No Love at 425* in new Papa Murphy’s ad

Since we haven’t had a TV in our house in nearly four years I don’t see many commercials. Yet, today I learned about the latest Papa Murphy’s ad from my SAHD brothers at the National At Home Dad Network who posted this on their Facebook page today.

Extremely disappointed in Papa Murphy’s for their new “Re-Bold Your Man” ad campaign, which so drastically misses what modern fatherhood is all about, and falls back on such ridiculous concepts of masculinity. Terrible on so many levels.

Playing with your kids and delighting in them doesn’t take away your manhood, it only strengthens it. And what partner wants their kids’ dad LESS engaged with them, and pines for a father more interested in sports than in fully engaging in play? It just makes no sense.

See the ad here, and let us know what you think: http://www.ispot.tv/ad/AL8x/papa-murphys-pizza-re-bold-your-man

DeBolded

I’ve watched the short commercial a few times and my first reaction was that it was cute to see the dad playing with his girls like that. If you’re a dad with daughters, chances are pretty good that at some point you’re going to find yourself getting the full-fairy treatment, much to the delight of your girls. I find the initial portrayal of the dad to be pretty positive, actually. Yet, according to the voice-over this dad is being “de-bolded”. I’m pretty sure that’s Papa Murphy’s euphemistic expression for something more graphic than I’m willing to put in my blog. The basic message to dads and moms is that such an actively engaged and loving father is not to be desired or upheld as the goal. Oh, no no no. You’re not a man if you’re actually enjoying spending time doing something that your daughters want to do. Nope. Instead, this dad needs to be saved from himself. His masculinity needs to be re-bolded by a bold Papa Murphy’s pizza and, of course, football. Seriously, Papa Murphy’s? I think you need a time-out to ponder the larger implications of this seemingly benign commercial.

Please don’t think for a minute that I’m offended by this. This is the type of ridiculousness that we face daily as men who choose care for our children as our full time career. Don’t call me Mr. Mom or Babysitter! I learned a long time ago that getting offended or butt-hurt by the ignorance of others does very little to actually create the positive changes which I desire to see. So, instead of getting angry, let me try to explain this in a way that even my five year old daughter could understand. It is my hope and prayer that my son, if he becomes a dad, and my five daughters, if they become moms, will each take delight in being a parent as much as I do in being their dad. I hope that they will not give in to the pressures of our society to assume certain gender roles. I hope that they will choose the career that is best for their individual situations.

Big Cheese Dad sporting a tutu

Big Cheese Dad sporting a tutu

Fifteen years ago, my wife and I decided that it would be best for me to be the primary caregiver as a SAHD while she pursued her advanced degree and established her career. While other men blazed the SAHD trail many years before me, I know that making such an unusual choice was one of the most BOLD things I have ever done. There is no shame in being an actively involved, loving and nurturing father. I love my job more and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I believe that the world needs more dads who are willing to play dress-up with their girls than those who are obsessed with the performance of their sports team. Modern fatherhood and masculinity are not bound by the stereotypes of old. We (ALL dads, not just SAHDs) are more engaged than ever in the lives of our children. Gone are the days of the bumbling and inept dad. We are boldly going where few dads have gone before!

Another beef that I have with this commercial is how it portrays the mom and daughters. First, the mom is in the kitchen. About the only thing missing was an apron. The 1950s are calling…they want their stereotype back! Second, this mom should be supporting and encouraging her husband for showing their daughters that he’s comfortable enough with his own masculinity to play dress-up and get his nails done. He shouldn’t have to be re-bolded because he’s actively engaged with his own children. Are you suggesting that my wife will be happier with me and think I’m more of a manly-man if I ignore my kids and choose instead to focus on sports and food? Clearly, I’ve been doing it all wrong! Third, why couldn’t the daughters be playing catch with their dad and mom, or helping to change the oil, or riding bikes, or anything but the stereotypical “girl” activity of playing dress-up? Please. These gender stereotypes are so lame. I want my children to be free to express themselves without the constraints of our messed up societal expectations for their gender roles. This goes for my girls as well as my boy. Finally, if you’re bent on portraying this stereotypical commercial, at least do it right. No mom is going to re-bold serve greasy pizza to “her man” on the sofa without a plate or napkin..and a BEER. And that white carpet is going to get ruined if the girls are painting his toes without a towel under his feet. I’m so disappointed with you, Papa Murphy’s; I know that you can do better.

In the end, I’m not looking for an apology from Papa Murphy’s. After all, I’m not the one that’s truly being hurt by this ill-conceived commercial. This is hurting all of our families by reinforcing outdated gender roles. I would love to work with the ad people at Papa Murphy’s to create something that truly promoted family values that didn’t lean so heavily on old gender stereotypes. Until such a replacement ad is launched, there will be no Love at 425*. Instead, it’s more like Feel the Burn at 425*.

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Good Bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

Holding Dad's Hand

My dad passed away seven years ago today. It’s hard to put into words how much I miss him or how often I think of him. Like all of us, he was not a perfect person. He was flawed. Yet, I knew without a doubt that he loved me and was proud of me. How did I know that? Because he got pancreatic cancer that ultimately took his life. But, in the six weeks between his cancer diagnosis and his passing I was able to spend a lot of time with him. At that time I lived two hours away, so I was able to make frequent day trips with my two year old son (pictured) to visit him. y dad was about 10 days from his death, and his body was being ravaged by the effects of the cancer. His skin was turning orange. He lost so much weight that he looked like a concentration camp survivor. And his once-sharp mind was failing, leaving only fleeting moments of lucidity. It was so hard to watch this man I loved all my life suffer while there was nothing I could do to help him. It was during one of those visits at the Hospice facility that my dad had a brief but oh-so-meaningful conversation with me.

He awoke from his sleep and smiled upon seeing me at his bedside, not remembering that I had been there for several hours already that day. I didn’t know if he was going to talk or go back to sleep, but he spoke, asking about how my family was doing. After my reply he proceeded to tell me that he was very proud the man I had become; of my choice to become a Stay At Home Dad six years before. He continued to tell me that he thought I was a good husband and father and that he was pleased with me. This was new to me, as he had not been very verbally supportive of either my college major (Elementary Education) or my career change (teacher to SAHD). He finished by looking me in the eyes, pulling me in for an embrace, and whispering faintly into my ear, “I love you, Carl.” It was the last meaningful conversation I would have with my dad.

Nine days later, on the evening of May 12, my mom called to tell me that the Hospice staff had called her to let her know that they didn’t think my dad would live much longer. Since the next day was Mother’s Day, I was already planning on driving up to see my mom (and dad). But, after her phone call, I left a bit sooner, arriving at the Hospice center around 11 pm. I entered my dad’s room to find my mom and younger brother (and his wife and young son) already there by his bed. We exchanged hugs and kisses and chatted for a few minutes. After a couple of minutes of silence, we decided to sing a few hymns that were among my dad’s favorites, as music had always been a big part of his life. Once the songs were sung, my brother left to take his family back to my parents’ house so they could sleep (my brother would return). My mom and I sat quietly on either side of my dad’s bed, each of us holding one of his hands as he lay in an unresponsive slumber, the silence only broken by each of his labored breaths. We knew that his time was near. As it was already well past midnight by this time, I quietly noted “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mom.

A little after t 1 am that night I noticed that my dad’s breathing had slowed considerably. I held my mom’s hand while we both held my dad’s hands and said a quick prayer, asking God to take my dad home soon so that he wouldn’t suffer any longer. Minutes later, while we were singing a solemn “Amazing Grace” between tears and deep breaths, my dad breathed his last breaths and entered his new home. It was the most sacred and solemn moment of my entire life, to be with a loved one, praying him into the Kingdom. I take great comfort in my faith, believing that I will see my dad again, only this time it will be in Heaven and he won’t be suffering. Later that day, while talking with my kids on the phone about what had happened during the early morning hours of Mother’s Day, one of my kids said something that changed my perspective about the sadness of him dying on Mother’s Day. “It’s okay, Daddy. Now Papa gets to spend Mother’s Day with his mommy in Heaven.”

Good bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

Who’s the Boss?

The following questions were raised by a fellow Stay At Home Dad (SAHD) online Tuesday and there was a lot of feedback/discussion among the rest of us SAHDs. He asked us these two questions: “Do you think that a marriage with a SAHD situation somehow makes the working wife/mother feel empowered over her SAHD husband? Do you guys feel you have lost some of your status as head of the household?”. I didn’t have the time earlier in the day to compose my thoughts, but now that my wife and kids are all asleep and the kitchen is clean (for a few hours, at least) I’m going to try to put my thoughts into words.

I’m going to address the questions in reverse order. I’m not entirely sure what it means, in 2013, to have the status of “Head of Household” (HoH). That seems to be an antiquated term from more traditional times when the “breadwinner” was the husband and the wife stayed at home with their children. I’m thinking of stereotypical times like those portrayed in “Leave it to Beaver” that were played out across this country for a long time. For me, and I’m sure many others my age (I’m 41) and younger, those times are long gone. My wife and I try to partner together to run our family. Sure, it’s a non-traditional setup compared to the Cleavers but it works for us. When my wife and I were married at age 20 neither of us really knew a lot about what it would take to run our house. But we learned, together, and with the love and support and advice of our families and friends, we’ve been doing this for almost 21 years now. What I personally learned was that being the HoH was less important than being a supportive husband and father. Even before I quit my teaching career to become a SAHD my wife and I shared the role of HoH. We shared. We worked together. I learned that I got great fulfillment in serving my wife and kids, so much that I was willing to give up my career to stay home with our kids so my wife could pursue her advanced degree and career. So, I guess the answer to that question is no. I don’t feel like I lost my status as HoH because I never really grabbed at it in the first place.

Backing up a little bit, what exactly does the term “Head of Household mean? Is it the person who earns the most money? The person in charge of finances? The person who works at a job and earns money (instead of hugs and kisses!)? The person who runs the finances and pays the bills? The person who takes care of the kids? I think that term is somewhat outdated now because so many couples tend to share many of the aforementioned tasks (and there are many more). In our marriage we’ve each assumed all of those roles at different points. It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, having such a non-traditional gender role-reversal has been very difficult at times. In 2000, when I first started my now 13 year career as a SAHD, my grandfather expressed his deep concern over this choice. You see, he came from the “old school” way of specific gender roles and rules that you just don’t mess with. I wish he were still alive because I like to think he’d be pretty pleased with how it’s worked out for us. Not always smooth sailing, but we’re still journeying together.

What’s particularly interesting to me is that I feel like I’m more of the “Head” of our household because I’m a SAHD. Because of the demands of my wife’s education and career choice (she’s a doctor) I’m the one who is able to really pour myself into the daily lives of our kids. I’m the one bringing them to/from school, feeding them a snack and listening about their day once they get home, going to the park, and so on. I really know them because I’m home with them all the time. Since I’m around them so much I have the opportunity to really set the tone for their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It’s a responsibility that I cherish and it motivates me daily to be the best father possible.

I think the first question is the trickier one to answer, which is part of why I saved it for last. To be 100% honest, I don’t think it’s the SAHD setup that makes a wife feel “empowered” over her SAHD husband. At least it doesn’t have to be that way. If your relationship is based on mutual serving or submission (I know, that’s a hot word for some people) then neither spouse would feel “empowered” if one worked outside of the home and one stayed at home to care for their family. That said, I think that the type of guy who would be willing to give up his career to be a full time SAHD is generally one who is more willing to serve. He probably values relationships with other more than being right or in control. On the flip side, the wife of the SAHD is often a highly-driven and intelligent Type-A person. Such a person would naturally be (or at least perceived to be) “empowered over” her SAHD husband because of their different personalities. Probably one of the biggest challenges for me over the years I’ve been a SAHD had been to maintain that balance in the relationship with my wife. She comes home from a job where she is in charge. There are people who are paid to listen to her and to anticipate her needs so that she can do her job better. And when she gets home, well, she’s not “doctor” here; she’s “mommy” and “sweetie”. And we don’t respond to her like her co-workers. I’m pretty certain that a similar challenge faces the working dad when he comes home to an at home mom. Only we’ve been conditioned to believe that’s okay because it’s traditional gender roles.

So to answer the first question directly, I’m going to really ride the fence. Being a SAHD could certainly lead the wife to feel a sense of “power” over her husband IF power and control are more valuable to her than a healthy relationship. In our society money is often equated with power. So, for all parents (dad or mom) who choose to serve their families at home instead of out in the work place they’re at a disadvantage right off the bat IF the working parent tries to make that power grab. But such a power grab is truly a slap in the face to the parent who is at home. It’s basically telling him or her that the only thing that matters is the size of your paycheck. And that’s total B.S. If you both agreed to the at home parent arrangement in the first place such a tactic is a really low blow. Besides, the sacrifices of the at home parent are what enable the working parent to freely go off to work each day, knowing that the rest of the family is going to be taken care of all day long. And that knowledge is PRICELESS.

That said, I believe both parents have to recognize the challenges they’re facing so that neither one feels like they’re giving or taking too much in the relationship. It’s such a delicate balancing act that constantly needs fine tuning. It’s often easier to ignore a slight shift in behavior to try to keep the peace. But the problem doing that means one person is going to feel hurt while the other doesn’t even know it. I think the keys to making the SAHD (or mom) option work for a couple are communication, forgiveness and love.