Most fathers don’t read Parenting.com, and there’s a reason why. Go to their website and click the “dad” link.
That’ll tie up a couple people for awhile, but the point is: there’s no “dad” link. At least, not right up alongside “mom”. Maybe it’s in “community”, since that’s what they treat fathers as. This was especially true recently, in a one-two-punch from Glen Freyer and Shawn Bean.
Wall-of-Text Warning: If you don’t absolutely love the pants off reading, do not click that “continued” button.
I’ve never spoken with Freyer, but had the opportunity once in the past to hang out with and talk to Bean. Nice guy, warm, very intelligent, good eye for contrasting colors. That’s what hurt the most: I thought I knew Bean. But in his article, “Why Men Don’t Want to Be Dads,” I disagree with his sentiments.
Likewise, in Freyer’s “Dad’s-Eye-View: Married to the Mob”, I get the sense that this dude needs help. Bigtime.
(Also, if that f**king link to 2 years free of the Parenting magazine doesn’t stop popping up while I’m trying to poke around their site, I’m going to lose my s**t.)
Bean makes a simple point: while girls grow up practicing to be mothers, young boys don’t grow up wanting to be fathers. Boys grow up wanting to be superheroes while girls nurse their dolls. True enough that most boys get excited about baseball players, firefighters, Superman and Batman. But girls too grow up playing princess, and something we don’t mention enough, also playing baseball players, firefighters, Superman and Batman. The media, of course, pushes the gender-specific role models, but kids want to be what they want to be.
When I was in 8th grade, one of my female classmates told me I’d be a good father someday. First off, what an odd conversation to overhear 8th graders having. But more importantly, I was happy. I always wanted to be a father, and thought about what it would be like to get married and have a family. Maybe I was one of the few thinking about it that young, but I remember all through high school talking with my core group of male friends about the things we wanted to do and accomplish as a father. And at my high school – an all-boys Catholic school with an emphasis in the sports program – many kids wanted to grow up and go into their fathers’ professions.
So, while Bean rightfully-so mentions that “The second most important job in the history of the world has a really s$@!#y public relations team,” I’m inclined to believe it; I’m inclined to believe, also, that fatherhood writers like Bean are helping it along. While acknowledging this problem is important, what’s more important is to, of course, be a better public relations team. “If we talked about it more, gave it credibility, and treated it as a duty and not a job,” Bean says, “maybe we’d take it more seriously.”
Okay, let’s. We started, now it’s your turn.
Now, now, now…that’s unfair. Bean’s been writing some really insightful stuff on fatherhood (and longer than I have). And hell, he’s scheduled to speak at the Dad 2.0 Summit, (which 8BitDad was not-at-all-suspiciously left off the roster for). I said it before – he’s very intelligent and has a really warm personality. But articles like this one throw a wrench in the works. They appease a largely-female readership who oftentimes wonders if their husbands wanted to be fathers; Bean’s statement that he, and therefore, every young boy, never thought about being a father, gives those female readers a comforting voice. Or, in short, it avoids the real issues. These women don’t need someone to tell them that men don’t want to be fathers – they need to talk to their husbands before having a baby, or perhaps before marriage, and really have a long and emotional talk about expectations. It may sound unreasonable, but it’s only as unreasonable as you make it. Before I got engaged to my wife and mother of my son, I had a couple good conversations under my belt about what I wanted, genetically-speaking. And sure, things change along the way: originally we said we wanted a couple of kids close together, but with all sorts of variables like the economy and our health, plans change. But a framework was there. Did I want to be a father? Yes. Some day, the money will roll in and we’ll have the resources for another. But my wife knows, in the meantime, that I’m all-in for the one we had. If not, coincidentally, this whole site would be pretty stupid.
But wait, there’s more!
In Glen Freyer’s “Dad’s-Eye-View: Married to the Mob,” he wonders why he can’t find a team of people to back him up in decisions about fatherhood. While his wife has a giant pool of other mothers from whom she hive-minds her decisions, Freyer laments that he doesn’t have that sort of network, and therefore, can’t compete with his wife in matters of parenting. In his opening example, his wife wants to switch pediatricians because she’s constantly being scheduled with the nurse practitioner instead of the actual pediatrician. Freyer doesn’t see the problem. But, he’s outvoted by his wife’s network.
First off, Glen, nut-up. This is your child. I hate to be the one that keeps saying “have a conversation with your mate” but c’mon people.
I’m not saying that women don’t seek out evidence for decisions, or ask-around, or that it’s wrong to do so, but Freyer himself doesn’t give his wife a reason to trust his answer. While his wife has done her research, even if it was by informal survey, he could have at least Googled the issue. Instead, Freyer threw his hands up and said “I don’t know why it’s an issue.”
It’s an issue because it’s important to your wife, and she’s worried about your kid. Ultimately, you are too.
Freyer, of course, is writing from the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” school of gender politics, which states that men and women just go about things differently. Problem is, Freyer doesn’ go about it. He just wonders why he’s got to fight “the mob” without giving his wife a reason to ask him.
“The mommy masses hold a collective wisdom of parents, books, nannies, and doctors, and I value their opinion, at least when I ask for it,” says Freyer. And I’m here to tell him that we, too, have resources. Freyer admits that when he’s with friends, they don’t network. They don’t talk about problems and solutions – they just “care about the gestalt sense that things are well.”
Not good enough, Glen.
If you want to solve the problem, you’ve got to be the solution. Talk to your friends. Get on Twitter and use some father-related hashtags like #dadstalking. Go post a topic on Daddit, a subreddit for fathers. Buy a father-written book.
Glen, I’m even giving you permission to contact me, personally, if you have a question.
Now, time for me to say something nice and fair about Glen Freyer too. Obviously, he cares, and he acknowledges that while he’s at work, he’s missing out on decisions. That’s something all new working dads feel. And let’s be honest – as loud and proud as we are here, it’s tough to find fatherhood websites in a sea of motherhood stuff. I mean, the gender-unspecifically-named Parenting.com doesn’t even have a link for dads, so how are dudes like Glen going to find help? His own gracious host has cut fathers out of the equation.
So, in both cases – Shawn Bean’s fear that kids don’t grow up wanting to be dads, and Glen Freyer’s fear that every decision is him versus the mom-brigade – could it be that Parenting.com is actually to blame? After all, they’re just tacking-on father-bloggers to a motherhood site. Those men deserve more resources, a bigger team of fathers, and a more fair library.
In the meantime, they can come and play here.