who’s the mommy?

Just found this post which I began to draft some months ago having read something or other in the Times. No longer have the original article or any recollection of what I was on about, but the blog post looks interesting (if I do say so myself) so I guess I’ll post it anyway, in its unfinished state….

The phrase ‘daddy wars’ seems to have first attained currency in the US in 2006 (see this article on ABC for example), where it was used to remind the world that it was not just mommys who had to struggle to combine their working and family lives – daddys were doing that too. The media had been talking about ‘Mommy Wars’, and the dads actively involved in childcare were saying – hey – we also have to struggle with stereotypes and work out how to survive in the workplace and combine this with our non-traditional caring role. Time called this ‘the missing half of the work and family debate’. And similarly rebeldad complained that ‘plenty of family reporting that tells half (or less) of the story’. That website aims in large part to redress that imbalance and to provide a resource for stay at home (rebel) dads.

And then, before Christmas Judith Warner wrote a piece in the New York Times which draws out some of the inevitable tensions arising from the changes in how we raise our children, and how we view our (gendered) roles. Her article highlights the difficulty we have in talking about these new roles or in critically analysing what is going on in less traditional families – in particular the notion of the reactionary stay at home dad. The comments arising from this post are particularly interesting and show a range of quite polarised views. So now the phrase ‘Daddy Wars’ begins to look like it might contain an element of conflicting perspectives as between genders rather than simply highlighting the fact that both types of parent face conflict between home and work lives. And for my part, like Judith Warner, I think that the stay-at-home choice of Charlie Le-Duff about whom she is writing is great, the tendency to moralise about other people’s choices and to crow about his self-sacrifice as if it is somehow greater or more significant than the very same sacrifice women have been making for years irks just a little.

The Charlie Le-Duff article was picked up in the UK by Eleanor Mills in the Times. She also makes some insightful points about the double standards that operate, often making it tougher for dads to combine work and childcare responsibilities because they are not expected by colleagues to require the same flexibility of a working mum.



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