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The Daddy Shift: How Stay-at-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting Are Transforming the American Family Paperback – June 1, 2010
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Jeremy Adam Smith is a most purposeful father, a periodic Stay-at-Home Dad who sees his role as not just a choice that's best for his family but as a sign of a rapidly changing societal landscape. . . . His new book, The Daddy Shift, is a chronicle of a time that he predicts we will look back upon as the start of permanent change.—Lisa Belkin, New York Times
"A combination of scholarly research (citing economic and historical trends, sociological and psychological studies, and labor statistics), revealing profiles of stay-at-home dads and their families, and poignant anecdotes from Smith's own life. The personal passages are the book's most affecting ones, as Smith reveals himself not as some know-it-all superdad but as a learn-as-you-go parent who had to sort out his own complex feelings."—Regan McMahon, San Francisco Chronicle
"His investigations are very well researched, and he's pursued them with a rigorous intellectual integrity that makes his arguments engagingly persuasive. The result is an impressive book that even the childless should read, for at essence, The Daddy Shift is not just about stay-at-home dads, but about the changing roles of men and women in society."—Mothering
"A gentle but persistent appeal to get beyond all those preconceived notions and make the choices that work best for ourselves and our families."—Body + Soul
"Forty years ago, a man who wanted to share child care equally with his wife would have been called 'deviant,' and a wife who wanted him to would have been condemned as an 'unnatural' mother. The Daddy Shift shows how far we have come and how much we have to gain by completing this revolution in marriage and parenthood."—Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage
About the Author
Jeremy Adam Smith’s writing has appeared in Mothering, the Nation, San Francisco Chronicle, Utne Reader, Wired, and elsewhere. A magazine editor, blogger, and former stay-at-home dad, Smith lives in San Francisco with his wife and son.
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He does a great job looking at the hidden underside of cultures like Kansas City, where religion is taken very seriously (and most religious people are Catholics and Southern Baptist, very patriarchal, male authoritarian, ego-centric religions where men are encouraged to take little responsibility for the unpaid work of taking care of the children they bring into the world), but where there is also one of the the largest caregiving dads' groups in the country.
He also does a great job looking at other issues, such as the conflicts that people can run into with parents when they set up their family differently. This seems particularly annoying to have to deal with when your parents' family set-up did not work, and there was a divorce, yet when you try to do something more functional this is criticized.
And he tackles gender essentialists arguments well. I think there is even more of a case there to be made that human beings, with our very long time to reach maturity outside the womb relative to the time in the womb (there is nothing anything close to this ratio in any other species), could never have evolved from primates without men doing a lot of child care, carrying children around, feeding them, teaching them things, tending them, etc. It may be only because paternity was not provable that everything became so distorted. Also, there are some important biological clock issues for men in the genetic deterioration of sperm as men age that are worth looking at (these have only begun to become an issue of scientific study in the last few decades after paternity became provable in the 1970s).
My only reservation is his last chapter where he offers prescriptions. I think he may not realize some features of our current federal tax and benefits system that work against 2-earner, 2-parent families and require them to transfer income and benefits to sole breadwinners with stay-at-home spouses. While he advocates a model like that of the Scandinavian countries, some people may not realize there is a moral hazard when you socialize the cost of something such as having a child; this can encourage both men and women to have a child when they don't really want one and haven't done the preparation needed; this is not fair to the child. Moreover, it can hide how expensive it is to raise a child (both personally and financially) and the responsibility that both parents need to take for this; this is also not fair to the child. While there are also substantial moral hazard problems in the right wing patriarchal model of male resource control and female exclusion from fundamental rights and the economy that may outweigh these moral hazards of the center-left solutions, ideally we would get rid of the moral hazard problem altogether.
I think there is a way to address this in the context of our current system by culling back some of the subsidy that 2-earner families have to pay to sole breadwinner families, perhaps by allowing a family where both parents pay payroll taxes to take a portion of their benefit in the form of paid FMLA during the first year of a child's life (or adoption by the parents). Sole breadwinner families also need to be charged higher taxes to reflect the extra benefits they draw and to prevent the economic externalities they cause to 2-earner/2-parent families and to future generations and which are often unfunded and borrowed. There is also a problem where we fictionalize earnings of married couples and the individual salaries are amalgamated in the joint federal return; the accounting for this means that the lower earner in the couple pays the highest tax rate for the couple and often loses the benefits of credits or deductions that that taxpayer pays (they tend to get transferred, accounting-wise, 100% to the higher earner even if s/he is not the one personally paying all of them). Most other OECD countries have left this practice behind because it is an economic fiction that is very distorting to family decision-making and economic productivity. Also, there is a problem in our system where higher wage earners are required to subsidize lower wage earners in programs like Social Security (and in some of the state parental leave insurance programs, like California's) but there is no requirement that property/capital-based earners subsidize low wage worker's benefits. This is a triangulated moral hazard problem that falls directly to hurt children. The programs either need to be converted to more conventional social insurance programs (without the subsidy) or a property/capital-earner tax needs to be added.
In general, though, I thought it was a fantastic book and a great contribution. Thank you for writing it.
Every rare and gaudy species inevitably sits at the top of a complex ecosystem inhabited by larger populations thriving elsewhere in the food chain. Working women, dual-income families, and same-sex parents are all driving the same tectonic shifts signaled by the stay at home dad. Making liberal use of prominent social historians, Stephanie Coontz among them, Jeremy argues that stay-at-home fatherhood is but the most recent expression of long-term changes in American social structures, driven primarily by economic evolution and the changing nature of work. We learn that earlier periods of American history attest to episodes of unsuspected gender equality, that the urbanization of the 1890s was a much more unsettled time for the American family than is commonly understood, and that this notion of gender equality paradoxically began to spread in the early 20th century, before the patriarchal model of "Father Knows Best" displaced it, becoming canonical after World War II. All of this is blended, in chapters of accessible length, with first-person anecdotes from contemporary stay at home dads.
Jeremy's book is an impressive work of synthesis, pulling together expert knowledge from a range of fields -- at just the right time, to say just the right thing -- about something that is affecting the lives of more and more people. There is a growing body of popular literature on male parenting, as there is scattered social scientific research on the subject, but Jeremy's book is virtually alone in presenting a humane, readable, and very smart investigation of just what it means for all of us, in the bigger picture.