That was my personal title for this essay, which The Federalist ran under a rather more measured headline:
Their new commercial for Peanut Butter Cheerios features a no-nonsense pep talk from our hero, “Dad”, who shows us active parenthood at its best. He moves smoothly through the house, cheering his grade-school son’s scary mask and complimenting his teenaged daughter on her “great profile pic,” while regaling us with rapid-fire tips on “how to dad.” Nothing about this father says “bumbler.”
What does Hero Dad do for a living? It’s unclear. His wife makes the briefest of appearances, breezing by in her power suit as he hands her some coffee. Dad shows no signs of heading for the office, but his monologue does mention that dads, in their awesomeness, “do work work and homework,” meaning they help with schoolwork and… what? Is he, too, gainfully employed? Or could he be thinking of home repair and those defrosting chicken thighs? Anyhow, there’s room for speculation.
More and more fathers nowadays are staying at home with their kids, but Americans are still dubious about this phenomenon. Conservatives as a rule are delighted to embrace the warm, nurturing figure of the stay-at-home mom. Dads, by contrast, are expected to build careers and bring home the bacon.
Maybe it’s time for that to change. I’m going to suggest some ways we can legitimize the at-home dad, without pretending men and women are interchangeable. Do you bristle at the image of an aproned dad holding a feather duster? Then lose the apron, and give him a power drill.
I got some very nice notes from at-home dads after publishing this. The public comments, by contrast, are predictably angry and bitter. I think it’s particularly amusing that I’m accused of closet misandry for recommending to men a lifestyle that I myself live and enjoy very much.
More importantly, though, the angry responders didn’t seem to notice something significant: I wasn’t just suggesting that men should, when circumstances warrant, be open to doing more childcare and other domestic chores. I was also suggesting that women need to respect them for more than their paychecks. A father is so much more than just a source of income.
Is there any better way to pitch this message? Reading the angry, bitter responses made me feel really bad for the great at-home dads who must deal with this a lot.