel welcome, and a lot of people in this world are awkward. Roll with it.

Remember when Freeman got kicked out of her son's playgroup because of her political views? Hee-hee.

Heh. I could have been reporting back to McCain, or s o I was told.

Freeman Hunt said...

Then again, I can see how one might be momentarily annoyed enough to write a blog post about it, so he's probably not really a drama king.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Women have attained all they wished for and are still not happy.

Ah....but THAT is the question. What do women want?

Also....do ALL women want the same thing?

This last part is what is really annoying: the idea that 'women' are some part of a uniform block sharing the same ideas and goals. The focus on 'the women's vote' as a group is completely misguided, when women are not a uniform group and probably never will be.

mc said...

@Dust Bunny Queen

I agree.

Freeman Hunt said...

Nevermind, he used the word 'manpowerment' in a positive way and defines it thusly, "the trend of stay-at-home dads like myself getting in touch with their feelings and blogging or conferencing about their domesticated lives." A million gag-me's in his direction.

Drew said...

Then again, I can see how one might be momentarily annoyed enough to write a blog post about it, so he's probably not really a drama king.

No, go with that. The larger question might be why the New York Times thought it was worth sharing.

Freeman Hunt said...

Say your husband tells you over breakfast that he's going to start networking with other dudes to get in touch with their feelings and talk about their domesticated lives...

blake said...

Does a manpowered man manstruate?

Freeman Hunt said...

Manpowerment: The surest way to cure your wife of her annoying sex drive.

Pogo said...

"Manpowerment"?
"Domesticated"?
"getting in touch with (his) feelings "?

Whaaa?!

Won't someone please hit that man upside the haid?

Pogo said...

Freeman's right.

Manpowerment = mansturbation

blake said...

Manpowerment: Because you were waaaay too butch with that battleship gray fanny pack.

Shanna said...

He was a novelty. People noticed that the stories and songs were geared towards mom's and they tried to include him. I don't see what's wrong with that (in fact it sounds rather nice of them), except maybe that he's shy and the attention bothered him. If he weren't shy, maybe he would have appreciated the attempts to include him.

Pogo said...

He's Iron John, post-chelation.

Flaccid John.

Shanna said...

The new person at a kid event is often specially catered to or looked at, man or woman.

They probably would have chilled if he had bothered to come more than once.

Also....do ALL women want the same thing?This last part is what is really annoying: the idea that 'women' are some part of a uniform block sharing the same ideas and goals.

Indeed!

mc said...

UGH.

I made the mistake of giving the article another chance.

I waited a spell and re-re-read it.

The guy is a consummate Jackass.

Really, just a smug and over-important jerk.

Again I level my malice at the editors. This time the Times.

UGH.

A painful read, yuck.

blake said...

Also....do ALL women want the same thing?This last part is what is really annoying: the idea that 'women' are some part of a uniform block sharing the same ideas and goals.

Indeed!

So, all women agree that they don't agree?

Shanna said...

So, all women agree that they don't agree?

Probably not all of them :)

Meade said...

Behind every successful woman is a man, behind him is her husband.

former law student said...

Yeah, I thought the 70s were going to last forever, too.

Nobody likes to be singled out because of some physical attribute. (Althouse's first day at the law firm: We have a female attorney now, lads. No more cursing and no more farting in the coffee room. ;) )

But he should have just sucked it up and played along. Better yet, asked to sing his own song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzN0mMx-sJg

peter hoh said...

FLS, try this song instead.

There's something for everyone, especially Pogo, RH, and Crack.

Pogo said...

@Peter:
hah!

Peter V. Bella said...

And NYT wonders why it has financial problems.

R.L. Hunter said...

Sounds like he needs to listen to
The Most Interesting Man in the World

ironrailsironweights said...

People noticed that the stories and songs were geared towards mom's and they tried to include him.

Perhaps. It also could be that by changing the stories and songs, the other participants were sending a subtle message that he wasn't welcome and should not return. Paying him no special attention would have been the right way to make him feel welcome.

Peter

peter hoh said...

In the song, "The Wheels on the Bus," there are some gender specific lyrics that are easily changed.

"The mommies on the bus say 'Shh, shh, shh"

can become

"The mommies and the daddies say 'Shh, shh, shh."

It ain't rocket science. We were doing it 15 years ago.

Julie said...

Eh, I used to take my son to the library's story time, and we used to add "daddy" to songs even though there were no dads present. I got the impression that the idea--since there were no dads present--was similar to the ideas behind the recent kids books that are father-focused. I'm not sure whether it's more to undo the tyrannical power of the mommy or to remind us as a culture that fathers are good.

I have noticed a definite trend among NYT readers, among others, to immediately suspect any attempts at friendliness to have some kind of nefarious ulterior motive, though. I remember one gay blogger a while ago complaining that some fella who ran some small-town gas station was asking him where he came from and so on--the usual kinds of small-town small talk. He suspected that the guy was a homophobe and was out to get him or some such nonsense. Pity he didn't get to print his paranoia in the NYT, but to me, it's much the same.

Julie said...

Eh, I used to take my son to the library's story time, and we used to add "daddy" to songs even though there were no dads present. I got the impression that the idea--since there were no dads present--was similar to the ideas behind the recent kids books that are father-focused. I'm not sure whether it's more to undo the tyrannical power of the mommy or to remind us as a culture that fathers are good.

I have noticed a definite trend among NYT readers, among others, to immediately suspect any attempts at friendliness to have some kind of nefarious ulterior motive, though. I remember one gay blogger a while ago complaining that some fella who ran some small-town gas station was asking him where he came from and so on--the usual kinds of small-town small talk. He suspected that the guy was a homophobe and was out to get him or some such nonsense. Pity he didn't get to print his paranoia in the NYT, but to me, it's much the same.

Shanna said...

Perhaps. It also could be that by changing the stories and songs, the other participants were sending a subtle message that he wasn't welcome and should not return.

I think you have to come into the situation with a bit of a chip on your shoulder to jump to this explanation rather than the other.

Paying him no special attention would have been the right way to make him feel welcome.

So ignoring him is polite and welcoming him and thanking him for coming is rude? Got it! Seriously, the only reason I can someone being annoyed at getting rather mild, friendly attention is that they are painfully shy. I'm not sure if painfully shy people volunteer articles for the NYtimes about how shy they are, though.

I have a feeling if it were the other way around, and the librarian just went along with a bunch of songs and books that referenced only mommy's, no daddy's, they would not have been applauded for that.