Parent This!

Jeremy wrote a letter to the editor of Parenting magazine, in response to an article entitled Inside the Mind of a Dad. Blogging etiquette requires, when a fellow blogger alerts me to an interesting bit of fodder, that I thank the tipper with a brief mention in my post. In this case, I don’t know that a ‘thanks’ is strictly necessary, since I’d say it was Jeremy’s duty to share this with his fellow fathers.

First, a little history. Parenting magazine and I share a brief and rocky past. I started reading the magazine when Ian was first born, and very quickly realized that I had better things to do with my time. I was thirsty for wisdom and support in the days of my fledgling fatherhood. I wanted to read about the experiences of fathers gone before me, and helpful tips on how not to break my son.
Instead, I was bombarded with polls on nipple tenderness, articles on finding time to breastfeed at work, and one – one – piece by a man, on the lighter side of fatherhood. Something to do with sports. The magazine’s tagline is ‘What Really Matters to Moms‘. The website is divided into ‘Pregnancy’, ‘Baby’, ‘Child’, ‘Mom’, and ‘Buying Guides’.

There is no ‘father’ in Parenting. I threw the rag in the trash, and wrote a strongly-worded letter to the editor. I’d never before flushed a toilet in anger.

It seems this protectorate of paternal ineptitude is still going strong, and doesn’t look to be changing its party line any time soon. Exempli gratia, Inside the Mind of a Dad: Why he can’t clean and watch the kids at the same time—and what you can do about it.

Jeremy’s letter had me primed for maximum shock and disgust, but, actually, there’s some good advice in here. It’s basically about differences in parenting styles, which all parents need to discuss. And yet…

‘…Are male and female parenting tactics inherently different —and, if so, must we overlook these differences?

Nope. We can try to change them (and we might even succeed). Here’s how to handle some of the most annoying things dads do.’

The premise, of course, being that men and women do, in fact, have different parenting styles, and that men are wrong. And that women are correct. And that men need to change. And that women can change them. Feel free to read the rest of the ‘article’, if you must, but it’s generally more of the same. The tone of superiority and condescension continues throughout (notice the irony?), and men are left wallowing in ignorance.

Each section of the article quotes a wife in her instructions to her husband, translates that into man-speak, and then offers advice on how the woman can deal with the disasterous results.

You say: ‘I have to run errands. I’ll be back in two hours.’

You mean: Hold down the fort in general, and consider making yourself useful—there’s a load of laundry in the dryer with your name on it.

What happens: When you get back, the house looks like a tornado hit it. Your husband claims he didn’t have time to eat lunch, and there are seven messages on the machine because he couldn’t even answer the phone.

Really, it could have been a good article. There are differences between my and Kelly’s approaches to parenting, and these need to be discussed. What’s missing from this article, apart from the male perspective? Discussion. Here’s the advice on ‘how to deal’:

‘…Reminding your husband that he’s Mr. Efficient at his job can be an excellent way to ramp up his enthusiasm for household management. As Wexler points out, ‘When you’re trying to change someone’s behavior, it’s always better to profess faith in his competence than trash his incompetence….’

Don’t make your expectations clear. Don’t talk with your husband about your concerns. It’s much more effective to manipulate your husband into doing what you want. He is a child, after all. And men love nothing more than a manipulative woman.

The problem with this article, in general, is that it doesn’t foster honest and open communication between parents. It encourages passive-aggression and back-biting. And let me tell you, as man with several passive-aggressive bones in his body, this does not make for happy marriages or children.

And isn’t it wonderful that Parenting (and I use the term loosely) magazine published this article just in time for Father’s Day?

[Here’s Bowden’s take on Parenting’s advice. The bottom line: ‘Dads don’t babysit. We parent.’ And this guy knows what he’s talking about.]

One Response

  1. kelly
    kelly at | | Reply

    Seriously, can we just burn EVERY issue of Parenting before it hits newsstands? It’s like feminism never happened! Go get ’em, dads!

    [Don’t forget, I’ll be home at 4:30. Remember to have dinner waiting, and don’t bother me with the details of your day. I’ve been hard at work, and need silent comforting. Slippers would be nice.]

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