Friday, July 27, 2007

The Involved Dad:A Societal Paradox - By Director Dana Glazer

Yesterday we went out and filmed some on-the-street interviews around town, asking people how they see the role of fathers. Initially, the responses weren't terribly revealing as most everyone we spoke with agreed that involved fatherhood is a good thing. I don't think anyone in this day and age can disagree with that - at least not the people I've come across so far. It seems to be a cultural belief that being an involved dad is important. Heck, even MacDonalds has a commercial promoting the idea. Nothing wrong with that!

In the interviews we asked people what they saw the priority was in terms of the most important role of a dad - and they almost unanimously chose involved with kids over financial support.

But now here's the contradiction: when the same people were the asked their attitudes about Stay-At-Home Dads the majority of them viewed this extreme version of the involved dad as unacceptable behavior on a man's part.

"A Stay-At-Home Dad is a man too lazy to work for a living," one woman said after speaking so glowingly about how important an involved dad is.

And herein lies the cultural paradox: we live in a society that espouses the virtue of an involved dad, however, when it comes down to it, the real value our society places on dads is still firmly anchored to the fifties notion of the breadwinner dad.

Now, of course this is all somewhat extreme. Certainly there has been a shift for dads to be more involved with the care of their kids. And certainly there were people we interviewed who were very accepting of Stay-At-Home Dads. It's not like things haven't changed - but they have changed a lot less than we'd like to think.

The paradoxical cultural message we are brought up with is very confusing. There is a bit of confusion at this point especially to what it really means to be an involved dad - and the next time we film on-the-street interviews, my goal is to dig deeper into this.

My wife had an interesting insight into this which I think is worth including. From her perspective where dads are currently is parallel to where moms were in the 80's, trying to navigate between having careers and the home front. The notion of 'quality time' was a fairly constant phrase back then, which emphasized that it wasn't the amount of time one spent with one's children but the quality. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with that idea but my wife saw this socially ingrained phrase (and I'd agree) as a way of justifying more time away from home.

There's a lot of confusion, pressure and guilt around how much time should be spent at work vs at home and the answers are neither simple nor easy - for dads and moms alike. What I do hope to explore in this film are creative solutions that different families and companies have undertaken in terms of flex time, staggered schedules, etc, with the hope that it will open up minds as to how to improve our society or at least creatively navigate a better family/work balance.

Dad the Nurturer - From Deborah, Wife/Huntress to the Director

I never think of myself as the “breadwinner” in the family, although I most definitely consider my husband to be the primary childcare- giver. He is up every morning at 7:00 AM (I’m a crank in the morning), giving bottles, reading stories, changing diapers, fixing breakfast, doing “potty duty”, with little complaint and often quite a lot of laughter from both of my beloved sons.

I love that they are close, and although I am sometimes jealous of the time he spends with them, I realize that having their father around as much as he is may just be the single best thing we do for them in their young lives.

When my first son was born, I made a promise to myself that I would encourage my husband’s involvement. So I tried very, very hard not to interfere in his parenting; after all, who was I to be in charge? We were both completely new at this. Still, this was incredibly hard for me as I am extremely controlling by nature. I knew, however, that if I kept insisting that things be done “a certain way,” he would become discouraged and not feel that he could be so involved. Of course, he was nervous (so was I: neither of us had ever changed a diaper in our lives) but he was also pro-active, asking the neo-natal nurse to show him how to change the baby, to feed it and burp it. He watched the baby nurse clean the baby for a week, then insisted she let him do it, while she watched and directed, so he would learn to it properly.

My husband, it turns out, learns best with a “hands on” approach, and he learns well. In fact, he is five times the “baby bather” that I am (although I am twice as fast at a diaper change.) And it was this act of bathing our son every morning that led to all the morning rituals after, to hundreds of stories being read while milk was sipped and my son was snuggled in his father’s arms. It led to mornings of “tickle time” (rougher play, perhaps, than mine but my son never laughed louder) and couch forts, of peanut butter toast and building cardboard mansions; magical mornings that are now shared by my infant son who looks on and laughs at their antics with surprise and delight. Someday, soon, he will join them, and I know, as I lay in bed, supposedly sleeping in, that I will hear the sound of their laughter for years to come.

So although society may have some issues with the idea of leaving dads in charge, I know the truth is my children will never be in more capable hands then with their hands-on Dad.

Mom the Huntress

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Family/Film Balance - from Director Dana Glazer

The weather was perfect, the crew assembled, the stars seemingly in alignment for filming on-the-street interviews today. But then...the fateful call from our sitter. She had food poisoning and wasn't going to be able to make it. Given my wife's strained back there was no other option but to postpone filming.

Such is the nature of shooting a film about involved fatherhood while being an involved father. Sometimes it's an integrated affair and sometimes.... Filmmaking, by its nature, is an all consuming affair. The good news is that there couldn't be a more integrative project than this one, but reality sometimes butts heads with one's desire to be productive.

This was a point of frustration this morning but then I reflected on one of the major themes of the film: that our culture is too geared toward maximizing production and efficiency to the detriment of dads (as well as the rest of the family.)

Wasn't my frustration just another manifestation of this?

The answer lies somewhere in figuring out a balance between family and work - one of the toughest things to do. Certainly, my intention is to get this film done as effectively and quickly as I can - but not when it's to the detriment of family. So, filming will wait. My elder son and I will go out to the park where he will dance through the sprinklers with the world's largest smile; and at the end of the day, isn't that what this film is truly about anyway?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Visiting "Fatherneed" - From Director Dana Glazer

I've been reading Dr. Kyle Pruett's "Fatherneed" this weekend and what an incredible book. It really covers the gamut of fatherhood experience in ways that only a book can. Honestly, I've felt a bit humbled as Dr. Pruett has made such strives in articulating the benefits of involved fatherhood in this book - and then I consider that the book has been out of print for a while. What a travesty! It's not that old a book and what it discusses is more relevant now than ever before. Is it that people don't like to read books about dads? Certainly, if you go to Barnes and Nobles you won't find much in the child care/family section that relates specifically to dads. At least that was my experience. I'm assuming that if dad-related books were flying off the shelves there'd be more available. This thought of course leads to the question: are people going to want to watch a movie about dads? And then I consider how the Father's Day video just reached 400,000 views on YouTube this weekend and keeps growing. The amount of times people have shared that they cried in response to the video is overwhelming for me personally and only further commits my every waking moment to making a film worthy of the American Dad. But in the meantime, if you want to read a great book about involved dads, go find a used copy of "Fatherneed" or order one from Dr. Pruett (as I did) and please tell him that I sent you!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I Cringed Too - From Marketing Associate Jonathan Trenn

When I saw the pillow get tossed at the little boy, I cringed too. Couldn't help it. Toss was a bit too fast for my liking and the pillow didn't seem all that soft.

Then the little boy chuckled. He loved it. Because he knew the toss was a sign of love from his dad.

I don't think it's necessarily strictly a sign of the difference between moms and dads. I'd bet a lot of dads would cringe for that first second. Maybe more dads than moms would have noticed the child's reaction and saw he enjoyed it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

MORE PILLOW TALK - From Associate Producer Tracy Russell

Ah, yes the infamous pillow shot. I must confess that I too am in the "moms who cringed when the dad throws the pillow at his kid," group. And, I too have been thinking about that basic truth: that men and women are different, so it follows that; of course, fathers and mothers will parent differently. In their traditional gender roles, fathers hunted, built and sought,outside the home, the necessities for family survival; while mothers kept the home and nurtured the children in its protected environment. As the children grew, the sons accompanied dad on his excursions and learned his role and the skills necessary to perform it; and the daughters remained on the home front with mom and learned her role and the skills necessary to perform it. Some would say boys and girls have a natural inclination towards the skills associated with their gender roles. I think there is definitely a truth in the relationship between these roles and biology- the family benefits from father going out in the world and utilizing his greater physical strength to hunt and build; the family benefits from mother remaining in the home and feeding the baby with milk created by her body. The Hunter. The Nurturer. Some version of these roles has been in place since the beginning. Am I suggesting that fathers are not capable of nurturing and mothers are not able to care for their families with achievements outside of the home-of course not. I know many nurturing, emotionally available fathers and I am one of many mothers; who, on a daily basis ventures out into the world for family's sake. Yes, I am oversimplifying a very complex issue, but it looks to me like our society continues to have more trust in dad as hunter and mom as nurturer and it seems to relate to a very old, very deep, fear for survival.

I am beginning to see these basic truths (men and women are different; hence parent differently and society has not quite adjusted to the idea of dad as nurturer, mom as huntress,) in relationship to the custodial issues in our country that Dana, Camila, myself and others on our team are unearthing during the course of our research. As a society, we do not yet trust dads to take care of their children, in the same way, years ago we were very uncomfortable with the idea of moms working outside of the home. The custodial bias that stems from this fear is sure to subside more and more over time, because, to echo Dana's prior blog, people are evolving. People are opening up to the masculine and feminine that co-exists within themselves. Dad the nurturer and Mom the huntress doesn't so much speak of role-swapping, as allowing an (often hidden) part of oneself to come forth. My hope with this movie, is that we will give credence to Dad the nurturer, who is arising and will no longer keep quiet and at the same time give sufficient attention to how dads do parent differently than moms. And that is okay. It is more than okay, as stay-at-home dad Dallas (or perhaps Stuart Smiley) would say "It's good enough."

There is no stopping this evolution. And who wouldn't want that? Because it is a progression towards wholeness. For ourselves and our children.

Friday, July 13, 2007

People Who Live In Glass Houses Should Throw Pillows - From Director Dana Glazer

My mother called me the other day to share that she had watched the “Stay-At-Home Dad – Redefined” segment, which I recently posted.

“I loved it, Dana, but there was one part which really made me cringe.”
“What was that, mom?”
“Where the dad throws the pillow at his kid. I cringed.
“Mom, it was a pillow.”
“I know, but it still bothered me.”

We got off the phone soon after and for a split second I became rather worried about it. Would other people react the same way? I mean, this was my mom – the one who usually gives glowing reports. I mentioned the conversation to my wife and she shared a similar feeling. My sister-in-law had reacted to it as well.

And then it dawned on me: this brief, three second shot was the line-crossing distinction between the way most moms and dads typically handle their kids. The dads and men I’ve shown the clip typically chuckled at the pillow toss. It goes along with wrestling on the carpet, tossing the kid in the pool, carrying the kid through the air like a fighter plane around the house....

Do most moms do this? I’m sure some do as much as I’m sure some dad out there is going to watch that pillow hitting the boy and cringe – and not only is that fine by me, but it’s part of the point of the film. We’re in a time right now where women are doing men’s things and men are doing women’s things. The old rules no longer apply. There is an openness in the air about how to live, affected by changes in technology, economics and social movements. The evolution of dad, mom, family, society – it’s all connected. The key is becoming more open minded to new models and respecting differences of approach, if they’re beneficial – and especially if they involve pillows.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Redefining the Stay-At-Home Dad - From Director Dana Glazer

I have so many hopes for how the finished film can potentially help the American dad as well as the family unit overall. There really is the possibility of changing people’s perspectives on how we see fatherhood and creating an impact not only on father/son/daughter relationships but to possibly influence corporate and governmental policies regarding paternity leave. However, if nothing else happens, I hope the film can redefine what it means to be a Stay-At-Home Dad. This was the initial impetus for making the film and although the scope has changed, fundamentally it’s still extremely important to me.

Personally, I have felt the angst surrounding being an at-home dad. In the past I felt emasculated, angry, alone, helpless and belittled. God bless my wife for the continual emotional/financial support and reminders that what I was doing regarding care of the kids was the most important thing I could have been doing at the time – and still is.

I used to think I was cursed in some strange way. I have always had a passion for filmmaking and have always had a talent for making films but the segue from being a starving artist to a paid filmmaker has been a struggle for me. It’s been frustrating to watch the years go by, trying to screenwrite my way up the Hollywood chain with some success but not enough to push things over the edge. The values they have over there are somewhat poisoned and I found myself writing things that neither fit what they were looking for nor was satisfying for me on a deeper level; and after ten years of banging my head against the wall, I let it all go to focus more on family and to do this project on the side.

It was the best choice I could’ve made.

Making a film about fatherhood is the most integrative thing I could be doing with my life right now. Talking to so many people about what it means to be a dad and studying fatherhood in every possible way has allowed me not only to make something that goes to the core of my being but also to grow as a father and to really appreciate the precious time I have with my kids.

At this point I see jettisoning my former ‘sideways’ career as being the best blessing I could’ve been dealt. Had I not been granted this hand, had I succeeded in being that Hollywood director that my whole life had been geared towards, I would not know my kids as well – and they wouldn’t really know me, warts and all.

So, thanks for allowing this private digression and let me get back to point: if nothing further, I hope the finished film will allow you to view what an involved dad does from a more meaningful, empowered perspective. Below is a video I just put together for the possible supplemental inclusion in a Time.com article. It is a brief sample of what this larger film is about. Dallas Hayes, the subject this short piece focuses on, has the potential for redefining our cultural assumptions about Stay-At-Home Dads.

I hope you find him as inspiring as I have and look forward to hearing what you think.

Dana video

Sunday, July 1, 2007

From EvoDad Subject Dallas Hayes...

I asked Dallas Hayes to contribute to our blog and here's what he wrote. Enjoy! - Dana


Good Enough Dad:

I'd like to thank Dana Glazer for his kind words, calling me an 'amazing father', however I want to point out that that is not how I see myself. I worry that as a subject of this film that I will be held up as an example of 'how to be a dad'. Perhaps I'll be seen by others as presenting myself as some kind of authority on how to be a dad. Please know that nothing could be further from the truth. If anything I see myself as a 'good enough dad', but more on that later.

My reasons for participating in this project are varied but most important is not to make a statement about the quality of parenting but about the quantity. I know that to others, the focus of my experience is that I'm a man who is a full time stay-home father. For me the focus is that I'm a parent who chose to stay home.

When it comes to the actual parenting we follow the tried and true practices that first-time parents have followed for millennia: we're winging it. What is important to us is that whether our parenting is good or bad, that there is a lot of it.

My only advice would be to be confident. After all humans have been parenting for close to 200,000 years, and there are over 6 billion of us on earth now. Surely it can't be that hard. Fortunately, in my opinion being the best parent you can be requires only that you be yourself. Your parenting ought to be an expression of who you are, a representation of the life you've led and lead. After all, you are you; your child is your child. The rest happens on its own if you let it. I am aware that society does not share this view. Our media is filled with admonitions and dire warning of how our screwed-up parenting is screwing up our kids. Our media also fosters the unrealistic expectation that all children are by default perfect and only become less so in the hands of their parents. Ignore this. My position is not that I'm perfect, nor is my child, neither is my parenting. My position is that as human beings with almost 200,000 years of evolution built into us, if left alone we'll do a job that is GOOD ENOUGH! Provided of course we’re there to do the job.

I know "Good Enough" is a tough cry to rally around when it comes to parenting. I'm aware that we all have hopes and dreams of greatness for our children and "good enough" just doesn't seem like it's going to get the job done, does it? I can't answer that for you. As I said above your parenting has to be an expression of who you are. For me, when I thought about parenting I was forced to realize that my hopes and dreams as a parent were ancillary to my responsibilities as a parent. I'll start off by saying that to me the 'hopes and dreams' are wish-fulfillment, they represent what I want for my child and they need not to be realistic at all, in fact they should be unrealistic. Better call Child Protective Services if I'm not dreaming of raising the next Einstein, Bill Gates or Shaq. The 'responsibilities' are more concrete, they represent what I think my family needs, what my child needs, and what society needs from me in my role as parent of a new member of society. The responsibilities as a parent and the hopes and dreams of a parent are not exclusive at all, but I think it can be said that all too often nowadays having hopes and dreams is seen as being the same as fulfilling the responsibilities. Let me tell you the hopes and dreams I have for my son, and as I see them, the responsibilities. I'm a simple man. If my son is happy by his own definition of happiness, and rich enough to buy his poor devoted parents a canal house in Amsterdam, and a villa on the French Riviera before we're too old to enjoy them, I'd be happy. Needless to say, that represents my hopes and dreams. The responsibilities were a little harder to formulate. Took me a little while to figure out how to put into words what I feel my family, my child and society needs from me as a parent. Finally I boiled it down to this: My responsibility as a parent is to raise my child to competent independent adulthood. I know it doesn't seem like I've set the bar too high, but remember these are responsibilities, they represent the minimum of what I expect to achieve as I perform the duties of a parent, what I keep in mind as I go about my day with my son. Our society encourages setting the high bar, the higher the better. In fact you may be seen as a neglectful parent if you deprive your children any conceivable opportunity for greatness, but not if you deprive them of yourself. My parenting is based up rejecting this conventional wisdom.

To sum up: Ignore the experts, be yourself, be realistic and most importantly: be there as much as you can.

-Dallas

ANOTHER FIX OF...FATHERHOOD - From Associate Producer Tracy Russell

Too much information running through my brain...and yet I'm SO driven to seek out more and more and more... I fear I have recently fallen victim to that curious 21st century condition, web junkieitis. And the really nutty thing is I don't mind! Thanks for joining me, by the way, for this late night nosh. This weekend I concentrated on two information gathering agendas- finding companies to approach for sponsorship and finding contact information for our "wish list," of well known people we would like to have appear in the movie. I have gleefully been plugging away at these tasks with the utter satisfaction that only an internet addict could muster. As I travel further into the maze, down the rabbit hole and occasionally off on a delicious tangent that can't be ignored (which I then foward into piles of emails to Dana- sorry Dana,) I am beginning to fully realize the enormity of our subject matter, FATHERHOOD and the enormity of our responsibility to our subject matter and to the subjects of our subject matter. It's daunting, yet absolutely magnetizing. And, as I consider this, I see more clearly now that it's not the gathering of information that's so intoxicating, It's the educating of oneself about what is really going on "out there." It's the grappling with tough issues in order to come to some kind of understanding. It's the playing a little part in the making of something big.