Tag Archives: manly

The Death of Mister Mom

Dad in the kitchen in the 1960's wearing a pink apron doing dishes, children smiling.Mister Mom?  In your dreams.

I was walking past the girls room the other day, and heard them playing dolls.  One said, ‘This one will be the mister mom’.   I almost dropped my rubber gloves and feather duster.

I know.  It’s real cute.  Guy opens a diaper,  calms a sick tummy, or gets mushy peas into, instead of onto, a toddler,  and the six o’clock news anchors fall over themselves cooing about ‘Mister Mom’.  Cue the laugh track.

Mister Mom.  Women hear it and smile knowingly.  Real men take one step away from each other and chuckle, manly.  He’s a joke.  Mister Mom.

Mister Mom is the slack jaw guy who can’t figure out pasta sauce for dinner.  Who uses the smoke alarm for a kitchen timer. The doofus helplessly holding his infant boy turned pee fountain.  The ‘here, you take the crying baby, you’re a woman’ guy, who then wipes his hands on his faded football jersey like he’s afraid he’ll catch something.  The man whipped by life or love of a woman into domestic submission.  He’s the rough male forced to fill in for a real mom, out of his nature and out of his depth, trying to ape what real moms do, in his silly, clumsy way.

He’s not someone you’ll ever meet, however.  You won’t find that guy in your neighborhood, or any neighborhood, unless you’re watching the flat screen.  Because Mister Mom is pure fiction, a Hollywood cartoon,  a figment toasted by ad men everywhere.

Ever wonder where he came from?

If you look back at macho 50’s and 60’s TV – black and white glory – you won’t find him.  Just the opposite.  There’s ‘Sky King’,  a spy chasing pilot raising a couple of kids himself.  And ‘My Three Sons’, being raised by a pipe smoking engineer and tough old male housekeeper.  And, ‘The Rifleman’, an iron-spined solo frontiersman running a homestead in the West, standing up to bullies, bringing up  a son.  Up on the Ponderosa,  Ben Cartwright mans the house in ‘Bonanza’.  Danny Thomas, in  ‘Make Room for Daddy’, takes charge of the home and kids for a stretch after his TV wife dies.  Chief Warden Rick chases criminals in Coral Key Florida while raising two sons with some help from Flipper, a dolphin. By the 1970’s we find Fred Sanford, who raised son Lamont by himself, and Manhattan widower Phillip Drummond bringing up three youngsters in ‘Diff’rent Strokes’.

Throw in a dozen or so movies with single fathers – think Atticus Finch of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – and there’s plenty of testosterone-at-home culture.  And every single one of them was just called, ‘dad’.  With respect.

It wasn’t until the 70’s that dads at home caught some disrespect.  First they were laughed about as ‘househusbands’, and with 1983’s movie release of “Mr. Mom”, that term took over.  Suddenly, the notion was,  men who fell out of their ‘traditional’ male roles as breadwinners, were morphing into female roles, and being feminized in the process.

And in my opinion, that’s where the Mister Mom stereotype comes from.  From the disrespect many have for feminists, and feminism, and men who didn’t fear it.  As women moved out, and men moved in, suddenly the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s man at home, a strong highly capable male raising kids, turned in the public imagination into a wimpy incompetent pretending to be a mother.

The sad fact is,  that’s the image that’s stuck today, and frequently repeated in major newspapers, magazines and television coverage.

What difference does all this make?  I’m not just being cranky.  It doesn’t dent my ego to help raise my children or man the kitchen. And there’s a legion of dad bloggers out there now proving the same point.

But, how many other men in this country, and around the world, avoid taking more time with their children during daylight hours, or contributing to their home life, because of that stigma?  How many children grow up thinking that men can’t be men and raise them at the same time?  How many women work double shifts, out and then home, to make up for it?

It’s time to bury Mister Mom.

It’s time to recognize that a man at home isn’t less a man.  He’s not a surrogate mother.  He’s a father.  Dad, trying to be the best dad he can be.  Nothing more, nothing less.

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Vegetarian Beef Dinner for Christmas

Food controversy came to dad’s home recently, and challenged a manly tradition.

The Holidays are all about family.  And shopping.  Well, shopping and eating. And family.  In any case, for lots of folks the Christmas feast is important,  a time to gather and raise each others spirits when all the stores are closed.

And that makes choosing what to eat a big deal.  Particularly since everybody’s  home, and cooking chores get spread around.  If it’s turkey, my wife – who is the undisputed queen of stuffing – gets the honors, and if its prime rib, then dad’s pretty much out of excuses.  I mean, a man has got to be staggering incompetent not to be able to shove a roast in the oven and check the thermometer.  No, I mean it, to get out of this you have to be really who-emptied-the-Jack Daniels-in-the-eggnog staggering.

Unfortunately, things got ugly this year when we took the menu to the kids for the turkey or beef tie breaker.

‘We’re vegetarian,’ the twins announced, ten and holding hands, and as serious as young girls can be, which is dangerously serious.

‘Now…’,  I started, and my wife steered me off with the look.

‘…that’s great’, I smiled.  And why not?  As long as they eat healthy, what’s wrong with skipping  meat?

‘So, you can’t make meat any more’, they decreed.  ‘It’s not right.’

Looking back into my childrens’ bright eyes from the undisputed, will eat nearly everything pinnacle of the food chain, I weighed my words carefully.

‘We won’t make you eat any,’ I said.

‘It’s animals.  No one should eat animals any more. They have feelings too.’

‘Well, plants can feel’, I offered.  ‘That’s what scientists say,’ I said to my wife’s eye roll. ‘And we eat them.’

‘Plants don’t have faces, dad.  And they can’t be happy or sad.’

‘Well, you say that.  Maybe we just can’t hear them screa- ….’

‘I think that’s great’, their mom said. ‘Why do you want to be vegetarians, girls?’

‘We don’t think people should kill animals and eat them.’

Well, we’re just a few hundred thousand years late for that, I thought.  All fine and good, if people decide not to eat meat, in my opinion.  But, isn’t it really just about being squeamish?  The dawning realization that what we consume was once alive, and that we have to kill something living before we can feed ourselves?

‘Well,’ I said, aiming for philosophical, ‘it’s the circle of life.  Like, ‘Lion King’.  Completely natural.  What do you think Simba ate?’

It was out of my mouth before I realized, from the look on their faces, they may not have previously considered that particular image.  As a matter of fact,  Disney probably scrubbed every scene with cute dead antelope dangling from lion jaws, for that very reason.

‘Who wants ice cream?’ I said, rubbing my hands.

‘Lions don’t have a choice’, my wife said, and stood up and next to the girls. ‘Do you have something against vegetarians?’

‘Not at all,’ I said, feeling defensive. And when I feel defensive, I get glib. ‘Cows are vegetarians, and I like them just fine. For Christmas dinner, for example.’

‘So, you’d go ahead and serve beef?’ my wife the lioness said.  And I stood my ground.

‘Nobody has to eat it who doesn’t want to, that’s fine.  We can all respect each others’ personal choice.  Happy if the girls just want veggies.  But I want to be able to eat prime rib.’

My wife crossed her arms.

‘Girls, your father’s pretty set on this.  And, I guess it should be his right to have that beef he looks forward to.’

‘That’s settled then’, she said to me.

And as she turned to go, I could swear I saw her toss the girls a wink.

If you’re one of the men cooking beef yourself, I’ve put a list of tips and a complete how-to guide for prime rib roast at http://www.dadsinthekitchen.com.

Top 10 Reasons Men Should Cook

Ok, this list came to me while I was cooking. Actually, I was standing by the oven explaining to my son for the 18th time when dinner was going to be ready. Actually, at that moment I was trying to decide what would happen to the chicken if I was to crank the temp up to 5o0 F.

‘Why should men cook?’ I heard myself asking, to the rhythm of the knife on the cutting board.

Maybe you’ve got some good reasons you can share. Let me know. Here’s mine to get you started.

1.  Pride I don’t know about you, but deep down, I refuse to done in by a dead raw chicken.  My inclination when the smoke alarm goes off is to open some windows and gear up for round two.  I said I was going to put dinner on the table, and dammit, I will.  If it takes all blinking night.

2.  It’s Sexy. Not to me.  To her.  That’s what most women say, check it yourself. Something about a guy serving her and her taste buds. Taking charge, showing some skill and moves.  Or, maybe, being vulnerable enough to get in there and show her just how badly you really need her help.

3.  Survival I often wonder how those TV survivor guys would do if they dropped from a chopper into a kitchen with an empty table and a roomful of hungry kids.  Sure, you can open a can with your bare teeth, but can you get them to eat something you whip up in thirty from what you can scavenge from the back of the fridge?  Arrrgh.

4.  It’s Manly I don’t need to point out how many of the world’s top chefs, restaurant owners, food inventors, and TV cooking personalities are testosterone primed members of the y chromosome club.  But you want to prove your masculine prowess? Toss a pizza in front of a crowd of third graders.  And their mothers.

5.  It’s Cheaper If you’re dating, or not any more you’re not, there’s no question your wallet will be fuller if she fills up at your place.  And if it’s the whole family, then you could buy a small car with the bucks you save in a year not eating out.  And if you know how to cook, you can turn out some fine eats with not expensive ingredients, so you don’t have to look as cheap as you really are.

6. She Needs a Break Men got lucky when women decided to work outside the home, because nobody told her she didn’t still have to put food on the table too.  We just quietly minded our own business, let her make a career, and asked what was for dinner like nothing had changed.  Well, it’s a sure bet, if you don’t man up and give her a hand once in a while, she’s going to figure that out, and then where will you be?

7.  It’s Healthier Guys are immortal and bulletproof, so there’s not much reason to care about what we eat.  It’s just a meal. Or two.  Or in a few years, an open invitation to invest in pharmaceuticals and try out for the big money, as poster boy for the weight loss industry.  What’s the difference between a box or bag of mystery ingredients and knowing what’s in your food? Time will tell.

8.  Eat Something You Like Ever since your mom stopped delivering your favorite dish, just the way you liked it, you’ve had a hankering for it. Admit it.  And come to think of it, there’s more than a few things you’d rather eat than what’s staring up at you from the plate.  There’s one sure way to get the food you want.

9.  Family As in, being a part of.  Hard to do long distance, and nothing’s closer to home than the kitchen.  Sooner or later, every member of the brood passes through it.  And if you’re in there, you’ll be surprised what gets passed around over a snack or drink.  Set an example.  Everybody on the team pitches in, everybody feels like they belong. Including you. Especially you.

10.  Make Memories When the years roll by, that’s all anybody’s got. Are you making any? The time you tried to deep fry a turkey. That one dish everybody remembers you did.  The way you always tried to scrape off the burnt bits in the sink and thought nobody noticed. How proud they were to tell their friends about something you made.

Well, chicken’s done, gotta put it on the table.  If you have some good reasons of your own, stop by the forum on my website and leave em, www.dadsinthekitchen.com.