The Year of the Dad
May 23, 2012
by Shawn Bean
That’s what I felt like when I was hired as the senior editor on Parenting’s sister publication Babytalk three years ago. During its nearly 80-year history, Babytalk has been—and still is—a magazine run by moms. When I arrived, it was as if the female editors had thawed me out, cleaned me up, and looked upon me quizzically. What is it? Does it talk like us? Can it write about nap schedules and breast pumps?
I was a dude—the only dude—working at a baby magazine. And you know what? I was psyched. I loved the magazine, and as a father of two young boys, I lived the magazine. But that doesn’t mean everyone else thought it was normal. As part of Bonnier Corporation, Babytalk shares offices with 50 other publications including several fishing and outdoors magazines. On countless occasions, I cruised past the manly editors of those manly magazines while pushing double strollers and carrying armloads of infant toys making “boing!” sound effects. They looked at me like I was, well, a man carrying toys making “boing!” sound effects.
At one point, the powers-that-be figured that having a father in captivity might be a good thing. Since moms write almost every story Babytalk and Parenting prints, perhaps we should let a dad have a voice. That led to an avalanche of dad stuff: The dad column in the magazine, the dad book, the dad blog. (The dad cologne is coming soon.) But I soon realized something else: The mom editors expected me to be, you know, a man. And they got, well, me. A box containing an unassembled stroller would show up, and they’d expect me to solve this riddle like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. I’d fumble with it for a while, then make some comment about the suspension sub frame being missing. (I just Googled “parts of a car” to write that line.)
I knew I could never be that guy—show me a screwdriver, and I’ll show you a gum-scraper-offer. But I was a guy who could handle a hot glue gun, get down on the floor to play with the latest Hot Wheels track, and test out the baby food diet. I was a new kind of a dad for a new kind of parenting magazine.
This new kind of dad is showing up everywhere. He’s sampling his infant daughter’s cries on Billboard chart toppers. He’s getting $500,000 from OK! magazine for photos with his newborn son, once a moneymaking scheme exclusive to celebrity moms. He's taking his young daughters (and their Secret Service detail) out for shaved ice in Hawaii.
But it’s not only happening in pop culture. They are doing it at home as well. Resolved to not be a second-string players, today’s fathers are cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and handling homework and potty training.
Now here I am, thrilled to be the guest editor of Parenting’s first-ever Dads issue, now on newsstands. Pick one up, check it out, and let me know what you think.
I often wonder if there will come a day when, aside from our children, we won’t be labeled as Mom or Dad. We’ll simply be parents: The people who love the bejesus out of their kids. After all, the magazine isn’t called Mom Monthly. It’s called Parenting. A caveman figured that one out.