A few weeks ago, journalist Katherine Lewis contacted me regarding a piece she was working on. The story was going to be about the Modern Dad (in whose ranks I suppose I fall). As I’ll talk to any reporter who asks (coming up: I’m quoted in a Weekly World News piece about the Modern Bat Boy Dad), I spent some time on the phone with her. We had a nice talk; I spoke my mind, and eagerly anticipated reading her story.
Well, it appeared in Slate magazine, just in time for Father’s Day. I don’t appear in the piece (she let me know that the Slate editors had to trim my yammering to keep the article at a decent, non-server-crashing length), but it’s still worth a look. The piece stirred up a bit of controversy – 99 comments and counting, including a couple from people I know (hi Devra!). Katherine followed it up with another piece on her About.com Working Mom blog; I am quoted in that one, and I added an additional 2 cents to the Comments section.
Now, many of you dads are going to read both posts and burst into Righteously Indignant flames. Personally, nothing in either of those two posts bothered me in the slightest. My reaction to the Slate piece was more in line with DadWagon’s Christopher than with the numerous Offended Commentors calling for Ms. Lewis’ head. (Forest, trees.)
What has been bothering me lately is the whining – nay, the whinging! – which so many Highly Educated Upper Middle Class White Dads seem to be doing.
“Life”, says the HEUMCWD, “is a plateful of bitter fruit. Here I am, reborn as my child was born – I am now a Sensitive, Caring, Devoted Dad whose every waking moment is filled with the joy that only a parent can know. I change diapers! I feed my kids! I take them to the park! I even watch Ni Hao Ki-Lan with them! My God, I’m an Enlightened Modern Man! Nay, I’m a Saint! And yet Society does not accept me! I get STRANGE LOOKS from moms when they see me pushing a stroller! My twenty-something male co-workers think I’ve joined the ranks of the castrati! My 65-year-old boss doesn’t understand that I don’t want to work until 8:00 every night because I have a family at home! I’m a (INSERT JOB REQUIRING ADVANCED DEGREE HERE); why CAN’T I have flex hours, or better yet, a home office with a company-provided 1TB laptop and a satellite phone? O God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why?”
Listen to yourself, HEUMCWD. Do you know why most guys – and, I’m sure, a good number of moms – look upon you as a whining pussy?
Because, well, you are.
Let’s look at the Work-Life Balance Situation. I have a lot of dad friends. One of my friends has two kids, a son and a daughter. He’s awesome. He’s a Cub Scout leader, dotes on his little girl, is a loving husband, and manages to maintain a very successful career. Yeah, he works hard, and yeah, he wishes he could spend more time with his kids – but he makes the most of the time he has, and his kids adore. He could complain, but he doesn’t. His job? He’s a Marine helicopter pilot, he’s done 2 tours in Iraq, and he’s going back to Afghanistan for his second tour there this summer. So please stop whinging about not having Work-Life Balance. I can’t back this up with statistics, but my gut tells me that for every white collar dad who complains about lack of work-life balance, there’s at least 10 dads who’d be happy to change places with him, dads who put put on a uniform – firefighters, cops, doctors, city workers, as well as the military – to keep the rest of us safe and alive. Not to mention all those dads who work double shifts on an assembly line or in your local grocery store to keep their families fed. And all those dads who’ve lost jobs – even careers – and lie awake at night praying that their unemployment benefits don’t run out.
As for as the rest of it: Dads are not persecuted. Dads are not treated like second-class citizens. We don’t have to drink from separate water fountains, and we don’t have to ride at the back of the bus. The outrage over “Mr. Mom” references says as much about the person who’s offended as it does about the person who mines a 20+ year old movie for jokes. So you get raised eyebrows from the ladies at the play group when you show up with the kids. So your Maxim-reading coworkers don’t “get the whole dad thing” (dude – they read Maxim). So the “mainstream media” and the “parenting” magazines and the “mommybloggers” don’t run a lot whole of stories about dads, and sometimes fall back on tired cliche’s when they do. Who gives a shit?
If you’re so concerned about what “Society” thinks of dads, perhaps you shouldn’t have become one in the first place.