At least culturally, dads have been strapping on the Baby Bjorn for a nanosecond of parenting history. Along the way, they have taken to their laptops and smartphones, blogging and tweeting about their victories and defeats on a battlefield littered with one-eyed Elmos and broken iPhones. At the end of January, there was even the Dad 2.0 Summit sponsored by Dove in Austin for these new daddy bloggers.
But unlike holding down a fussy infant with one hand and managing an overflowing diaper with the other (without getting squirted in the eye too boot), pretty much anyone can blog about the daily grind back at the homestead. The question is: are the new generation of dads, whether stay-at-home or otherwise, saying something new and insightful, or even funny, about raising the next generation?
Before I go there, let’s first talk about the moms who have been recording the ins and outs of 21st century parenting. These days, if you hear me chuckling with glee, you can bet that I’m not just listening to the latest Bill Simmons podcast—I could just as easily be reading one of the half-dozen mommy blogs/twitter feeds I follow. At this point, if you told me that some boozed up housewife invented snark, I would believe you. Twitter’s one hundred forty characters is more than enough space to convey all of the highs and wicked dark lows of being a stay-at-home mom. One of my favorites is The Bloggess and with nearly 350,00 Twitter followers she is also one of the most popular. Here’s a sample:
While once there were only the child-rearing manifestos of Erma Bombeck (“Raising a family wasn’t something I put on my resumé, but I have to ask myself, would I apply for the same job again?”), now there is a whole genre of books celebrating moms behaving badly. Take the 2012 New York Times bestseller, Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us which is filled with pearls of wisdom like, “If my kids are still alive at the end of the day, I have done my job.”
There are also modern favorites like Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay: And Other Things I Had to Learn as a New Mom. Here, Stephanie Wilder-Taylor dispels some of the more joyful myths of being a mother while offering comforting words like, “If you don’t fall instantly, madly in love with your baby, don’t worry about it. In fact, it might even be healthier.” Hopefully, network execs will soon catch up with the irreverent literature being churned out. Could a League or Wilfred-like sitcom for the mommy set be in our near future? One can pray to the FX gods.
No doubt there has been a generational shift in how women talk publicly about motherhood. So what about the dads? The changes in what it means to be a good father are no less dramatic than what is happening with women liberating themselves from their June Cleaver, or even Clair Huxtable, predecessors. Men are moving from the model of the workaholic earner to the dad who can, at the very least, take the kids grocery shopping on the weekend, if not take care of them full time. Involved fatherhood is no longer defined by just being able to share quotidian Cosby-esque reflections about how contrarian kids can be. It’s much more hands on and humbling than eighties NBC Must See TV ever portrayed.
But does this new model of fatherhood allow for the gallows humor mom’s are bringing to the table? Just go to the top of the bestseller list on fatherhood and you will see Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown. Was there ever a model for fatherhood and masculinity in more need of reinvention? What better way to strike a new voice for fatherhood than a satirical reinvention of the worst dad in the galaxy? Brown’s 21st Century Vader now uses “The Force” to keep it together when, in defeat, he tosses out perfectly fine breakfast eggs as his Jedi prodigy demands cereal. In my day, Vader would not only have forced the brat to eat the damn eggs, he would have also cut off his hand for the insubordination.
Speaking of insubordination, one of the best non-fiction dad authored parenting books is The New Dad’s Survival Guide by Scott Mactavish. He reinvents military preparation for the first time modern dad. As Mactavish, a father of two, says, “I’ve earned my stripes and I’ll help you earn yours.” “Sir, yes, sir,” I think as I look up to see my two-year-old son climbing up on the window ledge ready for his first aerial dive. As Mactavish would advise: BCF, be cool, fool.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan has also added his “family-friendly” voice to the parenting dialogue with his recently published book, Dad is Fat. With five kids (and maybe more on the way), Gaffigan seeks to warn us as to the living death that parenting can be. If you don’t have time to read the book while waiting for the formula to warm up, just have a look at the cover—it says it all .
OK. So both moms and dads can be comically macabre, at least when they aren’t crying quietly on the inside. And both can entertainingly relate how they’ve (over)reacted to junior smacking another kid across the face with his shovel. But what, if any, are the essential differences between the two storytellers?
Let’s look at the moms. In 2013, it just may be easier for women to reveal their own parenting shortfalls. Women have had 40,000 years of mother-to-mother exchange with which to build on and give them confidence. Guys often don’t. Many women are told from an early age that they will be great mothers and many also babysit (a sort of internship for moms-to-be). These long and early roots may give them the confidence to show the world how really shitty (and humorous) they are at it. If a guy were to joke about drinking one too many beers while his kid is napping, it might inspire calls to child protective services rather than cause people to click “Like.”
So what do the dads have going for them? Certainly, the newness of it. Most guys are starting from scratch making them the ultimate underdogs when it comes to parenting. The childrearing universe is still dominated by the moms, so the guys don’t have much in their way in terms of societal expectations.
For now, all a guy needs to do is get a few basics down such as: mastering the fine art of applying a butterfly shaped cookie cutters to soggy French toast; stashing an extra bucket under the stroller for the sandpit so his kid doesn’t have to share his; investing in prepaid tokens for the carousel; and keeping the freezer stocked with Ben & Jerry’s Milk & Cookies for his partner when s/he rolls in from an exhausting day of adult conversation.
What are your favorite mommy and daddy blogs?
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