open letter to parents magazine
Before I start my rant, I’d like to wish you a happy 85th anniversary. You deserve all the credit for sticking it out through four wars, two revolutions, 15 presidents and four editions of “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” Or to put it another way, you are the equivalent of a great-grandmother who’s seen her fair share of the world and wants to tell you how you are doing everything wrong and that music was much better back in the day.
I tell you all that to tell you, you seem like you’re stuck in a rut of writing. But I was taught by my mother and father to respect my elders, so I’ll try to elaborate.
You and I; we’ve been together since my wife and I were preparing for our son’s arrival. I read articles about potty training while she tossed and turned trying to find the best position for her and our expanding fetus. And I weighed the pros and cons of co-sleeping through your multitude of articles while my son slept soundly in the bed with us. Take that irony. I’ve learned a lot from columns like As You Grow, It Worked for Me and Goody Bag.
But something needs to be said about the sexist bias of your publication. Your October issue alone had more than 50 references to mothers and/or moms and only a handful mentioned fathers. In a recent slideshow and article about your wishes for children, eight of 23 photos were of mothers. Only one photo included a man and the one you so carefully chose had the dad with his back turned. Currently on your home page, you have four rotating photos and both that include adults are of mothers. Even the info section on your Facebook page reads the company overview as “help[ing] moms navigate the uncharted waters of parenthood and celebrate the joys of being a mom from first kicks, first smile, to proud moments of accomplishment and independence.” You introduced a new blog series last year with a handful of female perspectives and one token male blog. A single father perspective, essentially saying that all men are created equal. But did you know that some men keep their wallets in their left pocket and others keep it in their right? Who knew?
As a fully-functioning father in a traditional husband-wife family, I am offended on two levels. Your complete and utter disregard for the importance of fathers and your failing of the plural vs. singular concept by titling your magazine “Parents” instead of “Parent” or simply “Moms: The Only Important Half of Your Child’s Chromosomes.”
Let me be clear. I love my wife. She’s the greatest thing to ever happen to me and although a bit sad to think about, I hope my son and other future kids will never have to do without her. For 42 weeks, she had another person growing inside of her and for nothing else that makes her a bonafide superhero.
But, we are living in the empowerment age, we are told. This is the era of empowered men, or at the very least, equal caregivers. This is not Mad Men where gender roles ruled; men stayed up late in amber-lit bars and indigo nightclubs while mothers kept the kitchen tidy, taught their children the ABCs and knitted a sweater “all in a day’s work.” This is not the age of the typical 20- or 30-something male malaise. Today’s fathers inspire and protect their children and offer them valuable lessons so they can grow and flourish as adults, just as we expect mothers to do the same. Today is the age of modern men; men who watch Sons of Anarchy and Deadliest Catch and know all of the words to all Mickey Mouse Clubhouse songs. If you’ve got ears, say cheers. Now is the time that stay-at-home dads finally move away from Hollywood portrayals of Daddy Day Care and Mr. Mom to capable and willing participants in changing culture. Stay-at-home dads make up approximately 3% of the nation’s stay-at-home parents; triple the percentage from five years ago.
Men are men. We still want to live inside of any Michael Bay movie. (See: Transformers, Bad Boys II.) But we try to keep up on what’s healthy for our kids. Organic foods. BPA-free bottles. Reasonable and sound disciplinary actions. We split late-night shifts and share diaper duties. The only difference is that we attempt to break the world record of diaper changing and moms sing sweet lullabies. We wake up ten minutes early and get our children ready for school to give moms extra time to let the Farouk Chi flat iron warm up.
I realize that you are suffering from a slow drift into the realm of advertorial, where you are merely an extension of your major advertisers. But that doesn’t release you from the fact that your writing is unfair and unthoughtful, at best. You write about mommy’s nights out and finding quality time for your inner woman, but scold men for spending 15 minutes setting our fantasy football lineup or having bromances with college buddies.
Even your television counterparts understand this changing dynamic. NBC’s new show Up All Night is about new parents — a working mother and a stay-at-home dad. And Tim Allen is back in ABC’s Last Man Standing playing a similar Tim the Tool Man role as a manly man, but this time he’s surrounded by an estrogen vacuum in the form of a wife and three daughters.
I realize that, historically, uncompassionate fathers are often the ones who leave two kids, a debt and a mortgage, but the concept of a father as a co-primary caregiver should be supremely normal. It is not a comfortable position to be a pawn in a game of “moms and children vs. the world.” Please don’t set up a visitor welcome center and then not welcome guests when they show up there. A metaphor for men and parenting, of course.
You are not alone in this blatant disregard for half of the zygote. You are not the only people who market parenting products to mothers and then wonder why fathers don’t give a damn. But I target you because you are the apex of this society. You can change it. You write and people listen. You have been the authority on parenting for 85 years. You should be challenging us to be better parents and role models. There still maybe men who kick around their house in the sweatpants complaining about having to change a few diapers. But to those men, I give you permission to give them a roundhouse kick to the head. To the rest of us, modern men, make us better and hold us accountable and teach us the ways of your wisdom. No one expects you to cover every possibility and scenario. But let’s stop making half of the parents feel bad about our gender and help rally around the goal that exudes parental confidence and being the best we can be for our children.