Every day, attractive women come by my office to chat. Breast health is a common topic. We also look at pictures of naked bottoms and pick the best one. On a really good day, I'll receive a box of yogurt puffs to sample. Based on this description, some guys might think I have a killer gig. My job title: executive editor of Babytalk.
That's right: a dad editing a baby magazine. Let's be honest. This is not a traditional role for a guy. I push tandem strollers through the halls of our building, inspiring all manner of rubbernecking. I receive emails that read, "Shawn, as a mom I'm sure you'll love this new bouncy seat." I am a pro football fanatic who knows the best brand of binkies. I can hook up a DVD player and swaddle a newborn.
I am a 21st-century pop.
This new species of father can be found reasserting his place in America's homes and play groups, territory that has traditionally been dominated by moms. He's also shattering societal norms that were established generations ago. Take, for instance, my own family's birthing history: My grandfather didn't go to the hospital during my father's delivery. My father sat in the waiting room when I was born. I held my wife's leg as my first son, Jackson, came into the world.
"The traditional image of the father is one of lawgiver, moral arbiter, disciplinarian and CEO of the home economy," writes Jeremy Adam Smith, author of The Daddy Shift: How Stay-At-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms and Shared Parenting Are Transforming the American Family. "[This was] the opposite of the mother, who submissively cared for husband, children and home."
A number of factors -- a growing population of women in the workforce, an unsteady economy and stale cultural stereotypes -- are forcing modern parents to redefine gender roles and change the very definition of father and mother. "Historically, dads have had a good understanding of needing to be a provider," says Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible fatherhood. "Today's dad understands that's not enough. You must provide, but also nurture and guide. That heart-to-heart connection is critical."
Forget about the guy who came home from work, patted his kids on the head, fell into a recliner and reached for the remote. Today's dad has more of himself invested in the role. He's the guy who, ahem, works at baby magazine. He's also the divorced dad sharing custody of an 8-month-old daughter. And the stay-at-home dad who works at night, the dad blogger with a devout female following, and the multiracial, multi-tasking Washington, D.C., father known to take daughters Sasha and Malia out for snow cones.
On the cusp of Father's Day, we ask: What do we really know about the 21st-century pop? And what do moms think about him?