My Literary Mama interview with Miriam Peskowitz is up and running. Miriam, who writes a blog called Playground Revolution, is not only smart and interesting, but she’s also a Philly mama, so I’ve been lucky enough to meet her in person for coffee, commiseration, and general hanging out. We’ll be doing a Philadelphia Mother Talk event featuring Miriam soon. In the meantime, head on over to the Q & A. Here’s a sampling:
- AB: Why is it always framed as Mommy Wars and not Parent Wars? Why are any of these issues specifically women’s problems? Isn’t limiting the focus and excluding fathers in fact preventing us from ever making any real headway in the work vs. family debate?
- MP: Several months after my daughter was born, I took my first two days away and went to New Orleans — breast pump in hand! There, I met my old friend, Tom; he’s one of the stay-at-home dads I write about in the book. At the time, he had recently left his high level job with the Seattle public schools to become a stay at home dad of two elementary age kids. I was struggling with what to do with my own career, and how to reconcile my real desires to slow down and be with my daughter with my fear that the professions are too rigid, and I would never have interesting work again. Tom’s way of talking about his life made a big impression on me. He was so clear about his decision to parent. So, when I sat down to write the book, it was important to me to include fathers. Part of the problem right now is that a relatively conservative cultural climate has reinstated the traditional idea that parenting is primarily mother’s work. That makes it harder for mothers, and harder for fathers who want to parent. In contrast, we can all thank gay fathers everywhere for leading the way in showing how active fatherhood is part and parcel of being a man, and dispelling myths of how men can’t parent.
- I want all dads to talk about their lives with the same adjectives we mothers use. I’d love to hear a dad talk about himself as a “working dad,” to combine an identity of work and parenting the way most mothers do. I want to see a Working Father magazine that provides tips to fathers about how to do their chores while working full-time, saving time for self, negotiating paid family leave and arranging part-time work, complete with fashion, health, and beauty tips. I want to read stories that begin with, “When I began my marketing presentation, I didn’t realize I had baby spit up on my Helmut Lang suit and tie. . .” I want to see “How He Does It” features, “100 Best Companies for Working Dads” survey results, and, especially, the annual “Raising a Ruckus” award for fathers. We’ll have come a long way when there’s a dad version of Working Mother.
- We also need more fathers actively engaged in negotiating with bosses over family issues, in part because they have more social power. A lawyer friend of mine recounts being in the courtroom at 5 p.m. when the judge announced that the session would be extended. She and the other women attorneys all looked at each other — they didn’t even need to mouth the words, “How the hell am I going to pick up my kids on time?” A male attorney in the courtroom raised his hand and asked the judge to call a 10-minute break so he could make childcare arrangements. The judge agreed, and the relief in the room was palpable. My friend swears that had a woman asked, the judge would have declined, and they would have suffered prestige loss, too.