Monday, March 26, 2012

Dads are Capable Parents, Too

While I’m polishing my next epic, I thought you might enjoy my “final” word on the Dad 2.0 Summit, which appeared last week in my hometown newspaper column.

Bits at the start and end first appeared on DadCentric, but the bulk is new and fleshed out for non-blogger mass consumption. If nothing else, the writer types among you may enjoy seeing the evolutionary twists, turns, adds, deletes and punching up done in the never-ending battle I wage on writing every time I sit in front of the keyboard. Cheers!

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The only adult male this at-home dad hangs with on a regular basis is his dog, though, if not for fences, my best friend would most likely spend all his time canoodling with the cute beagle next door.

Naturally then, I had some trepidation about being corralled for three days in Texas recently at a conference with 200 other fathers.

Were we going to the woods to beat drums? Do primal scream therapy? Whine endlessly about how our dads did or didn't treat us as kids? Not at all.

The inaugural Dad 2.0 Summit in Austin gathered bloggers of the paternal persuasion to discuss with each other, marketers and social media mavens the role of the modern father.

We also gathered to drink beer, a statement based not on stereotype but on my credit card receipts.

The conference sprung from similar events that have been geared toward mom bloggers (not "mommy blogger" unless you enjoy feeling the bitter wrath of centuries of gender oppression -- trust me). Those gatherings aimed to help women network professionally, build community and learn how to possibly make a buck off their presumed expertise in dirty diapers and cleaning products.

Note the word "presumed."

A good chunk of Dad 2.0 dedicated itself to the question of how to make the media, Hollywood and the business world recognize that 21st century fathers are capable and equal partners in parenting. The majority of the peers in paternity I know, for example, are every bit as able, sometimes even better, at all those things commercials, parenting magazines and most of our own parents would swear only moms can handle when it comes to child care.

Except breastfeeding. We'll spot the ladies that one.

Past generations of fatherly indifference and stale research studies (moms make the majority of household buying decisions, dads don't help as much around the house) plus endless reruns of Married with Children and Everybody Loves Raymond have given dads a bad rep. In addition, on top of proving we matter as parents, we also need to prove that we're still men.

Essentially, we tasked ourselves with finding a way to portray modern fatherhood with humane competence -- a middle ground between the archetypical macho doofus and wussy eunuch.

Did we resolve these issues in three days?

Heck, no. We're dads, not miracle workers.

We swapped stories about our children and trying to raise them to be good people.

We discussed battles against us as caregivers, such as employers who couldn't understand why guys wanted to participate in their children's upbringing rather than work late on another pointless PowerPoint presentation.

We shared our heartaches and our triumphs as fathers, husbands and human beings.

We also complained a lot about how all of us can change a flippin' diaper.

That was one concrete accomplishment of the conference, thanks in no small part to some of its more vocal attendees. Representatives from manufacturing giant Kimberly-Clark hightailed it to Austin to listen and commit to act on public criticism about the company's bizarre new Huggies campaign. In it, the diapers are, to quote one voiceover, "put ... to the toughest test imaginable: Dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days."

Babies alone with their fathers! The cruelty! You expected the ads to end with a disclaimer that no infants were harmed during the filming.

I believe most of us left Dad 2.0 feeling that this may have been the start of greater respect for us dads. I know I gained a great deal of respect for many of these men who, through words and actions, shatter the old images of fatherhood like a glass baby bottle -- by design, not accident.


  1. I have to say that fathers do get a bad rap for their ability of taking care of their kids. My husband divorced when Bonus Brother was 3. He took just as many days off picking him up from school sick, and running him to the doctor's as his mother. He left work early for conferences, and walked the halls of high school with his schedule in hand when he entered 9th grade. He even took a job 60 miles from home because it catered to his single father responsibilities. And honestly now a days, it seems we do more than his mother. But that's another story for another day.

    But some men, are their own worst enemy...

    Back in the day, before my ex-husband went completely off his rocker, he resented the fact that he was left with the kids while I went off to do what ever I wanted. Like he was a babysitter. UM.... hello? It's called your visitation time and you're not the baby sitter you're their FATHER.

    And sadly, a baby sitter would have taken better care of them.

    Any hoo, I'm glad you're doing your part to shatter the myths, and that you can change a diaper. These are valuable skills. :)

    1. I totally agree that some of us are our own worst enemy. And that My Love could never handle my job ;-)

  2. Nice post, Cool One. I daresay my husband would have made a better stay at home parent than I did. He has the patient of a saint with kids.

  3. So, do the dads get all catty and dramatic at the conference like the moms do?

    1. A guy tweeted something wonder why were all these women/mom bloggers there, and he was quickly pummeled digitally and in behind-his-back mutterings and in front of his face shunnings about what a dip he was being.

      There were also some complaints I heard about one dad constantly hyping his site, hashtag and some personal project during a panel he was on rather than actually addressing the subject but I missed that one. I must have been doing body shots with the mom bloggers.

  4. Quit setting the bar high. Pretty soon people will understand we're actually capable and will have expectations of fathers. Where will this equality get us?

  5. Glad you came out of this experience with more respect for me. I needed it.

    1. That was actually a disappointment. I was looking forward to far more shenanigans on your part. But there's always BlogHer and NYC.


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