Will a Real Parenting Magazine Please Stand Up?
It’s rare I come across a magazine nowadays, unless I’m at a doctor’s office or some other public waiting area. Like most of us, I turn to the Internet for media consumption.
But I still enjoy holding the nostalgia of actual print material in my hands. Upon becoming a dad, I started expanding my magazine interests from sports, fitness, and news to parenting magazines. You know the popular titles by name: Parents, Family Fun, Parenting, and more.
The magazine names all say they’re intended for me – a parent, and more specifically an active, modern, involved father. Even the slogans reinforce their missions through a clear theme. For example, the Parenting magazine motto insists it shares information about “modern families + fresh ideas.”
As a dad who loves consuming media and gaining knowledge to better my parenting game, I’m often as interested in reading a parenting magazine every bit as, say, Sports Illustrated.
But as soon as I crack the cover, I’m quickly reminded just for whom those magazines are intended, and it’s rarely dads.
While a fair number of columns center upon feminine issues, it’s more often the way in which things are communicated. Authors are usually women, and the style with which they write is directed toward other women. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But that magazine title says something different, so I expect something more inclusive. Babies, diapers, strollers, vacationing, family finances, childhood ailments – there’s nothing gender-specific about any of that.
It’s very frustrating to read how the people who work for these magazines don’t even recognize how they contribute to the breakdown of the family structure. Even more frustrating is how the so-called parenting experts refer to this kind of information as parenting advice and that they should be a resource for all of your parenting questions.
Unfortunately, the problem only gets worse.
Recently I visited a popular parenting magazine online and stumbled across a “Just for Dad” section. Having a separate, detached section doesn’t make me feel special as if I have my own man cave. It makes me feel like I’m not a part of the parenting club. I’d rather feel like a real, competent parent and be treated like one – not like some sideshow or subset of the parenting world – because those special sections seem to communicate something else.
Those sections often miss the mark. And they can be downright insulting. Here’s the description for that dad section I visited: “Guys, need guidance on dad issues like out of control diapers and surviving a trip to the store with kids? When your partner isn't around, let us be a resource for all your parenting questions.”
Just 35 words in two sentences, but the unknown author manages to insult fatherhood with several solid blows. Let’s take a look how:
- “Need guidance on dad issues like out of control diapers…” Are you trying to say dads can’t change diapers? Or is it that they can’t handle the explosion diapers? Either way, it’s downright offensive. Changing a diaper isn’t all that hard to pull off.
- “Surviving a trip to the store with kids?” Excuse me, but I take our kids shopping and nothing goes wrong. Sorry to shatter all those celebrated stereotypes with kids wreaking havoc and massive clean-ups on aisle 12, but I usually manage quite well. Dads don’t need to be attacked with this sort of gender bias.
- “When your partner isn’t around …” This seems like a backhanded way of saying dad can’t handle it. That he’s the assistant parent and glorified babysitter. Nothing goes haywire when my wife steps out the door, nor do I call her for help when she’s gone. Nor am I (and I can hardly manage to say it) – a babysitter.
Again, just two sentences, but they make dads appear as helpless, incompetent parents who can’t figure out how to navigate parenting on their own. If the editors took a few moments to replace “dad” with “mom,” they might discover how damaging this is to dads, moms, children and the entire family structure.
The irony in discovering this dad section is that it contains a thoughtful dad-authored piece titled, “5 Outdated Phrases that Downplay a Modern Dad's Role.”
Perhaps the next time I open a parenting magazine, I’ll get what I’m expecting and be treated like an equal, competent parent. But chances are, I’ll be waiting a long time for that. And that makes the waiting room a fitting place for doing some more reading.