Towards the end of April I was contacted by a writer who was going to be doing an article on stay at home dads for Marie Claire magazine. Since I’m interested in doing whatever I can to paint stay at home dads in a positive light, I accepted the interview request.
About a week after I was interviewed they wanted to speak with my wife. When that was over they told her to expect a call regarding a photo shoot soon, but that call never came. I figured I didn’t make the cut (read: wasn’t interesting enough) and kind of forgot about it until I got a “fact check” email at the beginning of July.
Well, the article made it into the September issue of the magazine with the title: “What’s the new status symbol for alpha women? …A Stay-at-home hubby” and the subtitle “She wears the pants; he wears the diaper bag”. The internet posting has the less offensive “Real Life Stay-at-Home-Husbands”. There even was a follow up piece on the article by the Today Show.
The title jumped out to me and struck a chord of fear for what lay ahead in the article. Obviously they chose this pandering title to appeal to their demographic, but by choosing “hubby” and “husband” over “dad” or “father” they chose to ignore the fact that we are home taking care of the children and managing a household. Instead, their title implies that we are just “kept men” who are obediently waiting the return of our alpha women like the loyal family pet.
What really killed me about the obnoxious title was the fact that I had agreed to change the wording of something I said to avoid even the slightest chance of offending a certain demographic. If that isn’t the definition of irony, I don’t know what is.
Stupid title aside, it was a decent article. However, there were a few things that I took issue with. The first, and biggest, was the one talking head that intimated that being a stay at home dad means that I lack ambition, which at some point could negatively impact my marriage.
“I can handle things! I’m smart!”
While this may be true in some instances, it is an overly broad stroke if you ask me. My wife is an extremely intelligent woman with a doctorate and 15 years of experience in her field. She loves the work she does, but she does not have major career ambitions beyond her present position as a clinical staff pharmacist at a teaching hospital.
Not only that, but I didn’t go from being Michael Corleone to Fredo the minute I exchanged my HP 12C for a diaper bag. While my children come first, I do have post at-home life career ambitions for myself.
The consulting work I have been fortunate enough to do, for instance, has been just one of the outlets I’ve had to keep my head in the game, if you will. My hope is that if the work I do continues to be successful that it will lead to a full time opportunity, especially one that enable me to work from home.
At some point my children will certainly not need me as much as they do now, but I still would prefer to be more accessible to them if such a need arises. Besides, getting married and having a family has changed my priorities and I no longer define myself by my career path or the amount of money I make.
As for the other two things, I am kind of irked that there wasn’t a picture of me or my family in the article. I was quoted a lot, but I must have been so hideous a sight that it would have ruined their “arm candy” theme.
Lastly, in the bit about what I send my wife off to work with, I put craisins in my tarragon chicken salad, not raisins. So much for fact checking
“I’m smart and I want respect!”
Had this article come out a year or so ago I might have been more sensitive and my protestations more amplified. Stupid things like this attention grabbing title really used to get to me – see my Don’t Father’s Matter Series that I wrote last year as exhibits A through D your honor .
Whether it is because I have developed thicker skin or because I’ve come to the realization that my wife’s opinion of me is the only thing that matters, these things, for the most part, don’t bother me that much anymore.
There has been a lot floating around the blogosphere about how dads deserve respect. For the most part I agree with that sentiment. As with anything in life, whether at home, in the work place or on the field, respect needs to be earned. There is no right to it, and there should be no expectation that it be given without merit.
The dads I have met from my online escapades, whether they are stay at home, work outside of the home, single, step, straight, gay or whatever, deserve respect because they take their role in their children’s lives seriously. Unfortunately, there are still many who don’t, which help perpetuate the stereotypes about dads and fatherhood that the media continually thrusts in our faces.
Also, it sounds rather hollow as a stay at home dad to sit around and whine about things like the editorial focus of “parenting” magazines or the marketing practices of baby product retailers when women have fought hard, and in many ways still do fight, for their equality.
In my highly unscientific estimation we are another generation of fathers away from earning that respect. As a result, it makes what the strides the fathers of this generation are making all that more important.
While I wish brands and companies would more sooner than later recognize the role of the modern father in their marketing efforts at least their frequent missteps provide great blog fodder.
That being said…
If the situation were reversed and a man wrote an article claiming that “Stay at home moms were the latest status symbol for the alpha male” they would be promptly castrated in the court of public opinion, if not literally castrated.
The fact that women make up the majority of the workforce for the first time ever means that there have been great strides in our society. By no means am I intimating that equality has been reached, but article titles like this do expose a nasty double standard.
Just as society wouldn’t tolerate something written by a man that demeans women, we shouldn’t accept something written by a woman that demeans men, especially fathers that are fulfilling an important role for their families regardless of whether it is by choice or circumstance.
Allowing the practice of making men easy targets because any defense of ourselves that we may choose to make can easily be thwarted with a claim that we are sexist runs counter to the quest for equality. It is as if the author of this title had a taste of the forbidden fruit and liked it. If we are to progress as a society we can’t have it both ways.
Clearly I think the Marie Claire article missed an opportunity to move past the standard script for the media when it comes to talking about stay at home dads. It is disappointing that they chose the mundane rather than to rise above the fray.
The sooner that we get past the triviality of things like status symbols and recognize the role of the modern father and that parenting is a partnership everyone will be better off, especially our children.
One final note
After digesting the article I did take the time to peruse the rest of the magazine. Unequivocally my favorite part of this particular issue is the Chambord Vodka ad. It is scented like you would normally see with a perfume ad.
When I get around to starting my parenting magazine geared towards the modern parent all the alcohol ads will be required to be scented. I’m pretty sure a magazine wafting with the scent of single malt scotch will fly off the shelves.