This got me a little excited. I've often thought to myself (while mowing the lawn or washing dishes) that a national at-home dad association would be a great idea. There's a huge role to play. We need better information vendors on at-home fatherhood, and better connectors, lobbyists and advocates. A national organization would be a great way to get there.
But skimming through the site, I found that the National Organization for Househusbands was much, much more interested in promoting women's entry into the workforce. This is, of course, an unquestionably important issue. And there is a great deal of overlap between the advancement of working women and the willingness of families to consider flexible, non-gendered family roles. But in short, the site -- and the group -- was disappointing. I drilled further down and was further disappointed.
I hate to take aim at a group that shares the same basic dream that I have, but this association is making a damn poor case for the lifestyle I've come to love so much. The big problems:
You can't have a househusband organization without husbands. I thought the site was relatively one dimensional, with little about the advantages to dads and to kids, and that was confusing to me. Wouldn't a group of househusbands celebrate the lifestyle. Turns out, the National Organization for Househusbands isn't really for househusbands. "... we feel that it is up to us women to develop and encourage more men in this most valuable role." Us women? Not exactly a paragon of inclusiveness. As far as I know, none of the leaders (so to speak) of the at-home fatherhood movement are involved in this group. That's too bad. We dads have a lot to offer.
Successful family roles are built on choices, not obligation. From the female side of the site's Bill of Rights: "You have the right to have a stay-at-home househusband to enhance your home life." Women have a *right* to an at-home dad? I wish more than anything else that more families had at-home fatherhood as an option, but no one has a *right* to demand that their spouse stay home (or work), regardless of gender.
Stereotyping the at-home role is dangerous. From the male side of the Bill of Rights: "You have the right to shop and use your spouse's credit card!!" This does not belong in a sober discussion of gender roles. It perpetuates the myth -- usually used against mothers -- that at-home spouses are idle souls who while away the hours at the mall, etc. etc. Applying this stereotype to men doesn't kill it; it gives it new life.
I don't want to suggest there is nothing of value on the site -- much of what is being pushed is certainly positive (from the male Bill of Rights, again: "You have the right to be respected as a contributing and valuable person in society."). But by focusing narrowly on a single (though vitally important) element of at-home fatherhood, the site makes a less-than-convincing case for househusbands. And that's a real disappointment.
posted by Rebel Dad 9:31 PMComment (0)
I'm always hunting for new dad resources, so I was interested when Ken Canfield suggested in a Kansas City Star story that iVillage was a good place for at-home dads to hang out. So I surfed on over there. It's pretty much a vast wasteland, as far as dads are concerned.
I also checked out the at-home dad section of meetup.com. Meetup, of course, is one of the driving forces behind Howard Dean's e-success, and I was curious to see what kind of job that service was doing in pulling dads together. The answer appears to be something less that revolutionary -- no geographic area has more than a dozen dads registered -- but I have my money on this emerging as a great tool to put dads in touch with other dads as folks become aware. I plan on registering in the next few days. If you choose to do the same thing, let me know what happens.
Many of the established regional groups are fantastic, but it can still be hard to connect with other dads. I'd love to see Slowlane.com (which Jay Massey promises to upgrade) fill that role, but Meetup, with a little more attention, might easily become the starting point for the next generation of dad-to-dad groups.
posted by Rebel Dad 1:54 PMComment (0)