Monday, August 31, 2009

four years later -- still we wade

A few months after I started rad dad, hurricane Katrina hit. The aftermath was still a news story in the media as I sat down to write the intro to the second issue. So here's an excerpt of it as a reminder that, like parenting, the affects continue long after hurricanes or mothers and fathers are gone...


Of all the pictures of the devastation that hurricane Katrina wrought, there was one that stopped me cold, that had me mesmerized, overwhelmed, that just seemed to contain all that I wanted to believe about people in general but in particular, about men, about fathers. The picture transcended all the racist media spin, it eased the pain of the decimated street scenes, the moments of panic. One man. One child. Not his even. He was wading through water; he was holding that child like it was the most important thing he could do, like not just that child‘s life but his life depended on their safe arrival. He asked no questions about whose child it was, no need to ascertain ownership, or ask permission. No pathetic excuses about needing to wait and see, to try hard like we kept hearing from the “men” in charge of the federal response. He just knew: I help this child, I help myself; I help all of us get by. There was such humanity embodied in his arms, in the determination in his eyes. It spoke to me as the epitome of “fathering,” of caring for not just our immediate family but for all our relations. It reminded me of how much of an impact we can have on the children in our lives, how easy it is to overlook, to forget, to deprioritize others as we take care of our own.

I had an argument about this a few weeks ago with a man who said it’s not his responsibility to know how to be around other people’s kids. I think he feels this way because of the silence around parenting, (especially male parenting) around the public perception of children being seen not heard, of good behavior equaling good kids…

I am always puzzled by the responses I get when I say I edit a zine on fathering, on how parents impact the world and the children about them. Most people smile and say I ain’t a dad, or I don’t know anyone who’s a parent. And when I ask if there are children in their lives or if they’re uncles or if they still talk with their parents, most people just smile and say something like, ‘well I’ll deal with that later, those things don’t relate to me now.’

Tell that to the man who picked up the child, held her close to his chest and waded out in the waters which were destroying the very place he lived. How we relate to our own children, how connect with the kids and teenagers on our blocks and in our communities is analogous with how we envision a better world, a more compassionate, loving, sustainable world. If we continue to curtail that relationship, we will continue to live our lives surrounded by levees that cannot hold…

Friday, August 21, 2009

Upcoming Daddy Dialectic Talks

I'll be giving a talk at the 14th Annual At-Home Dad’s Convention at the Durham Museum on October 10, 2009 in Omaha, NE. Hope to see you there!

Also, I'll be reading at the September 12 Writers with Drinks in San Francisco.

And on Saturday, September 26, 2-5 pm at Natural Resources in San Francisco, I'll be doing one of my father involvement workshops, "Imagining Fatherhood: A Workshop for Couples." There is no unsolicited advice and very little lecturing in these things. Instead, I try to lead couples through a process whose goal is to help them to develop a common story to tell themselves about fatherhood and what a good father does. New or soon-to-be moms and dads: Click here to enroll.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nineteen Percent

Bob Herbert in yesterday's New York Times:

The country has lost a crippling 6.7 million jobs since the Great Recession began in December 2007. No one is predicting a recovery in the foreseeable future powerful enough to replace the millions of jobs that have vanished in this historic downturn...

For those concerned with the economic viability of the American family going forward, the plight of young workers, especially young men, is particularly frightening. The percentage of young American men who are actually working is the lowest it has been in the 61 years of record-keeping, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

Only 65 of every 100 men aged 20 through 24 years old were working on any given day in the first six months of this year. In the age group 25 through 34 years old, traditionally a prime age range for getting married and starting a family, just 81 of 100 men were employed.

For male teenagers, the numbers were disastrous: only 28 of every 100 males were employed in the 16- through 19-year-old age group. For minority teenagers, forget about it. The numbers are beyond scary; they’re catastrophic.

This should be the biggest story in the United States. When joblessness reaches these kinds of extremes, it doesn’t just damage individual families; it corrodes entire communities, fosters a sense of hopelessness and leads to disorder...

A truer picture of the employment crisis emerges when you combine the number of people who are officially counted as jobless with those who are working part time because they can’t find full-time work and those in the so-called labor market reserve — people who are not actively looking for work (because they have become discouraged, for example) but would take a job if one became available.

The tally from those three categories is a mind-boggling 30 million Americans — 19 percent of the overall work force.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Figuring it out

Daddy Dialectic, I've been neglecting you.

The irony is that more people have been coming here than ever before, thanks to publicity associated with my book The Daddy Shift. During the past two months, it's been covered in national radio programs like Here and Now on NPR and The Current on CBC, national newspapers like USA Today and the New York Times, local newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News, sites like and iVillage, many TV news and talk programs, and lots of other places. It's even been reviewed respectfully in the right-wing City Journal.

I'm now a regular guest on WNYC's The Takeaway, talking about parenting issues. I got to meet an amazing group of stay-at-home dads in New York City (thanks again, Lance and Matt!) and I've been able to talk with parents all over the country--including the truly decent and thoughtful group of parents who called into Wisconsin Public Radio. This probably sounds like fun, and it has been, but a lot of work stands behind all these interviews and events.

The rest of my work life has been extremely busy--chaotic might be a better word. I served as lead editor for two new anthologies--the first of which, The Compassionate Instinct, will be out in January. There was also bad news: In June, I was laid off from my job as senior editor of Greater Good magazine and was forced, in the midst of everything else, to scramble to find a new job. I'm relieved to announce that I succeeded--I'm now editor of a new website (set for launch in the fall of this year) about the culture and economy of sharing and cooperation.

In the end, however, I think the roots of the neglect of this blog have been more personal than professional. Incredibly, Daddy Dialectic is now almost four years old. My son is five. "Your blog used to be great when it was all about you," said my friend Mike when I saw him in New York. "Now it's kind of boring." Mike's not a parent; he meant that he's not interested in the research and ideas and media I've turned to covering; he wants to hear more about my existential struggles as a dad.

Today, I'm still struggling in many ways, but the struggles are of a different order. When Liko was a baby and I was taking care of him for seven hours a day, blogging--writing about those new experiences as caregiver--helped me stay sane. Now I'm engaged in an intense balancing act between work and home--in five years, I've gone from breadwinning dad to stay-at-home dad to work-at-home dad (which is what I am today), and the blog, which was so important to me, feels like one more thing to juggle.

And my son has kept on growing. When he was a baby, he had baby problems, and the struggle was all about me and my efforts to adjust to a new identity as a parent. That made for interesting writing. Today, we're figuring out the school thing. My son was recently diagnosed with a mild case of sensory processing disorder, so we're trying to figure that out. But I don't want to blog any of this; my son is becoming a real person, separate from me, and I think he deserves some privacy.

Which isn't to say that this is the end of Daddy Dialectic. The contributions from Tom and Chicago Pop and the other dads who blog here continue to blow me away, and I love helping them to reach a wider audience. I've just been in a state of transition, personal and professional, and I'm not sure yet where the blog fits in for me. Now that The Daddy Shift publicity is subsiding and I have some stability in my work life, I think I'll figure it out.