March 4, 2024

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Ask Amy: At-home dad wonders about Mr. Mom | Lifestyles

Dear Amy: I’m a 25-year-old guy. I have a 16-month-old daughter that I stay home with full time. One phrase keeps coming up that I absolutely hate.

People often say to me: “You’re a Mr. Mom!” Sometimes they follow this by saying, “… but there’s nothing wrong with that.”

My reason for writing is to get some clarification on what a “Mr. Mom” is.

Is it a put-down because I stay at home with our daughter? Or is it just another way to say stay-at-home parent?

Dear Dad: With my response, I am revealing my self-proclaimed superpower as a movie database in human form.

“Mr. Mom” is the title of a movie released in 1983, featuring the great character actors Michael Keaton and Teri Garr as a couple with three children who are forced to switch traditional gender roles when he loses his job in the auto industry. She goes back to work, and he stays home.

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When this film was released, the idea of a father who stayed at home with his children was so novel that it was deemed both heartwarming and hilarious.

In honor of your question, I rewatched this charming movie, and I am happy to report that it holds up well.

Approximately 1 in 5 American children have one stay-at-home parent, and stay-at-home dads make up roughly 17 percent of that number. (Figures measuring at-home dads are fluid and based on various parameters; for instance, the U.S. Census seems only to count dads who are married to their female partners.)

Surely the pandemic will shift this at-home parenting balance — possibly radically.

Is “Mr. Mom” a put-down? I don’t think so. It’s just one of those signifiers that people use when they encounter something they feel the need to name.

Also — speaking from personal experience (as a long-time single mom) — when someone condescendingly tells you that “there’s nothing wrong with” your perfectly healthy and functioning domestic situation, you can make eye contact and respond: “Hey, thanks! I was worried about what you might think.”

Never forget that you have a vital and important full-time job. You are raising a person!

The National At-Home Dad Network (athomedad.org) offers blogs, a podcast, and many ways to connect with “the brotherhood of fatherhood.”

They also offer T-shirts. My favorite: “Dads don’t babysit (It’s called parenting).”

Dear Amy: I’m hoping you can help provide an answer to a dilemma.

A high-ranking person where my wife works constantly calls her by a name that isn’t hers.

She has told this person (on numerous occasions), “That is not my name. My name is…” to no avail.

It happened again in a staff meeting today. Afterward, this person asked her if everything was all right.

She lost it and told him “No — you keep calling me by a name that isn’t mine!”

He said, “It isn’t personal.” How much more personal can it be?

She is now afraid she will be fired. I told her to discuss it with HR.

Dear Concerned: I cannot imagine the possible grounds for firing someone who is merely asking and expecting to be respected in this way.

This high-ranking person did not apologize, or say, “I’m sorry — I seem to have something of a block regarding your name.” He said, “This isn’t personal.” And yet — as you point out, there is nothing quite so personal as someone’s name.

Whether your wife should take this personally is another matter. In my experience, people who refuse to take things personally in the workplace seem to plow forward with few complications.

The reason for your wife to discuss this with HR would be to establish that this has been an ongoing issue. Therefore, if this happens again (and certainly if she is fired from her job), she can demonstrate a pattern.

Dear Amy: “Just Wondering” was asking about the appropriate way to address a letter carrier.

When I attended college back in the 1970s, I was lucky enough to score 100 on a civil servant exam and then to get a summer job at the U.S. Post Office.

It was unheard of back then for women to be mail carriers (I was the only female working with 30 men) so when the kids would see me out on the street they would call out, “Here comes the female (mail)man!

— Linda, the Philly Male Carrier

Dear Linda: “Male carrier.” I wonder how many women would claim that title?