Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Justin Roberts "Stay-at-Home Dad"

My family loves Justin Roberts...maybe yours will, too?


rtb.ink said...

Comment in two parts. Because I have two unrelated thoughts on this video. Two related thoughts are too much work. :)

First on kid's music in general.

I never did much kid's music when my kids were young. (They get into High School real fast) I always thought it was more for grown-ups then kids anyway. What songs were sung on Sesame Street or what ever was on TV was about it. Face it, Disney did a great job, and I still love Cookie Monster. I never found that kids liked "kids music". They just liked music. If it was good it was good, if it wasn't it wasn't.

I did find that as soon as they found out that what they were listening to was kids music not real music they dumped it. Kids always want to be older then they are. (They outgrow this in 30 or 40 years) So I just played music and kept track of what they liked. I burned CDs for them of what ever struck their fancy, or now do mixes on their iPods. They have show tunes, Enya, Led Zep and Black eyed peas in a mix. Wil.I.am's music can be as light, sweet and bouncy as any kid's music.

rtb.ink said...

Comment Second Part. The Mrs. thought the first part was the whole thing since it had two paragraphs, apologies for any confusion. I hadn't caught that.

As for the video and song, I was hoping for a bit of novelty fluff. That not what I got. The sentiments stated are why women don't want to be moms anymore. Can we spell patronizing? If this song becomes a hit, do you really want to be portrayed like that?

It has more in common with trying to be cute with "Tommy has two mommies" or "Annie has two daddies". If we want to be free of "sexism" then the gender of the caregiver can't be relevant. Here it is, in a negative way. Oh look, I have a stay at home dad, who isn't really good at it, but can play guitar. He could get a B or an A, but he doesn't dress well and spaces sometimes. So dad is a poorly dressed space cadet who plays guitar. Is he like, ahh, David Bowie? No, Bowie dresses well. Well, at least expensively.

Why can't I be good at taking care of my kids? It's like saying Mommy is a homicide detective, but isn't really good at it, but can change diapers. He shouldn't have gone there.

If he was looking to be cute with SAHDs maybe saying daddy stays home because vampires don't work the day shift. Or my dad is a zombie. Or my dad is a … whatever. Okay, my kids are older and I'm well into the Halloween thing. A five year old may not be thrilled with daddy being a zombie. But hey, when my youngest was five she just loved Scobby Doo on Zombie Island. (It was a decent movie. I've paid decent money to see adult flicks that weren't as good.)

Song writing is hard. He tried, props for that. but this was not a success.

chicago pop said...

Well, I agree that the parts about not being able to fold laundry, and not matching his (or his kids' clothes) are unfortunate cliches, but a good bulk of the images on the video, and lyrics in the song, were about playing at the playground, with dad as a very active participant, which is right on. (Not quite sure what he meant about spacing out...but hey, as long as he gets on the monkey bars eventually...)

Also, in the song, dad is a great cook. That's HUGE. So, even granting for the challenges of songwriting, and having to force reality into lyrics that rhyme, (which might be the source of a few of the stereotypical lines)on balance I think he comes out with a fairly progressive image of the stay-at-home dad.

rtb.ink said...

Chicago Pop:

Justin Roberts other songs seem to be better than this one. The problems with this song seem to me to be unique to this song.

The upshot of my problem with the song was that all of the jobs mentioned are menial and cliched (and he doesn't do all of them well). Which is why a lot of women don't want to be stay at home moms. No matter how well and joyfully stay at home moms have been portrayed in the media fewer and fewer women want to devote themselves to it. Most of the work done in the song is more closely associated with cheap labor and INS raids these days. The only creative outlet is the cooking.

The playground section bothered me too. Maybe I'm just a big guy (and maybe I take this too seriously), but I've never found a kids play-set in a playground that I could fit on in any way. It is a long set of banged heads, scraped knees and knuckles and that was for me. And If he is playing he is not supervising. He is not in a position to be helpful, what if somebody falls and you're on a play -set and can't get to them. It is hard to wield authority, "we are going home now" from the monkey bars. I saw that section and cringed.

I'll grant the song is supposed to be from a child's point of view. And he is working with a constrained lyric form, but that doesn't make this a good song or excuse a bad one. There are also a lot of other flaws in the song. The point of view drifts, and the language is inappropriate for the ages of the kids shown. "The way he folds clothes is naive"? Kids that age don't use "naive" and adult song writers should use it correctly. He is stretching way to far for that rhyme. I question linking the word "naive" and rock and roll guitar that closely. There are connotations there.

It isn't silly enough to be having fun with a SAHD and it doesn't take it's subject seriously enough to not represent him as a day laborer.

But, like I said, maybe I'm just taking this too seriously.

chicago pop said...

rtb: I think you have a lot of very interesting thoughts on this piece, and I enjoy digging into what makes this relatively trivial bit of cultural production work or not work.

I'll defer to your critique of the musical construction of the song, which I can't really speak to. But on a few other points, I think there is a lot of room for interpretation.

For one, the menial and cliched aspects of parenting are all a reality. To avoid them is in essence to consign them to the world of immigrant labor that you evoke, and implies that no one would really want to care for their children. A lot of jobs that are better paid also have menial, cliched, and boring components, to say nothing of the negative of keeping parents away from their families. Maybe we both would agree that if Justin Roberts had portrayed a father washing, cleaning, cooking, and then philosophizing and playing in a rock and roll band, it would have better matched our aspirations; but I'm not sure if it's a good idea to argue that the labor of parenting is just intrinsically degrading.

In fact, there has been some very interesting recent discussion about the cultural devaluation of manual labor that has taken place in our society with the rise of supposedly superior "creative" or "knowledge" work. Check out the book by philosopher Matthew Crawford, "Shop Class as Soul Craft," and some of the essays he has written for the NYT, such as "The Case for Working with Your Hands."


I wonder if it's true that fewer and fewer women want to be home to raise their kids because of the issues you point to, OR because it is generally the mother, and not the father, who is burdened with the so-called "second shift" that keeps her from enjoying the more positive aspects of her labor, but also from having more time to be creative.

The other point on which I would differ, as a stay at home dad, is the playground thing. The thing about dad spacing out was just weird. But playing with the kids on the jungle gym is something I do all the time. I value that engagement, I think it's something dads bring to the playground that moms generally don't. So I don't think that's a negative.

All that said, yeah, the song is a piece of goofy fluff, as you say, but it's good to debate the issues it raises -- since they get raised so infrequently anywhere else.