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June 11, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Poor Jessica Valenti. Even when she gets it right, she gets it wrong. As she does here (The Guardian, 6/9/14).

Now, some have gone so far as to suggest Valenti’s actually trying to go straight, i.e. that she may be setting aside the virulent misandry of her past, and I can certainly see some indication of that in the linked-to piece. She tries — really tries! — to play nice, to keep her usual anti-male/anti-father venom under wraps. Even her accompanying photo seems to say she’s trying to start coming across as an adult. But alas, old habits, like not telling the truth, die hard.

Sad to say, the very title of her article — “Stop congratulating stay-at-home dads for doing their job as parents” — gives the game away. Yep, let’s not give fathers too much credit. After all, for most of us it’s been over an hour since we’ve seen a television ad depicting a father as incompetent or a movie portraying one as a monster. Hey, somewhere in this fabled land the sun is shining bright and maybe even a father got more than the 14% - 20% parenting time courts so routinely give them.

So yeah, let’s not go overboard. Let’s not toss any accolades their way; it might go to their heads. They might begin to believe they’re entitled to — oh, say — something as radical as equal rights in child custody cases, and we can’t have that.

What occasioned her article is a recent Pew Foundation report showing that the number of stay-at-home dads has dramatically increased. That would be all well and good except for the fact that most of them are there involuntarily due to illness, disability or the loss of a job. And as I said, Valenti makes a game effort to convince us she’s aware that all’s not sweetness and light in Dad-ville.

The truth is that everything from social expectations to policy sets up dads to assume that they shouldn't — or can't — take care of their own kids alone. My personal pet peeve — but a telling cultural tidbit — is when people ask if my husband is "babysitting" our daughter. He's her father, he doesn't "babysit": he parents.

Yet this isn't just a verbal tic. As I reported in my 2012 book, Why Have Kids, when the US Census looks at who is doing child care, the mother is the "designated parent". This means that anyone than other than a mother — grandparent, babysitter, teacher and yes, even dad — is counted as "child care" for the purposes of the census. Parenting is only parenting when a mother does it: even the government says so!

Dads do get a bum rap. Commercials tell them that they're inept at the most mundane parenting tasks like diapering; skeptics wonder why stay-at-home dads aren't out "providing" for their families; and family workplace policies like paternity leave — or gender-neutral parental leave — are less available and more socially stigmatized than they are for mothers.

So I feel bad for fathers, truly.

Let’s see. When Valenti contemplates the plight of fathers, what she comes up with is (a) people, including the U.S. Census Bureau think of fathers’ childcare as “babysitting,” (b) commercials show dads as inept, (c) people think of dads foremost as breadwinners and (d) fathers don’t get enough parental leave from work. Now, all of that is true enough as far as it goes, which is to say, not very.

The simple truth is that, accurate as all that may be, it’s trivial compared to the real obstacles placed every day between dads and their kids. It’s funny how Valenti neglected to mention things like child custody laws that consign fathers to visitor status, non-enforcement of even those meager rights, dad as mere wallet, parental alienation, maternal gatekeeping, paternity fraud, anti-dad adoption laws, anti-dad domestic violence laws, feminist opposition to fathers’ equality, child protective agencies’ marginalization of fathers, and on and on. Correct those and believe me, we’ll live with a few less-than-sensitive TV ads.

So Valenti, in her effort to pretend to be understanding of fathers’ many grievances, unwittingly shows her hand that’s as misandric as ever. She listed all the trivial things and overlooked the important ones. We could almost conclude that she wants her readers to believe that fathers’ gripes aren’t really all that important. After all, if it were otherwise, she’d have included the big-ticket items, right? But she wouldn’t do that, would she?

Yes, she probably would. Her real belief is the same as it’s ever been — that fathers really just don’t much care about caring for their kids.

Funny how the "most important job in the world" is still the one that most men don't want.

Funny how it’s the one they want all too much. Indeed, that’s why there’s this enormous and growing fathers’ rights movement that’s alive and kicking on every continent on the planet (OK, not Antarctica). That’s why fathers fight tooth and nail countless times a day using money they don’t have just to get some say in how their kids are raised and who does the raising. It’s why fathers who lose their kids in a custody case have a 10-fold increase in suicide over all other men. I wouldn’t call those things “funny,” but then, I’m not Jessica Valenti.

It never occurs to Valenti that there might be a reason why fewer fathers than mothers want to be stay-at-home-parents - a reason other than those denigrating TV ads, I mean. For one thing, fathers’ tendency to opt for breadwinner status, apart from the fact that the culture expects it, is not actually just some silly whim on their part. No, it may come as a surprise to Valenti, but the roof over the heads of mother and child didn’t get there by itself and it won’t stay there long if someone doesn’t pay for it. The same can be said of the water in the tap, the food on the table, the clothes on their backs, etc.

The simple truth is that, if mothers did a bit more paid work, fathers could do more childcare, very much like the former NOW president Karen DeCrow so often said. Of course Valenti would spin that the opposite way — that it’s the dads’ fault; if they did more childcare, moms could do more paid work.

And that’s true in theory, just not in practice. If it were fathers’ demand to be the breadwinner keeping mothers from earning more, we’d expect to see mothers earing equally with fathers when there’s no man around. But of course we don’t. Single mothers with custody of kids earn on average, $23,000 a year; single fathers with custody of kids earn on average $36,000. Feminists like Valenti don’t want to admit it, but mothers actually choose motherhood. Even the high achieving, high-earning, highly-educated ones opt out of work and into parenting and often never go back.

Someone should tell Valenti she’s riding a dead horse.

Despite the uptick in fathers' involvement in parenting, women still do the vast majority of domestic work, from housework to child care.

No, actually they don’t. According to the American Time Use Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2012, women on average do about 35 minutes per day more “household activities” and “caring for children” than do men. And men do about 38 minutes a day more paid work on average. In short, the difference in time spent by each sex on, on one hand domestic chores and on the other, paid work, is miniscule and the two balance out all but exactly.

Feminists like Valenti have been clutching the same old rosary for decades in the vain hope that someone will believe that fathers force mothers to stay home and care for their kids. It’s utter bunk. Mothers are hormonally attached to their children. Of course they want to care for them and seize any opportunity to do so. Fathers’ willingness to pay for the roof, the food, the clothes, the schooling, etc. is that opportunity.

But wait! Take a second look at the last Valenti statement I quoted above. See? It’s got a link. That must mean she’s got a set of data with which to contradict the BLS statistics, right?

Wrong. Click on the link. It’ll take you to a Think Progress article (never a good sign) that contains a single, half-sentence assertion for Valenti’s claim:

women are still doing the lion’s share of childrearing, spending double the time on it that fathers do

Yep, no link, no footnote, no source at all, just the naked assertion. And of course that assertion is contradicted by actual data, not only in the U.S., but in Canada and in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And that, my friends, is Jessica Valenti’s nod toward intellectual honesty — an unsupported assertion that links to another unsupported assertion that’s in fact demonstrably untrue.

Does it get any weaker than that? Seriously, does it?

Fathers are doing more childcare than ever before, and we should laud them for doing it. We should do so, not because they’re just doing their job, but because they’re doing it in the face of the unchanging fact that, when Mom opts for divorce, Dad loses his kids and becomes, if he’s lucky, an occasional visitor in their lives. That’s traumatic for kids and fathers both. The loss of his children means a father is likely to suffer extremes of depression and misery that Dr. Edward Kruk likens to PTSD. And fathers are very likely to be divorced by their wives who, as we know, file for 70% of divorces.

So, even though Valenti and the anti-dad sisters will never admit it, the father who takes on an active role in childcare is one of the most courageous people you’ll ever meet. The potential consequences to him of that depth of bonding to his child are incalculable. Sometimes they’re literally fatal. So yes, we should congratulate all those stay-at-home dads and indeed all the others who care for their kids. We should shout it to the heavens. There are millions of people on your side dads, even if Jessica Valenti isn’t one of them.


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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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#JessicaValenti, #misandry, #fathers'rights

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