Founding Fathers: Gender roles, my people!

Welcome to “Founding Fathers” where each month we’ll be giving a different Richmond dad a place to reflect/opine/wax poetic about a fatherhood-related topic of his choosing. First up is Ross Catrow, co-publisher of RVANews and father to a 20-month-old little boy.

Sure, the dads occasionally contribute to Raising Richmond, but the conversation there tends to leans more towards the maternal perspective. That’s where “Founding Fathers” comes in. Each month, we’ll be giving a different Richmond dad a place to reflect/opine/wax poetic about a fatherhood-related topic of his choosing. First up is Ross Catrow, co-publisher of RVANews, co-founder of PharrOut, and father to a 20-month-old little boy.

Guys, have you ever noticed that magazines/books/weeklies/blogs of the parenting and home & garden variety assume that the INAPTLY named realm of “housewifery” is unappealing or inapplicable to men? What gives? I do declare that the gender roles for home life are all out of whack, my people!

Part of my solemn familial pact* with my wonderful wife is that I keep our family of three fed and watered. This is an agreement we’ve had since before breeding, but it has transitioned to our post-birth lives. I’m sure many dads find themselves in a similar position — especially during the first couple weeks of life (the child’s, not their own) when mother-of-child is busy recuperating. Now, if you are a TV sitcom dad from the 1950’s and 60’s you’re probably guffawing from your leather wingback chair — careful, don’t drop your pipe! But, if you are like the rest of us, your definition of the responsibilities, or, nay, the LIKES AND DISLIKES, of men and women have changed since Dick Van Dyke tripped over that ottoman.

People, it is 2010. Things have changed since the mid-20th century: the Berlin Wall has fallen! women can vote! men are allowed to be parents and cook foods!** UP IS DOWN, LEFT IS RIGHT! But if you take a gander at the media offerings for parents (or people who enjoy food — How to Be a Domestic Goddess, I’m looking at you) it’s like we’re all living in Pleasantville.

Allow me to anguish over the following example from Parenting Magazine‘s website: they have a “mom” link in their main site navigation. Where is “dad”? WHERE DID HE GO? Allow your rage to come to a half boil. Now realize that Parenting Magazine is specifically for “moms with babies and toddlers.” Proceed to full boil. This is not an isolated incident.

I pulled up the homepages of several parenting magazines and counted the number of times they mention “mom/mother” and “dad/father.” The data do not lie:

Magazine Mom/Mother Dad/Father
Parents 15 0
Parenting 14 0
Parent & Child 10 1
Family Circle 8 0
Baby Talk 8 1
American Baby 7 1
Family Fun 3 1
Kiwi 1 0
Cookie 1 0
Total: 67 5

Surprising? I figured “mom” would get more mentions, but I didn’t expect such a disparity. I’m not the only one to notice this either, as one person on Twitter said:

[You] don’t like Parenting? I feel like its made as if fathers either don’t read or don’t exist.

Some of these magazines, Parenting as I now realize, are specifically for mothers, which is totally fine. But why not call your magazine something like, oh say, “Motherhood.” What this says to me is that taking care of a family, aka parenting, is strictly a mother’s job, and fathers simply cannot or should not be bothered — or can’t read. Isn’t this the opposite of what we’re asking of fathers nowadays? I mean sure, sometimes I wish I could cast aside my parenting responsibilities like the dried husk of a cicada, but I don’t — and neither do any of the dads I know.

Most of those dads are incredibly involved in their children’s lives at a meaningful level — and the expectant fathers are incredibly excited to be. This isn’t just a weird clique of super dads I somehow wandered into. I mean heck, have you seen that guy on Bethenny Getting Married? He deserves a father/husband Oscar. But, maybe that guy is a harbinger of popularizing the nüdad, the more involved dad. I mean, even choosy moms aren’t the only ones choosing Jif these days. So, maybe there is hope!

But, probably not. Just now, while finishing up this article, I just saw a Clorox commercial where a bumbling father changed a child’s diaper on the kitchen counter. Sigh. Along with being illiterate, apparently we are morons. Fantastic.

* The other parts are much more arcane and macabre.
** Excuse my blatant abuse of historical fact, you can learn about the incredibly interesting Women’s Suffrage movement here and reacquaint yourself with that whole Wall thing here (I think Bono was involved).

(Photo courtesy of Susan Howson)

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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Dave on said:

    Great. Yet another parenting blog.

  2. RDay on said:

    I think it is a great idea. Not that we dad’s that actually behave like a member of a team want a bunch of credit or a cookie (I’d rather have the cookie), but it is unavoidable that certain perspectives and experiences will differ based on the parents gender. My wife and I (we both work) have different ideas about discipline, scheduling, limits, diet, etc…. I think the man’s opinion is important, and should be part of all parenting discussions.

    For example, I am less concerned about letting my kids go to a public restroom on thier own (consider the age), whereas my child abuse prosecuting wife has a much more conservative take on that. “Don’t let them out of your sight”. I fantasize about the Richard Branson story of his mother dumping him in the middle of the woods to see if he could find his way home, just to test his resourcefulness. I think he was 6. He turned out OK for a rich SOB. Counter that with cases of children abducted or beaten into a vegatative state by thier own family.

    Blog away!!!

  3. That is a cute baby.

  4. I am man, hear me roar! Nice job, Ross. You bring up several good points. And as a dad of a 3-year-old girl, I find it fascinating (and for the better) how in many ways, dads have become more responsible in parenting. For me and my family, that’s the way it should be.

  5. Diaper changes on the counter are bad? Huh…who knew?

    I’ve really never paid much attention to the lack of dad mentions in parenting media mainly because I never pay much attention to parenting media. I do, however, dislike when people refer to my caring for my boys in the absence of their mother as “babysitting.”

  6. WOOOOO! Screw antiquated gender roles!

  7. I totally agree with you about the babysitting thing Jeb. Dads don’t babysit their kids. They take care of them, just like mothers do.

    Here’s an interesting article about Drew Brees becoming a spokesperson for Pampers and the whole marketing piece in general:

  8. Great article, Ross. I think it’s also interesting to note that as this trend in parental advertising has flourished, the number of kids living without any father figures in their lives has grown. It makes sense that when boys spend their lives seeing images of “families” that don’t include a dad, they don’t feel obligated to stick around when their time comes. I like this plea for fathers to man / mom up!

  9. I think the magazines are working with what we’re giving them. Most
    dads have made at least an unspoken commitment to provide for their families at all costs and that pretty much ensures the continuation of the gendered parenting stereotypes (breadwinner/homemaker) that magazines market toward. I work 9-5 and feel put into the same box. It’s a lot of pressure, and who knows if any dads would have chosen such a restricting arrangement if they felt there were other options. But, if the whole mess starts with an agreement between the two spouses, maybe we can get out of that rut as easily as we’ve gotten into it.

  10. BOPST on said:

    Fatherhood is the best/worst thing that can ever happen to a man…

  11. Chris Elford on said:

    Good point. As a non-father, I had never considered how much dads are overlooked as care-givers. As a non-father, I would change my baby’s diaper on the counter. Why’s that bad? Poopy food? Foody butt? Proximity to sharp tortilla chip fragments? Ok ok, as a father, I would change my baby’s diaper in a hollowed-out watermelon on the counter.

    Good point!

  12. lindsey on said:

    i loved this for two reasons: 1. it is amazing and 2. i like to imagine ross sitting at home watching bethenny getting married.

  13. Ross is a really good sport about me watching all of the Real Housewives shows and The Bachelor/Bachelorette. He even feigns interest when I talk about the people like I know them. It’s an important quality in a partner.

  14. Wait, Ross watches Bethenny Getting Married? Voluntarily? I think he should be forced to live tweet it.

  15. i am in love with this column already…

  16. Thanky Thanky for all this good informiaotn!

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