The Positive Re-branding of Fatherhood
Dads need better PR; that’s where I come in…
In popular American culture we are definitely familiar with hearing the term “Supermom;” a phrase which is typically followed by a brief description of itself when it is used in conversation: “She’s Supermom. She does it all- takes care of the kids, the cleaning, the cooking…”. But honestly, have you ever heard anyone use the phrase “Superdad”? My guess is, not until just now.
Why is that? Well, that’s not a tough question to answer. But I will answer it by quoting one of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon, from the first chapter of his book, Manhood for Amateurs: “The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard is set so pitifully low.” In other words, simply by showing up and “being there,” a man can meet the positive social expectations of being a dad.
Evidently our society is so accustomed to the relatable lyrics of man-bashing songs sung by beautiful young pop singers that part of us begins to believe that most men really are the losers that inspire hopelessly victimized females to post “Men are jerks!” as their Facebook status update.
What I’m not concerned with is what percentage of America’s men really are like the previously mentioned stereotyped villains. Instead, what is worth focusing our attention on are the real life husbands and fathers who are doing it right. When I think of the men in my own life whom I look up to, including friends, family members, co-workers, and even acquaintances, it’s the unsung heroes of fatherhood who come to mind. It’s the men who aren’t insane, selfish, abusive, cruel, idiotic, buffoonish, lazy, cheaters, and/or addicts.
A few weeks ago I was back in Nashville visiting my friend Joe Hendricks, who is expecting his first child with his wife, Rhonda. As we talked about how our lives are changing by becoming dads, he confirmed one of my preconceived ideas when he said, “I really think dads are making a comeback. They’re becoming more actively involved in their kids’ lives than they used to be.”
I believe it. We are reaching a point in history where as a dad, you’re either a hero or a zero- you’re either “all in” or you’re “all out.” Men are learning to find their identity and their purpose in fatherhood, not despite it. In fact, it’s actually cool to be an actively involved dad these days. There are actual social undertones of respect that men receive when it is apparent they sacrifice their own wants and desires for their family.
Is it a coincidence that you are reading a “daddy blog” right now? Why did Parents.com deem it necessary for a normal dad like myself who holds no impressive psychology degree or dozens of years of counseling experience to craft his paternal thoughts before an enormous audience on a daily basis? Because there is value in positive, relevant, everyday (not mediocre) fatherhood. There is a need for the voice of good dads to be heard.
If this so called re-branding of fatherhood is to take place, how can we go about making it happen on a large scale? Do we need to tell men to be better husbands and fathers? Nope, because that would be A) nagging the ones who need to hear it most and B) preaching to the choir for the rest of the men, who already are good fathers and husbands.
That makes me think of a blog post by Jon Acuff of, Stuff Christians Like, who recounts how most Mother’s Day sermons he’s heard throughout his lifetime do nothing but praise mothers, while Father’s Day sermons typically, in contrast, preach to men to step up to the plate and stop being so selfish.
How do you inspire a man? Encouragement. Positive reinforcement. By positively confirming with him what he is doing right, he will become eager to repeat his good behavior. No man wants to be a failure, nor does he want to feel nagged. Especially not a good or decent man.
So as the author of The Dadabase, my focus on deliberately proclaiming this positive re-branding of fatherhood is for the men who are already leading the way. As for the rest, if they’re cool enough, they’ll catch on and join us.