Making Fatherhood Look Chic
A generation ago, the idea of a changing table in the men's room or baby gear designed for guys would have been fodder for a stand-up comedy routine. Not anymore. At roadway rest stops and at retailers like Barnes & Noble, Toys "R" Us, and Whole Foods Markets, bathrooms are equipped for dads to do diaper duty. Baby supplies designed for men are starting to crowd the marketplace. "Some of our dad diaper bags are so popular we can barely keep them in stock," says John Brosseau, cofounder of DadGear, a company that makes products for men to carry baby supplies. Brosseau and his business partner, Scott Shoemaker, started the company in 2005, and in three years, sales have quadrupled. "Fathers now are not only proud of their children; they're also proud of being active parents," Brosseau says.
Look around, and you'll see evidence of the new daddy pride everywhere. In the workplace, men are bragging about their kids to colleagues, and whipping photos out of their pockets as if they were business cards. On weekends, they're wearing their newborn proudly on their chest, sitting down for storytime and tea parties, and feeding kids raisins while pushing them through the supermarket.
Celebrity magazines are filled with images of dads like Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and Ben Affleck strutting around town with their babies and toddlers in tow. And on television, comedians like Jon Stewart and David Letterman exchange stories about their kids with male guests. Prouder-than-ever pops are even evident in the macho world of sports: In the hours before this year's Super Bowl in Phoenix, several of the New England Patriots players brought their kids on the field for some pregame fun. "Fatherhood is chic, it's in, it is no longer costing these men their masculinity," says Dr. Pruett. "That's a big societal shift."
Slowly but surely, that shift is showing up in quantifiable ways. In a 2007 poll by Monster.com, a job-hunt Web site, fathers cited a flexible work schedule as the employee benefit they most appreciate, followed by telecommuting and on-site childcare. The survey also found that 71 percent of dads with a child under age 5 said they'd taken time off from work to care for a child when their company allowed it.