Rebel Dad Starts a Daddy War to End the Mommy Wars

Contributing Editor Mary Tsao also blogs at Mom Writes.

Rebel Dad is pissed. As a stay at home dad who left his career after failing to achieve an acceptable life-work balance, he has championed the cause of stay at home dads since he started his blog in 2002. Rebel Dad--who does work at home as a writer-- is "a strong believer in flexible work opportunities for all parents."

Then along comes Leslie Morgan Steiner, working mom and author of the new book The Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their lives, Their Families.

Steiner managed to say and write a number of things that irked Rebel Dad, first and foremost being her decision to include the term "mommy wars" in the title of her book. "A term," Rebel Dad writes, "that no thoughtful writer should ever use without scorn." He dislikes the idea of warring factions and is dismayed the book does nothing to acknowledge that "in a two-parent family, decisions about working and staying home are not made in a vacuum." In other words, where's the daddy?

Steiner further enraged Rebel Dad after she said in a Business Week Interview that any book on the daddy wars would be a very short book because "men aren't that introspective."

Them's fighting words, Leslie.

Rebel Dad decided to turn on the power of the Blogosphere and asked on his blog that when bloggers reference the term "mommy wars" they link to Rebel Dad-approved book Miriam Peskowitz's The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars. By doing so, he hoped that Peskowitz's book--the book Rebel Dad thinks people should be reading instead of Steiner's book--would continue to outrank Steiner's book on Google when people searched for the term "mommy wars."

Despite being rankled at the title of her book, Rebel Dad agrees with Steiner's idea that women struggle with their decisions to work or to stay home with their children:

"I happen to agree wholeheartedly with Steiner's point that all parents feel pulled by the playground and the conference room. Nearly everyone I know -- mom or dad -- has had to question whether their work-life balance is, well, balanced."

But he would like Steiner to included dads when she discusses who the parents are seeking work-life balance.

Rebel Dad also believes Steiner and others who have the power of the Washington Post behind them should be doing what they can to encourage the idea that all parents--working or stay at home, moms or dads--and their children would be better served fighting a war that strives to bring about changes in corporate environments to encourage better life-work options for those who want them.

In response to what he believes is the hyperbole behind Steiner's mommy wars, Rebel Dad has bought the domain daddywars.com and has decided to start the daddy wars. Rebel Dad defines daddy wars:

"Daddy Wars: The growing conflict between parents -- primarily fathers -- and their employers over flexible and varied work options that allow for more precise work-life balance. This conflict will be fueled by an increasing awareness that knowledge workers, with access to modern technology, are no longer bound by traditional working standards. More and more workers -- able to work at any time from anywhere -- will seek arrangements that allow them to maximize family time. But it won't solely be the always-on crowd that is fighting. As more and more men seek to make parenthood a central part of their life, fathers of all stripes will ask for innovate workplace solutions."

"For daddy warriors, there is a clear objective: change the workforce into a place that recognizes the worth of many types of workers and accommodates employee needs for flexibility. That, I think, is a war well worth waging."

At this point, the Washington Post caught wind of Rebel Dad's targeted musings towards Steiner and invited him to participate in a face off with her on the Washington Post site. Steiner, who blogs on the Washington Post site, and Rebel Dad would answer questions submitted by readers. The transcript of the discussion Parent Bloggers Face Off is still available online.

Of the April 6th face off--the transcript of which is long and not nearly as heated as you might expect--Rebel Dad writes:

"It was a blast, but there are always regrets. Amy, in the comments to Thursday's post, brought those regrets to the fore. She noted that there wasn't much talk about solutions to the real work-family balance problems, and she's right. Work-family balance discussions should focus on more leave, more paid leave, better, cheaper and more available childcare, social roles for men and so on. This isn't a list of panaceas, but debating those issues will get us to answers a lot quicker than complaining about what parent demographic has it the toughest."

It sounds like what Anne from the Barely Attentive Parent suggests, that instead of having a mommy war, we have a parenting dialectic:

"By using "parenting" instead of "mommy" we focus on behaviors and choices not people. We get away from the childish "mommy" so often used to infantilize mothers. A dialectic involves disagreement, as proposition and counter-proposition play off one another, eventually reaching a synthesis."

[Image courtesy of Rebel Dad]

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Mary Tsao | Mom Writes

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