Tuesday, January 22, 2008

alpha dads

First sightings were in Brooklyn.

According to Amy Sohn in New York Magazine: These are the men you see chastising their wives for not dressing the baby warmly enough or using only the three-point latch in the stroller, not the five. They insist on pushing the stroller on family outings, they crowd their kids on the jungle gyms, they spend hours online researching high chairs.

I'd never had opportunity to meet one myself. The species didn't exist when I was birthing babies in the 1980s. Then, you had to make an appointment with a father to get him to watch his own kids-- which meant his being in the same room with them while he read the Journal.

So when an urgent project I am working on at the agency had to be postponed a few weeks because a team member was out on paternity leave, my brain did a high-five: things really are changing in the right direction for women if men are beginning to sign up for home duty.

Rick came back for the meeting that couldn't happen without him and began it by passing around photos of his newly born son. The scene made me feel all warm and fuzzy: a corporate dad grinning helplessly at his baby's pictures, smitten as any new mom, hungry to hear how much the baby resembles his father, how smart he looks even in his hospital-issued dunce cap.

Someone raised the issue of of childcare and Rick said that he and his wife were in search of a nanny. His wife wouldn't go back to work until the right one was found. Mothers of older kids threw out a few names, but Rick shook his head.

"We have specific criteria," he said, adjusting oblong glasses at the bridge of his nose.

What kind of criteria?

"We want a Tibetan."

"A what?" said my partner, a practical woman wearing boots her teenage daughter cast off after buying them for a Halloween costume.

"We want--we need a nanny from Tibet. Because of the culture. Tibetans believe that as soon as a child is born, it's a god. We decided we could only leave our child all day in the care of someone who'd worship him."

You're going to Tibet to find a nanny?

A fleeting smile. "Haven't you heard? There's a Tibetan nanny connection in Brooklyn. We're looking to plug ourselves into that."

I imagined Park Slope bustling with women in colorful clothing pushing Bugaboo strollers the size of thrones, babies inside made to believe they are Buddhas.

"My kids are being raised to know their place," muttered my partner.

It occurred to me that equal opportunity parenting isn't quite the panacea I'd imagined. But perhaps as more and more fathers weigh in, the balance on the scale will swing to extremes until finally it settles somewhere in the middle.


Alan Wolk said...

Ha! That's very funny.
Tibetan nannies are very much the "in" thing with the Brooklyn sanctimommy/sanctidaddy crowd. (Sanctis- short for "sanctimonious" - check out urbanbaby.com)

What's hilarious is that these uber-PC parents don't realize that they are engaging in the same type of streotyping they abhor. Imagine if he'd said he wanted a Jewish nanny because they are so "warm" or a Black one because they are so "musical."

And while new fathers are definitely more involved than they had been years ago, don't forget that 4 kids and a stay-at-home wife is still the ultimate status symbol for Wall Street types.

Jonathan Trenn said...

Wow. I can only relate to part of this.

I can only say that I hope he meant that a Tibetan would treat the child with reverence and love.

As for me, I'm a single father of a twelve year old boy. Raising him mostly on my own. Lots and lots of sacrifices. But I'm glad he's with me. I guess I got that from my dad who wasn't afraid to be an equal partner to my mom.

Time to go give my kid a big kiss on his head. He'll wonder why.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Interesting point, Toad. And I suspect that Tibetan women in the nanny market are clued in enough to exloit prospective employers cultural assumptions.

Jonathan, your son is lucky to have an omega dad instead of an alpha.