Archive for February 1st, 2010

Obama’s Fatherhood Cop-Out

Caryn: Carla you’re going to be so mad at me. Because after months of being too swamped or lazy to start a post myself, it took our president’s foolish words to get me writing.

Of all the things I disagree with Barack Obama on, perhaps this little ditty from a public service announcement is the worst. Here’s what he says:

“To be a good father is the most important job in a man’s life, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Play catch, go to a park or visit a zoo. Help your child with their homework. Sit down together for dinner. Ask them how their day was. Things get busy, and sometimes we all fall short, but the smallest moments can have the biggest impact on a child’s life. Take time to be a dad today.”

Okay. So, of course, being a dad is the most important job in a man’s life (well, except maybe if you’re president…) and yes, those are all fun ideas for being a good dad. But “it doesn’t have to be hard”?!?!? Honestly, that’s one of the worst messages for both moms and dads I’ve ever heard. Now, an open letter to our President:

Dear Pres. Obama: Being a good dad isn’t about playing catch or going to the zoo or sitting down to dinner while leaving all he hard stuff to your baby’s mama. In fact, a dad who doesn’t do the hard stuff is a slack dad. A bad dad. You’re letting men off the hook.

Pres. Obama, you’ve also just sent a horrible message to moms. That WE alone are responsible for the hard, ugly stuff of parenting while dads just need to be there for the fun. This is one of the grueling stereotypes that continues to oppress women and mothers. It’s one of the reasons we have the Mommy Revolution.

You claim to be for (fight for?) equality, but your message just gave lazy dads a nice boost and good dads a slap in the face. Thanks. You owe all mothers—-and HARD-doing dads—a giant apology.

Because you’re clearly confused on this issue, I’m sure Carla and I would be happy to come to Washington for a nice lunch and help you understand this matter.  And then perhaps we should become your Parenting Czars. I’d be happy to suspend my outrage over your Czars and my Libertarian, small-gov beliefs if it came with a sweet six-fig salary and that awesome government health plan for me and Carla (I mean, for EACH of us. We can’t share the six figs).

Thank you for your hard work as President.

(Carla, if this is hard for you to respond to, just pretend W–or maybe Nixon–said it).

Carla: I get your point. I do. But as I’ve barked at you on Facebook this morning, it’s hard for me to separate my impressions of his words from my weariness with the Obama-bashing. I mean, the man’s reading a script. He didn’t say this off-the-cuff at some dinner party. If you want to be irked at someone, be irked at the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. This is their message.

And really, I think your parsing words here. The word “hard” is meant to convey that parenthood is not rocket science. You don’t have to be an expert on child development to be a good parent. You need to be there, be invested, take initiative, pay attention. In that sense, it’s not hard. And honestly, for the kind of dad who needs an organization to help him figure out how to be a dad, this is a good start. Be there. Show up. Take an interest. Participate.

Like I said to you on FB, I think there are moms who would love the fathers of their children to take them to the park or read them a story. I know that’s the fun stuff, but so what? It’s still involvement. And it’s a starting point. Anyone who’s ever taken a kid to the park knows it’s usually anything but fun. That dad will have to push the swing till his arms hurt. He’ll have to deal with that mean kid who shoves his baby off the slide. He’ll have to soothe his child when she gets sand in her eye and figure out where the bathroom is and learn the hard way that he should have brought snacks. The fun stuff leads to the hard stuff.

To me, the bigger outrage is that there is a need for a message like this. It’s ridiculous that the president has to tell men how to be fathers. If you want to be mad about something, be mad at the men who abandon their families–whether it’s a physical abandonment or an emotional one. Be mad at the men who spend all of their free time away from their kids because they need to “recharge” after a long week. Be mad at the dads who work 70 hours a week in the name of “providing” when what their kids really need is a dad who shows up at their games and concerts and tucks them in at night. Being mad at the president for telling men to step it up is, to me, a waste of a good rant.

Did you know that earlier this week this same president proposed doubling the childcare tax credit for families that earn less than $85,ooo a year? That has nothing to do with anything, but I thought you’d like to know that he does, occasionally, do nice things for families.

And for the record, Mr. President, I am absolutely free for lunch.

Caryn: I understand your weariness. I did, after all, vote for George W. Bush—twice. One of the reasons I was actually glad to see Obama will was that I was just tired of all the bitching.

And I understand that it was scripted. To me, it makes it worse. But alas, we will agree to disagree on that. You ARE right that it is the bigger point that we live in a country where the president (who by the very nature of his past few jobs means he was almost never with his kids—I say this as the wife of a political candidate, so I’m not judging. Just grumbling) needs to help teach dads how to be dads. And I think his version was a smack in the face to all the actual read good dads. Not to mention moms.

(Oh, and regarding the tax credits…according to him, we should not be paying any taxes. Sweet. We’ll see what happens on April 15. Though, once we get those Czarina posts, Carla, we may be singing a different tax tune. Top brackets, baby!)