Just in time for Father's Day, the magazine Working Mother has renamed its June-July issue Working Father. The front cover features a cute baby with an "I HEART U Daddy" onesie and the tantalizing headline, "How Dad Does It." (Spoiler: The magazine doesn't actually tell you how dad does it. Sadly, these kinds of articles never do!)
According to Working Mother Editorial Director Jennifer Owens, the magazine made the temporary change to its logo to recognize the important role that dads play in modern families. As she explained in a blog post in The Huffington Post, "Studies find that men are doing more hands-on parenting than ever before (9.6 hours per week versus 4.5 hours in 1995) and for the majority of married households with kids under the age of 18, both parents work. These days, the business of running a family plus two careers works best when carried by two sets of shoulders, side by side."
Inside, the magazine contains a few articles about working dads including the top ten lessons working moms can learn from the guys. These include such gems as "regular rough-and-tumble time" is "A-OK" (No. 1), "multitasking isn't always good" (No. 6) and "time for yourself is essential" (No. 7). Although these are, no doubt, good points, I'm not sure that the magazine, overall, is sending the right message.
For starters, the "Lessons From Working Dads" article begins this way:
He sends the kids to school with lunches sans key ingredients–like anything resembling protein—and calmly heads to the office . . . on time. Right before bed, he riles them up with no-holds-barred wrestling bouts. And while you’re rushing around all weekend cleaning, shopping, emailing, multitasking, he’s reading the paper, watching the game, playing airplane with the baby. You know, chilling. Admit it: Don’t you sometimes wish your kids’ dad would act more like, well, a mom?
The article goes on to make the point that gender differences in parenting styles are important both to kids' development and adults' sanity, but then ends with a top ten summary of the things "Mother knows best." That list includes treasures like, "Yes, a trip to the park involves logistics: You do need sunscreen, a hat, a snack, water bottles . . . ."(No. 1), "Enter it in the family calendar. And check the calendar before agreeing to a playdate—please!" (No. 5) and "Put it back where you found it. I’m the reason our family stays organized." (No. 7).
To me, these lists (and the intro) undercut all the positive points Working Mother is trying to make by focusing on working fathers in the current issue. It perpetuates the premise that moms are the ones who are naturally equipped to take care of the kids and the house and implies that men aren't really competent caregivers. It reinforces stereotypes about men - and women- that often aren't true.
In my life, at least, my husband (a 25+-year vegetarian) packs the kids (mostly) healthy lunches and snacks every day, makes sure we stay organized, and is in charge of entries onto the family calendar, which he keeps on his iPhone/iPad. And you're never going to see a "leftover hotdog bun and beef jerky" (No. 8) from my guy. Of course, he does key up the kids before bedtime and recently introduced a new source of havoc into our household - a Nerf Super Soaker - for the summer. Overall, though, he's as capable as I am of working and taking care of our kids, our marriage and our house as part of our two parent-two-kid-two career-family team.
So, Happy Father's Day, Honey! And Happy Father's Day to all the caring, caregiving working dads who juggle work and family every day!