Friday, April 27, 2012

Get a Job

I appreciate all your advise. I really do. But I am not unemployed. This is not a transitional period for me. This is my career. This is a choice I made. The choice I'm referring to is the choice I made to be my kids full time primary caregiver - an at-home dad.

There is something about this choice that doesn't sit well with some people, at least subconsciously. The reason I say this is because people are constantly giving me career advise. And by people I mean EVERYONE. Acquaintances will say, "So what do you plan on doing once your kids are all in school?" (As if once they're in school they don't need parents anymore.) Closer friends and family are more likely to be more forward and tell me what career path I should take. "Brett, you're so good at ______. You should totally do _______." Everything from going back to my previous career, to going back to school, to sales, academia - you name it - has all been recommended as a career choice for me.

I get so much of this advise that at the beginning I felt guilty. Should I really be finding something else to do? I stressed out about this until my sage of a wife told me to just concentrate on what I am doing now. You don't do your best at a job when you know that you'll be quitting soon. Now, I realize that most of the people that say stuff like this love me and it is out of love that they offer such advise. I recognize that. I also don't think it's a bad idea to plan for the future and have skills and training that will lead to a job out of the home. Someday, in the future, I'll be doing something else. But, when this advise comes so often and readily, though, I find it quite telling.

Since making this choice of being an at-home dad I have been much more aware of how people not only talk to me, but how they talk to moms as well. You don't ask a mom what she plans on doing after her kids are in school. Its almost taboo. She is a mother, and that is enough. With a man, though, it's almost as if, even in this day and age, the consensus is that no man in his right mind would consciously choose to be a full time parent. If they do, it must mean that they lost they're job, or that they decided to change careers, or are just plain lazy and therefore need help in finding direction. That's when the advice starts rolling in. And like I said before everyone seems to have this sort of advise for me. Ironically, moms are just as likely to do this as anyone else.

Let me be clear (and I think I share this sentiment with most at-home dad's out there). Being a full time parent IS my career. I chose this. I find more joy and fulfillment in doing this than anything I had ever done in my life previously (more perhaps than even you at your desk job). I am busy. In fact, now my kids are in school and I have not felt that, somehow, I have more free time. There is no void. I don't feel like I am missing or missing out on anything. My job is important. My family is in a better place because I am home. I am happy.

-Brother Brett

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tastes Great

My purpose in being here on this earth is the same for everyone else. Speaking stereotypically as a parent, I’m here to prepare my offspring to live successfully on this world. I would hope that all parents feel this way. Seeing how almost everything on this planet in some way or another prepares their progeny for life, I would hope that we all understand this  important part of existence. To me, understanding this “purpose” has lead me to be a better dad.

What gets me is the myriad of ways people “prepare” their children for life in the real world. I believe there is a balance in how we do this with our our kids. I couldn't believe what i was seeing when actor Alicia Silverstone appeared on the internet recently chewing her 10 month old’s cereal and then spitting the food into the poor little guy’s mouth. Is Ms. Silverstone an incredible super mom, or is she out of her mind? I’m sure people will be debating Alicia’s parental decisions for some time now, but my thought is this... Are we as parents doing too much for our children? Is it possible to over protect, or over care for children? Can a parent do too much for their child as to harm or damage the person in preparation for “real life”?

To me the short answer is yes. I think it is possible to over care for children. I think the technical term is “spoil”. Don’t get me wrong here, I think the best thing for kids is to show them lots of love. Children need to know that they are important to the family, and that they matter in everything parents do. However, I think chewing your children’s food isn’t the best way to show them love and respect. I let my kids chew their own food. Children learn best I think when they experience things themselves. Children are going to fall when they learn to walk. Later they will fall more as they ride bikes, and play games and sports.  Heck, I still fall when I ride my bike!

Another thing parents do in caring for their little ones, is protecting them from being wrong. I see this a lot. If the child doesn't get something right, you can watch the mom or dad  quickly intervene and use distraction techniques so the child won't be upset at their mistake. I say let the kid be wrong. Its OK to be wrong. That's how humans are programed to learn when they are young. Instead, it’s popular to take this great learning tool away in the name of care and protection for children. This behavior comes full circle when the child learns that he or she should never be wrong. Then the parents are in a situation in which they become full time servants to an ever needing child. Children in these situations usually have to be the center of attention and in need of constant praise. The sad thing about this is the naive parents who are now enablers of the child’s misdirected behavior. I guess spoiling children is the new way to raise children.

I was amazed at the term “spoiled child syndrome”. This is an actual condition being used for people who grew up spoiled. It turns out that you can harm your kids ability to become “normal”. I recently read a great article written by a family and child therapist, Helene Rothschild. In her article she wrote:

”... I noticed that the clients who were spoiled had a very difficult time in their lives. They had inadequate people and coping skills. Unfortunately, without that being their intent, the parents did not prepare them for life. Generally speaking, I found them to be emotionally weak and lacking self confidence; especially if their parent or parents gave them all they needed and wanted even in their adult life. They were not taught to be considerate of others and did not understand what was wrong and how to fix the problem.”

I think Dads are good in this area. Generally we are thought of as the tougher and less hovering part of the parental team. Moms seem to get the credit for being the softer more nurturing component. So lets use our dad skills and let the kids have some time to be on their own with the opportunities to really learn and experience things even at the risk of the children being wrong. Its OK. Let the child freak out a little. It will be fine. Even adults need to freak every once in awhile. The important thing is that children are given opportunities to learn. After all, that’s what we are here to do. Oh, ya, no more chewing your kid’s food for them.

-Brother Jared

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Mister Dad is the moniker by which Jared and I decided this blog should be called. We chose this name very deliberately. "Mr. Mom" is by far a more common term used to denote an at-home dad, so naturally when we had to come up with a name for this little project "Mr. Mom" was one of the first names to come to mind. It was quickly crossed off the list, however. We decided against it for several reasons, the main reason being this: I hate the term "Mr. Mom."

"Mr. Mom" is a decent film, but it is a lousy descriptor for what I, and most other at-home dads, do/are. This term is merely a witty way of saying "male mother", and is about as inappropriate as "Mrs. Dad" is for working mothers. The root of why I detest this title so much is simply that I am not a mom. I didn't give birth. I don't "mother" my children. I don't raise my kids the same way their mother would, nor do they respond to me like they do their mother. By calling me "mom" not only are you devaluing what it means to be a father, you are also doing mothers a disservice by taking their title from them.

The fact that proves I am not a mother has in the past actually been a source tension in our family. I think other at-home dads can attest to this. It's not easy for most women to let the fathers of their children stay home raise the kids. It takes a tremendous amount of faith on their part to walk away from their children (which they developed over nine miserable/magical months and gave birth to) on a daily basis in the hopes that we men will not only not screw it up but that we'll actually do a good job rearing them. This "tension" stems from the simple fact that we fathers don't do things the same way that they would and this worries them to no end. This difference can drive both parties involved nuts until you come to the realization that, regardless of methodology, the kids are fine - in fact they're thriving.

Remember school, when you were required to call your teachers "Mr."or "Mrs."? This was enforced because by using the title "Mister" you were showing respect.  For some reason all the respect seems sucked from the word when you put "mom" behind it. Put "dad" behind it, though, and it retains some of its presence. If someone calls you "dad" you can respond with, "That's MISTER dad to you, fella!" Respect.

Seriously though, think of all the titles given to people in this world: sir, duke, doctor, king, master, emperor, etc. None of these titles have the potential to be as great as that of "Mother" and "Father." Think about it. Would you ever say "Queen Earth"? No. Why? Because the title "queen" doesn't bear the majesty that "Mother" does. "Mother Earth" commands far more respect. Probably the best example comes out of Christianity. God is referred to by individuals and organizations, in scripture and in prayer, all around the world as "Heavenly Father" or "God, the Father". We have bestowed the title of "Father" on deity because it is one of the greatest titles in our language.

In my mind, "dad" is synonymous "father" only with added meaning. It implies a certain intimacy or closeness with your offspring that the term "father" somehow lacks. After all, any fertile male has the potential of being a "Father", but it takes a loving father who is dedicated to his kids to be a dad.

So Mister Dad, may seem like a clever-ish derivation of "Mr. Mom" but its more than that. Its a name that plays with the idea of respect, combined with title of a dedicated father; one that, in a round about way, is akin to deity. And really, to our kids, that's what we are - gods. That is really how they see us. Perhaps that's the key to being a good parent - acting some of the time, the way our children believe we behave all the time.

-Brother Brett

Friday, April 6, 2012

Modern Family

Lately I have been thinking about how the American family has changed. It seems that the average family has incredible needs. A thirst for activity and connectivity that is totally foreign from how I grew up. What comes first, the needs of the family or the excess of a family’s fiscal value? Its funny how the poor American family life can include the children all having cell phones, X-Box game systems and of course, hi speed internet. Don’t get me wrong here, because I can’t live without hi speed internet! Maybe it doesn't matter which came first. Should the question be, where is all that money coming from?

Today's parents work their butts off to provide for the family. In fact, it is now common for both parents to be working at the same time to satisfy the needs of the house. The “dual income family” as its known. According to many websites that I have visited, and articles I’ve read on the subject, including one in the New York Times, four out of five households are dual income families. In fact, from what I understand, 71% of all American mothers who have children under the age of 18 are working. As parents, we all want to be good providers. However, in our haste to be great providers, who will be home with the kids? In a society of parents who do almost nothing but work, what will the new/ modern family be like? I hope the cell phones, X-Box games, and internet are worth it seeing as those things will be responsible for raising children. Maybe the children’s phones of the future will have some sort of “parental app” on them.

When I see this information, I see the end of an era. Soon there won’t be anyone at home for the kids. Day care will be a booming business, and a norm in how children will be raised. I’m not trying to be all doom and gloom here. I can't see the future, so who knows. All I can do is look at the information we have now. So then, who is raising our children?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are around 5.6 million stay at home dads. This number has been on the rise for decades. In fact, the number of stay at home dads has doubled since the mid nineteen nineties. In 2007 approximately 2.7% of the nation's stay at home parents were dads. In Canada the trend is so strong that the government has passed legislation providing benefits for fathers. I know that the number of stay at home dads are still small when compared to stay at home moms.  However, The fact that the dads are staying home to me is a good trend. It shows that there are people out there who put child rearing first. In a world destined for the norm of the “dual income family”, it’s nice to see a growing trend of people who want to raise their children themselves.

The trend is uplifting and fascinating at the same time. See what ABC news has to say about it.

-Brother Jared