It's funny that on the same day I planned to write a little something on Obama's "Fatherhood Initiative," a tipster should send in the clip of a guy talking about his daughter that had 1,500 women in tears:
From his campaign-trail call to fathers "to realize that responsibility does not end at conception ... that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - it's the courage to raise one," Obama has made fatherhood a priority. The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership has launched a "national fatherhood tour, " as told by NPR, led by 27-year-old Joshua DuBois, and consisting of town hall meetings around the country that will address fatherhood, parenting, and policy. Says DuBois, "[Obama] grew up without a dad in his own home, but he also saw the impact of father absence when he was working in Chicago...So he started this national conversation about responsible fatherhood."
The speech that had the 1,500 women "a big weepy mess" at the BlogHer conference was by Mike Adamick, a writer and stay-at-home dad whose devotion to his young daughter is a running theme in his essays. In this talk, he expressed his fear that his daughter should inherit his shyness and social awkwardness, and the pain he felt when he saw her struggling with other children.
This is a lovely story, and a good illustration of the special bond that can exist between father and child. I was reminded, too, of Ta-Nehisi Coates' widely-read 2002 piece on being a SAHD, which as he points out is a far more loaded issue in the black community - and this was when Obama's sanction of the estate was but a gleam in Democrats' eyes. As Coates wrote wryly, "I am sure that even for this meager deed of fatherhood I am performing, I deserve a lot more than credit," even as he hopes it becomes quotidian ("Not only would the children be better off, but their fathers might actually discover what I already know: that fatherhood is fun, and that it really is the noble calling that I had envisioned, despite the crappy diapers.")
Coates writes that some of his moments of greatest satisfaction come from the silent approval of older African-American women he sees on the street - glad to see him assuming his role. Adamnick - or Aaron Traister, who also wrote a terrific piece about being a SAHD recently - has it easier: fewer people are going to question his choice, at least publicly, despite the continuing stigmas of perceived emasculation. But for them, too, the approval of women is clearly critical to maintaining their self-respect. I'm not talking in the sexual sense, and I don't mean that fathers should be given more credit for doing the same work mothers do routinely. But they need the same credit, the approving looks and, yes, the happy tears (because for many of the same reasons, they're not likely to get them from other men - and not just because a new study, as gleefully reported by the Daily Mail, finds that the average woman cries constantly.) I hope, for this reason amongst others that plenty of women are involved in the Fatherhood initiative - giving the support and approval that may seem obvious but that, frankly, I think we're better at.
White House Launches Fatherhood Initiative [NPR]
Confessions Of A Black Mr. Mom [Washington Monthly]
Dude, Man Up And Start Acting Like A Mom [Salon]
Video Mortified The Radio Star [Mike Adamick]
Crying Shame: Women Spend One Year And Four Months Of Their Lives In Tears [Daily Mail]