Newsmagazines Discover Dads!

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

Time and Newsweek have both discovered fathers this month. To be more specific, they have discovered that 21st century fathers may have some traits make them different from the pops of past generations: They're diaper-changing guys who aren't afraid to sit down to a tea party with a doll and a couple of stuffed rabbits.

Time's take was the more comprehensive of the two and nails all of the biological research and demographic stats that confirms the trend, though the story would have been far better if they gave up on their obsession with the pointless question of whether being a dad means being less of a man.

But even after reading through the stories, no one they really defined what the "new father" really looks like.

That omission of the standards for fatherhood in 2007 left me a little cold about the recent mini-boom in stories about the new father (which have cropped up everywhere from Donald Trump's blog to Details magazine, which also used the "Fatherhood 2.0" tag). The lack of a good definition was brought into crisp focus by a sidebar to the Newsweek's first-person dad story. That piece, "The 'New Dad'? Give Me a Break," is a study in contradictions.

The author announces that her husband doesn't shop, doesn't cook, doesn't do drop-offs, doesn't do speech-therapy appointments and leaves her to juggle "most things kid-related." Then she notes that he is "definitely a modern, 'hands-on' dad," who is "more dedicated than any father I know."

While that piece lays out some family dynamics that surely contribute to the uneven parenting roles, it makes abundantly clear the there's no good standard for "good father." Changing more diapers than our dads did doesn't constitute a revolution. At the very least, dads should be having a significant and positive effect on everyone in the family. Particularly in a dual-earner family, if mom is juggling almost all things kid-related, you shouldn't be able to claim the 'modern dad' mantle.

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  October 11, 2007; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Dads
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Comments

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First! (chomp!)

Posted by: nonamehere | October 11, 2007 7:56 AM

Dang, the shark beat me to it.

Brian, why do you want a "standard" for being a good dad? It just makes it easier for people to jump all over you when you don't live up to it. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | October 11, 2007 7:58 AM

"Standards for fatherhood?" Yechh. Gimme a break. Psychobabble.

What would real "Standards for fatherhood" look like? How about the following?

1. Be the husband your wife needs and deserves.

If that means being the SAHP, so be it. If that means being the secondary wage earner, so be it. If that means being the primary or even only wage-earner, so be it. Whatever works in your family. (If there is no wife, this one is "Not Applicable", but if more men did this that wouldn't happen so often.)

2. Be the role model your kids need and deserve. (And number 1, above, relates to this.)

Harking back to Rebecca's excellent Tuesday guest blog, these are the "bare minimum". Everything else is a "nice to have".

Now, about that first post. I thought I was gonna get first this morning. Looks like I'm gonna have to go fishing for some shark! Shark steaks - yum!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 8:05 AM

I can swim faster than you and I have more teeth! Chomp!

Posted by: nonamehere | October 11, 2007 8:20 AM

You can clearly swim faster, so I'll have to bring in the heavy artillery, so to speak. Where did I put that five-mile long drift net? :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 8:24 AM

Honestly, I am not sure why you would need a magazine to tell you how to be a Dad. I don't like it when women compare themselves to standards set by others and feel the same way when men do it.

I do agree with the last line, "if mom is juggling almost all things kid-related, you shouldn't be able to claim the 'modern dad' mantle." Why oh why do women complain (like the women int he Newsweek article) that men don't do anything, but go on to say, "he is "definitely a modern, 'hands-on' dad, who is more dedicated than any father I know." If he doesn't do anything kid-related and is a modern, great Dad, our standards are at rock bottom. Very sad indeed.

Posted by: Thought | October 11, 2007 8:33 AM

I think the definition is very simple. A modern dad is one striving for equality in the household. It may not always be 50/50, but the intent is there. A modern woman has the same intent.

If you have a SAHM who cares for the kids and WOHD who supports the family, that's fine. But it's not modern at all.

But I'm not foolish enough to think that everyone agrees with my definition. I'm sure someone will say "But I stay at home and my husband blah blah blah."

Modernity is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2007 8:50 AM

Mako, are you a "fins-on" dad?

Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2007 8:51 AM

I agree with ArmyBrat and Thought. The "standard" for fatherhood and motherhood is simply doing what is best for your children and your family. That's different for every family, obviously.

Posted by: dennis5 | October 11, 2007 9:10 AM

fins on? Absolutely, we can never tell when Mrs. Mako might be caught and made into Shark Fin soup. We have cross-trained and have shared duties so our children will never be without a parent who can raise them alone.

Posted by: nonamehere | October 11, 2007 9:10 AM

"Absolutely, we can never tell when Mrs. Mako might be caught and made into Shark Fin soup."

Not to worry. Mrs. Mako has been having a lengthy, steamy affair with "Sharkie", the mascot of the San Jose Sharks.

Sharkie is hotter, younger, stronger, and more intelligent than you are. He is also the biological father of several of your kids. The slacker kids are yours. Mrs. Mako fate is secured.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 9:21 AM

Meesh, I disagree with your definition of a "modern dad" as "striving for equality in the household". If you had said "striving for equality in the total relationship" I might agree with you, but I think that you've ruled out too many possibilities.

The definition of modern that's most appropriate here is "characteristic of present and recent time; contemporary; not antiquated or obsolete".

You say "If you have a SAHM who cares for the kids and WOHD who supports the family, that's fine. But it's not modern at all."

Okay, that might conform to a generic view of 1950's America, thus, you might think it's antiquated. It's certainly not "obsolete". But what about reversed roles - SAHD, WOHM? That's not antiquated - it was pretty much unheard of in the past, as far as I can tell, unless SAHD was due to injury or illness. But it shouldn't be "modern", either, by your definition.

So while I try to avoid the term "modern father," if I had to use it I'd go for "striving for equality in the relationship" and let the WOHM/WOHD vs WOHD/SAHM vs WOHM/SAHD be part of the implementation details.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 9:22 AM

All "standards" do is make a person feel they should be doing certain things because "they" say so. I say do what you think is right for you and your family and ignore the media's attempts to proscribe what "Today's Dad" should be.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 11, 2007 9:37 AM

I like ArmyBrat's "standard" too. But I do think the discussion of what makes a good dad in this day and age is helpful. When my ex's divorce lawyer encouraged him to do more with our kids, ex DH shot back some questions that quickly had the lawyer on the defensive -- turns out aforementioned lawyer left most of the parenting work to his wife!
Any dads out there who can weigh in on how the dad "standard" changes after divorce?
My ex definately had to do more after we split to keep a connection to our daughters and I think they're better off as a result. He's not just in the same room with them because we all live together; he's making a commitment to spend time with them.

Posted by: anne.saunders | October 11, 2007 9:38 AM

Leaping to the defense of Mako:

"Not to worry. Mrs. Mako has been having a lengthy, steamy affair with "Sharkie", the mascot of the San Jose Sharks."

SJ Sharkie's supposed to be a Great White, I think - doubtful Mrs. Mako would go for a big lunk like that. She'd stick to the more refined sharks, like Mako himself.

"The slacker kids are yours."

Slacker sharks don't get born - they get eaten in the uterus. "The shortfin mako shark is a yolk-sac ovoviviparous shark, meaning it gives birth to live young who feed from a sac full of yolk in the womb. The gestation period for a mako shark is 15 to 18 months. Shortfin mako embryos in the female's body consume each other to get nutrients. This is called intrauterine cannibalism."

On the other hand, that drift net's still out there. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 9:40 AM

The SJ Sharks, huh? The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are my team but as it is said, there are plenty of fish in the ocean.

Posted by: nonamehere | October 11, 2007 9:43 AM

there's no good standard
for "good father."

Yeah, in the end, even Darth Vader turned out to be a good dad. The bar is set pretty low, if not at ground level.

Too many women who want babies, not enough decent men out there to choose from. So for us dads who decide to honor our family commitment, we get brownie points for things like bringing our plate to the sink after we've been served dinner and taking the kids to the park to play ball. Big deal! The "Good Father" merit badge is real easy to earn, all a dad has to do is show up.

Posted by: DandyLion | October 11, 2007 9:46 AM

For you out there who are not fans of baseball, yes these are real teams like the Toledo Mud hens and the Durham Bulls.

Posted by: nonamehere | October 11, 2007 9:48 AM

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes - best-named ballpark in sports.

"The Epicenter". I love it. Hope they never sell the naming rights.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 9:49 AM

ArmyBrat

"SJ Sharkie's supposed to be a Great White, I think - doubtful Mrs. Mako would go for a big lunk like that."

Great White, indeed!

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 9:57 AM

The "Good Father" merit badge is real easy to earn, all a dad has to do is show up.

Posted by: DandyLion | October 11, 2007 09:46 AM

Maybe you get the merit badge from society pretty easily. But what kind of father do you have to be to to feel proud of your role for yourself?

Posted by: anne.saunders | October 11, 2007 10:01 AM

DandyLion,

Let's visit Darth Vader's track record as a father:

1) Beat his wife.
2) Abandoned the family.
3) Beat his kids (although, to be fair, he didn't know it was his kid.)
4) Refused to reconnect when his biological kid reached out to him
5) Denied his heritage
6) Later, played his kids against one another.

Seriously. This dude is up there for "Worst Big Screen Father" with Homer Simpson and Clark Griswold. What's the difference? Intent!

Huh. I guess the bar IS pretty damn low.

Posted by: bethesduh | October 11, 2007 10:08 AM

anne.saunders: "Any dads out there who can weigh in on how the dad "standard" changes after divorce?"

I have no personal knowledge, and hope I never do, but from those I've seen (brother, brother-in-law, and many friends) after a divorce, one of two things tends to happen: the father is much closer to and spends much more time with the kids; or the father tends to drift away completely.

When my brother got custody of his two daughters, he suddenly became much more involved in their lives than he ever dreamed he would be.

Before the divorce, my brother-in-law was always close to his two sons, not so much to his two daughters. While his relationship with his sons has stayed more or less the same (one of them is now out of the house), he's much more involved with his two teenaged daughters than he ever was. Especially since the step-father beat them with the golf clubs.

One friend sacrificed his family life to make partner in a big consulting firm (referred to yesterday as "Spawn of Satan" by somebody :-). He worked 80-100 hour weeks for years to get ahead. His wife, a nurse, warned him that she'd divorce him if he didn't spend more time with the family. He didn't; she did. Now that he's divorced and made partner, he spends way more time with the kids than before.

Another friend had a wife who was a SAH, while he devoted 60-80 hours a week to work; she also left him over the lack of balance. He now also spends way more time with his two teenagers than he ever did before.

On the other hand, I have any number of friends who've gotten divorced and proceeded to drift out of their kids' lives altogether.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 10:27 AM

ArmyBrat, "striving for equality in the relationship" works for me.

But by my definition, modern dads are striving for equality in the home because they had previously been shunned and marginalized in the home. Likewise, modern women are striving for equality in the workforce because they had been marginalized there.

So the SAHM and WOHD is antiquated. But the STHD and WOHM is not antiquated because both dads and moms have not only acheived equality in both their realms, they surpassed it and moved into full responsibility. It's still modern because both are succeeding in realms where they previously didn't.

But, again, that's just my definition.

Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2007 11:07 AM

Meesh:

Just so that I understand the assumptions behind your definition...

- It appears that your definition has a one-size-fits all view of the activities of a SAHM or WOHD -- is that really your view? For example, is it your view that there is no possible way for a SAHM to have activities [e.g., non-paid president of a large charitable organization] that would classify her as modern under your definition? Likewise, are there no activities [e.g., male nurse, male preschool teacher, president of the PTA] that would classify him as modern under your definition?

- With respect to equality in the household does that apply in a activity-by-activity basis, or is it an aggregate? For example, is a wife who never mows the lawn unable to referred to as 'modern' -- regardless of the other job-sharing that she and her husband may employ? Likewise, is a husband who rarely if ever folds laundry capable of being defined by you as 'modern' -- even if most of the other household tasks are split?

Posted by: columbia_md | October 11, 2007 11:34 AM

DandyLion,

Let's visit Darth Vader's track record as a father:

1) Beat his wife.
2) Abandoned the family.
3) Beat his kids (although, to be fair, he didn't know it was his kid.)
4) Refused to reconnect when his biological kid reached out to him
5) Denied his heritage
6) Later, played his kids against one another.

did you even watch star wars?
1. he never beat his wife, he turned to the dark side becuase the Emperor SAID he hit her
2. did not know he had any kids
3. true
4. false-he killed the emperor when he tried to destroy Luke
5. ?
6. Thought about it, but never had the chance.

Btw killed all those who brutalized his mother

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 11:55 AM

"Any dads out there who can weigh in on how the dad "standard" changes after divorce?"

Here's a divorced mom weighing in: my ex-husband married an Australian he met on the Internet, moved to her country and has put 10,000 miles between him and his child. Not sure if and when our daughter will see her father.

DandyLion is correct: the bar is very low. These days if a man sticks around and doesn't beat his family, he's a candidate for father of the year.

Posted by: pepperjade | October 11, 2007 12:01 PM

pepperjade,
it s***s that your daughter was abandoned like that. But I think good Dads do have a higher standard for fatherhood than in the past -- and I'm very interested in what that is. I suspect Dandylion is more than a step above Darth Vader! And pATRICK - how 'bout you? What goals do you set for yourself as a father? And where the heck is Fred these days - tell him to get his Creepy Van back over here and weigh in.

Posted by: anne.saunders | October 11, 2007 12:12 PM

"Any dads out there who can weigh in on how the dad "standard" changes after divorce?"

My ex wanted joint custody so he has our daughter, when practice gets rescheduled or there is a snow day or she needs something for school tomorrow or ... and now on those days he has to deal with the last minute store runs, rearranging schedules, finding last minute rides, etc. It has actually forced him to take more responsibility. Initally there were phone calls to me asking me to deal with these issues when she was with him and my answer was "you wanted joint custody you get joint responsibility" I think it was an eye opener.

Posted by: mom_of_1 | October 11, 2007 12:12 PM

DandyLion is correct: the bar is very low. These days if a man sticks around and doesn't beat his family, he's a candidate for father of the year.


Posted by: pepperjade | October 11, 2007 12:01 PM

Wasn't this addressed by Chris Rock in some skit of his? Some guy was looking for brownie points because,

Man: "I don't beat my wife!"
CR: "You ain't supposed to beat your wife!"
Man: "I don't do drugs!"
CR: "You ain't supposed to do drugs!"

Etc.

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 11, 2007 12:13 PM

Hey pepperjade, was that you over on Salon the other day? If it was I agree with your comments re: kids and drugs.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 11, 2007 12:15 PM

I dunno.... we've been down this road on the blog before but I think I disagree with the notion that men are showered with praise for doing the basics with their children.

Where, exactly is all this praise?

I am not asking because I want/need it, I'm asking because I just don't see it.

In all honesty, is this an age gap issue?

If you are a parent above, say 40 years old, whatever circles you travel in tend to applaud actively engaged dads? Whereas if you're under 40 (roughly) and you take your kid to, say, the National Mall, nobody really gushes about it?

People engage me more when I'm with the little guy. But it seems mostly that they want to try to make him laugh or wave. I can't really say I've been congratulated or anything for taking him out to play or run errands.

Can any dads here give me a concrete example where they have been congratulated just for doing stuff with their kids?

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 11, 2007 12:33 PM

Moxie: yeah, only in San Francisco could a guy think it's okay to take his 15-year-old kid to a Steely Dan concert, bogart someone's joint, get completely stoned, then drive his kid home...then get paid to write an article about how to talk to your kids about drugs. I'm hardly a neocon, but where's the common sense?

Maryland_mother: did not see that skit, but I love Chris Rock. He has a way of really hitting home.

anne: I hope you are right about better standards than in the past, even with divorced parents. But given the billions of dollars that state and federal government spends tracking down deadbeat parents (primarily dads), I am left to wonder...

Posted by: pepperjade | October 11, 2007 12:36 PM

Can any dads here give me a concrete example where they have been congratulated just for doing stuff with their kids?

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 11, 2007 12:33 PM

Well, obviously I can't; but a good friend of mine has made the discovery over the past 9+ years that being seen out and about with his daughter is the number 1 BEST way to get LOTS of attention from attractive young women.

He's still amazed at that. He's amazed, but he keeps his wedding ring on at all times. (He doesn't want to have her stilettos surgically removed, I suspect.)

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 11, 2007 12:37 PM

"Wasn't this addressed by Chris Rock in some skit of his"

I like his comment about fatherhood. My job is to keep my daughter off the stripper pole. If she's on the pole then you failed. I would define being a good father as a dad who actually spent his most valuable resource liberally on his kids- HIS TIME! Who when they grew up would say, I loved my dad, he was my hero. Maybe I will get that, maybe not, but I will try.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 12:39 PM

Can any dads here give me a concrete example where they have been congratulated just for doing stuff with their kids?

I can think of one time. I took my son to a winterpark event one time on a sunday. One of my friends, who I think is football obsessed was shocked that I would rather spend the day with my son than watch football ALL weekend like he did. I always feel sorry for his son, he seems to be a distant second to his and his wifes plans.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 12:45 PM

INTERESTING discussion of school fund raisers:

http://forums.wsj.com/viewtopic.php?t=897

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 12:52 PM

maryland_mother, I will give you half-credit on that one. I look about 10 years older than I actually am, and I used to think that the young women were looking at me. It took me some time to figure out that, nope, they were looking at the boy and thinking (hopefully) about having one of their own. My kid is also a shameless flirt so it was easy for me to figure out that he realized the attention was for him. :-)

pATRICK, that's an interesting one. I also know a guy like that. He has season tickets to a college FB team that is a state away, from a school he didn't even go to. He hits the road 6-8 weekends a year leaving the two young kids to his wife. I don't know what to make of this, really. These guys seem like outliers because I don't even think 50's dads did that type of thing. But I could be wrong on that.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 11, 2007 12:53 PM

Another thought. I never wanted to be one of those dads that viewed his kids and his role of father as a beating. Oh, yea, got to go to my son's soccer game, oh yea, my kid has a play tonite, and he would rather be playing cards with friends every night or every weekend playing golf with buddies etc.. I always despised those kind of guys.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 12:56 PM


Can any dads here give me a concrete example where they have been congratulated just for doing stuff with their kids?

I heard a rumor the Britany Spears lost custody of her kids. Poor girl!

Suddenly, bad boy, super-slacker, good-for-nothing, pot-smoking K-Fed is drawing in quite a few "Good Dad" points from the media.

Posted by: DandyLion | October 11, 2007 12:57 PM

ProudPapa:
"Can any dads here give me a concrete example where they have been congratulated just for doing stuff with their kids?"

No, and in fact I can cite several times when the opposite was true. I used to take oldest DD for swimming lessons right after school when she was in 1st grade. There were two fathers and 8 mothers bringing their kids. The mothers were somewhat unkind in their comments about the two fathers - standard stage whispers about what kind of fathers could bring their kids to a 4 pm swim lesson on a work day, and THEIR husbands with their really important jobs wouldn't be home until 7 or 8 or later.

Of course, the only mother whose opinion I remotely cared about - my wife - was very appreciative of the fact that I could arrange my work schedule that way. And those comments from the other mothers were less unpleasant to have to listen to than their discussions about which brand of jeans made their butt look fat. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 12:59 PM

Dandylion, when kfed is seen as a better parent than you, you know you have hit rock bottom parent wise.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 12:59 PM

Patrick: I think my own love of football grew because I spent Sundays watching football with my dad. My parents were divorced when I was five years old, my mom took us 1,000 miles away to Florida, and I rarely saw my dad until I went to live with him when I was 14 years old. I lived with him for one year. Football on Sundays was a ritual for us. Later, when I was an adult, I was able to join him for a beer with the Sunday game. He's a Redskins fan and I am a Miami Dolphins fan...so there was a rivalry from time-to-time. My daughter will watch the Super Bowl, and she wears a Florida Gators shirt to school, but I doubt she will be the football fanatic that I am...

Posted by: pepperjade | October 11, 2007 1:04 PM

ProudPapa, my brother's ex-wife still lives in North Carolina. She remarried; the second husband for whatever reason is a Minnesota Vikings fan. He goes to EVERY Vikings home game, preseason and all. At least 10 times a year, he gets on a plane to MSP and spends the weekend up there.

(He's also the reason my brother has custody of his daughters. This guy wanted nothing to do with the two children his new wife had; they weren't HIS, after all. So my ex-sister-in-law had to choose between her new husband and her daughters. She chose the husband.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 1:04 PM

Hey us moms are trying to get rid of the media-generated standards. Be careful what you wish for!

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | October 11, 2007 1:05 PM

And those comments from the other mothers were less unpleasant to have to listen to than their discussions about which brand of jeans made their butt look fat. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 12:59 PM

The answer to that question is: they ALL do. Except for my preferred brand, naturally.

Never ask that question, never answer it.

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 11, 2007 1:06 PM

"Can any dads here give me a concrete example where they have been congratulated just for doing stuff with their kids?"

Don't need to be a dad to answer the question. The dads in my office who are coaches, take their kids to appointments, stay home with the kids when the kids are sick or school is closed, are HEROES. The tales spread through the office like wildfire. The dads feed into the whole process. When a mom does the same thing - zip.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 1:08 PM

pepperjade, my wife has been trying to get my son to watch more football games with me to encourage "father-son bonding". (I really don't watch that much; honest. :-) The conversation usually goes something like:

Wife: Son, your father's watching the Ravens game. Why don't you go in and watch it with him?

Son: Mom, I'd much rather play football than watch football.

Wife: What? But you don't like playing football.

Son: Right.

(Me, in the other room: do the math, dear. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 1:09 PM

HIS, after all. So my ex-sister-in-law had to choose between her new husband and her daughters. She chose the husband.)


Some women (and men) are just crazy, plain and simple. That is very, very sad and disgusting. If I was a woman and a man put me in that Sophie's choice situation he would be out on his a$$ toot sweet.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 1:10 PM

I FINALLY got my son to wear his Cowboys jersey. Now he wants to wear it every day to school. Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 1:14 PM

Re:
Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 01:08 PM

The reason I asked Dads for the examples was not that women would not have stories. Rather, I was curious about 2 angles:

1) Is it (certain) moms who are heaping on this praise and are these same moms then complaining that the dads get too much credit; and;
2) Are the dads ever even aware that they are being praised in this way?

By the way, if the answer to #2 is "no", then the phenomenon does not actually exist. If two women are talking to each other and say how great the dad is, he's not really getting the praise. He's unaware of it. It's just two people talking about a third. Thus he (or the men on this board) shouldn't get the backlash (Modern men ain't so great they are just doing what women always do) either. Just a thought.

Based on the responses I have seen so far I don't have enough information. But, I also haven't been convinced that this phenomenon actually exists.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 11, 2007 1:19 PM

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 01:10 PM

I think my daughter feels that her dad did that to her (chose a woman over her), and she has asked me not to marry until she is grown (I have no intention to marry, and I would never put a man before my kid).

I've explained to her that these circumstances are unusual given the international issues...

When he was around, her dad was very hands-on, which has made the separation difficult for both of them (I know he misses her desperately; we e-mail and talk frequently). She has noted, "This is the time my dad should be here playing guitar with me." The e-mail he sent to me this week said he has picked up playing again: "the kid inspired me." I feel for both of them, but my daughter had no choice in the matter.

Posted by: pepperjade | October 11, 2007 1:22 PM

"If two women are talking to each other and say how great the dad is, he's not really getting the praise"


Yes, he is. The third party need not be present to benefit. What does it matter if it is two women?

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 1:35 PM

I have a story for you Proud Papa about dads being recognized.

Back when my daughter was in HS, she wanted to take a 2 yr vo-tech class in cooking which was not offered at her school. The vo-tech school only had 3 slots assigned for students from my daughter's school and the vo-tech teacher generally only accepted sophomores. She said that most juniors who took the first year would drop out the second (their senior) year due to competing interest in being a senior. My daughter was a junior and one of some 20 applicants. She really wanted the course. I took a 1/2 day off to go the vo-tech school and speak to the teacher. We talked for over 1 hour. She told me all of her objections to a junior taking the course and other problems my daughter might encounter. I told her my daughter really wanted this and I was here to support her in her desire. The teacher still seemed to be a bit cool about the issue when I left.

The next day, daughter was in the class. My wife, daughter and I have no doubt that the fact that I went to see the teacher was the critical factor in my daughters acceptance.

BTW, she did both years of the course but decided not to become a professional chef.

Posted by: anonthistime | October 11, 2007 1:36 PM

The dads in my office who are coaches, take their kids to appointments, stay home with the kids when the kids are sick or school is closed, are HEROES.

-chittybangbang

So I guess the talking to I got at work about missing too much time for the above was all in my head?

In other words, your experience does not extrapolate to the rest of us.

Posted by: daves000 | October 11, 2007 1:38 PM

"The next day, daughter was in the class. My wife, daughter and I have no doubt that the fact that I went to see the teacher was the critical factor in my daughters acceptance."

Yes, but was it because "a parent went" to make the case or specifically because "the father went" to make the case? I would strongly suspect the former, but if you have evidence that it's the latter, I'd be impressed.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 1:40 PM

daves000

"So I guess the talking to I got at work about missing too much time for the above was all in my head?

In other words, your experience does not extrapolate to the rest of us."

Correct - I was giving examples in my own experience.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 1:43 PM

pATRICK, pepperjade, my brother really hasn't had a serious relationship in years, largely because the girls don't react well when he does. Given their experience with their mother's new marriage, they're not looking forward to him ever re-marrying.

The older daughter turned 21 earlier this year (but still lives at home while going to college and working part time); the younger daughter is 15. When my brother had a semi-serious girlfriend earlier this year, his two daughters got along fine with her until they sensed it turning serious. What happened then was a never-ending series of fights between the daughters and the girlfriend that ended with the girlfriend vowing never to see my brother again. He figures that until both girls are out of the house he can't think of having any kind of serious relationship, but it's a price he's willing to pay.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 1:46 PM

ArmyBrat

He figures that until both girls are out of the house he can't think of having any kind of serious relationship, but it's a price he's willing to pay."

No sex for years and years?

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 1:50 PM

Oh, we have no doubt it was because the father (me) went. Spouse had talked on the phone to the teacher. The teacher knew that I was out of town and arranged my schedule specifically to meet with her.

Posted by: anonthistime | October 11, 2007 1:50 PM

On the subject of men being congratulated "just for doing regular parent things", I do know a guy here who has been dealing with his three teenaged daughters while his wife has been repeatedly deployed to Afghanistan. People in the neighborhood have been incredibly nice -- calling him up to offer the kids a ride to activities, bringing them meals, etc. It's actually been the subject of a good deal of bitterness by some of the military wives around here -- because they are simply EXPECTED to deal with a deployed spouse, or maybe just expected to be really good at it without complaining. No one brings them lasagna. I'm just saying . .

Posted by: justlurking | October 11, 2007 1:58 PM

Can any dads here give me a concrete example where they have been congratulated just for doing stuff with their kids?

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 11, 2007 12:33 PM

ProudPapa,
My husband stayed home with my son for the first two years. He also has a more flexible schedule than I do and care for him after school. So on weekdays at least, father and son spend a lot of time together. I hear him praised all the time for being a great father (and he is a great father, don't get me wrong). The lady at the grocery store, who sees them occasionally, has mentioned it to me. Other mothers at school rave about how great it is that he is so involved. One of my husband's teachers also mentioned it in a recommendation she wrote for him (because she ran into him once with the kid at the library and thought it was remarkable that he was the primary caregiver to our son). I frankly don't see SAHMs getting so much praise for doing the very same things. I don't begrudge my husband all the accolades, but I do think there is a bit of a double standard here.

Posted by: Emily | October 11, 2007 2:02 PM

ArmyBrat, I feel for your brother because I will probably be in the same situation. I am in a relationship now with a single father, but his daughter has left for college and mine is in middle school. He wants more time with me than I am able to give, and it creates tension. We live 45 minutes apart, which doesn't help, either. I do not plan to marry again, and I don't want to co-habitate while I have a child at home. That's my proverbial rock and a hard place...

Posted by: pepperjade | October 11, 2007 2:05 PM

Emily, I will agree with you but if someone gets into the SAHM game for accolades, they have chosen the wrong profession. I gind Brian's longing for recognition to be very curious. Be a good dad or mom because it is rewarding in and of itself (kind of like education) not because society does or does not think it is valuable. You'll make yourself crazy trying to live up/down to the whims of popular culture.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 11, 2007 2:10 PM

I think Army Brat's minimal criteria

>1. Be the husband your wife needs and >deserves.
>
>2. Be the role model your kids need and >deserve.

fall a bit short to qualify as a modern, engaged dad. Role model can be quite a distant relationship. I'd add or substitute

2. Love, nurture, mentor, *know* your child. Actively look out for your child's best interests.

Like Army Dad, I think all the rest is implementation, finding your family's best logistics to accomplish the above. But if your logistics/roles mean either parent loses touch with 2, then a core responsibility (and joy) of parenting has been traded away, for one parent, and that's a true loss for the child. (Though I know sometimes it sadly happens for reasons beyond parental control, even to the best-intentioned parents.)

Posted by: kbatl | October 11, 2007 2:10 PM

justlurking, that's very interesting. I hadn't considered that scenario, to be honest. I wonder how common that sort of behavior is for the families of deployed female soldiers.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 2:11 PM

Pepperjade, I have a lot of respect for what you are doing. It must be tough. Good luck!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 11, 2007 2:11 PM

I do know a guy here who has been dealing with his three teenaged daughters while his wife has been repeatedly deployed to Afghanistan. People in the neighborhood have been incredibly nice -- calling him up to offer the kids a ride to activities, bringing them meals, etc. It's actually been the subject of a good deal of bitterness by some of the military wives around here -- because they are simply EXPECTED to deal with a deployed spouse, or maybe just expected to be really good at it without complaining. No one brings them lasagna. I'm just saying . .

Posted by: justlurking | October 11, 2007 01:58 PM

Well, just to play devil's advocate here!

I didn't see where you mentioned he was being praised for raising his daughters. Is he?

On the other hand, are people offering all this help because he's a Nice Guy (tm), or because they feel sorry for him and regard him with sympathy and/or being patronizing? Sympathy is a top-down emotion (vs. empathy).

Thinking online, "out loud", without caffeine, I should know better!

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 11, 2007 2:14 PM

kbatl, I think your wording is better than mine. I meant all of that by my use of the term "role model" (that's my story and I'm sticking to it), but it's probably worth explaining all the details.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 2:15 PM

On the other hand, are people offering all this help because he's a Nice Guy (tm), or because they feel sorry for him and regard him with sympathy and/or being patronizing?"

In study after study after study, women cater to BOYS and MEN. Widowers with children get a lot more support than widows with chidren.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 2:19 PM

pepperjade, that no cohabiting thing is a big one, because kids pay attention to what you do moreso than what you say.

A few years ago, the parents of one of my softball players got divorced. After the divorce, the mother started sleeping with a lot of different men. (She'd tell other adults she was making up for lost time.) Mom was then shocked when her 15-year old daughter was caught sleeping with several different guys. The showdown came when the daughter said that since Mom's latest boyfriend was spending the night, her boyfriend should be able to spend the night, too.

They moved to Houston a few days later to "try to get a fresh start." The mother called me the day before they left to tell me why they were moving and why the daughter wouldn't be at any more softball games. (And she was my best center fielder, darn the luck!)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 2:21 PM

columbia_md, I'll try to be clearer.

1. I don't think the *kind* of activities matter at all. What matters is that the SAHM does the majority of the child care and housekeeping and the WOHD does the majority of the breadwinning. If a male nurse is the primary breadwinner, and his wife is still at home taking care of the kids, that's the same mom/dad relationship that predominated previous generations. If that relationship is changed, it becomes a modern relationship.

2. It's in the aggregate.

I think it's pretty simple. If the work outside of the home is evenly split (no matter the type of work) and the work in the home is evenly split (no matter the type), it's modern. If the work is not evenly split but traditional gender roles are reversed, it's modern.

Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2007 2:23 PM

"Mom was then shocked when her 15-year old daughter was caught sleeping with several different guys. The showdown came when the daughter said that since Mom's latest boyfriend was spending the night, her boyfriend should be able to spend the night, too. "

I feel for you ARMYBRAT, good players are hard to come by. ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 2:29 PM

Btw ARMYBRAT, sound like the mom had turned into a cougar.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 2:31 PM

ArmyBrat


"Mom was then shocked when her 15-year old daughter was caught sleeping with several different guys."

Looks like your coaching influence wasn't much use...


Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 2:33 PM

Meesh,
I think your definition is too rigid. To me, you don't have to have a role reversal, or even have the work even split inside the home or outside the home, for the relationships to be modern. The way I see it, it is modern if the particular couple is able to negotiate something that suits both parties particular needs, preferred duties, and personality, regardless of society expections (toward traditional or even modern relationships). So if the wife is better suited toward staying at home because that is what she wants and likes to do, and if the husband likes to be the primary wage earner because that suits his personality, and they both agree that it works for them, then I consider it a modern relationship, even it it has been that way traditionally as well. To me, the issue is not so much who does what, but more why does each person do what they do? If it is based on societal expectations rather than personal preference, personality, and mutual accomodation, then I consider the relationship traditional. It it is based on personal preference, personality, and mutual accomodation in spite of society expectations, then I think of the relationship as modern.

Posted by: Emily | October 11, 2007 2:33 PM

Okay, I can't resist playing devil's advocate again:

chittybangbang: "In study after study after study, women cater to BOYS and MEN. Widowers with children get a lot more support than widows with chidren."

So you're saying that the reason men who take care of their kids get more attention/praise/respect/whatever than women who take care of their kids is ... WOMEN?

In other words, it's all women's fault - if women would just start treating fathers and mothers equally, the problem would go away?

So that's what you're saying?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 2:36 PM

Emily wrote (about her DH-the-great-dad)

>Other mothers at school rave about how great >it is that he is so involved.

I have a lot of feelings justifying the moms' comments, and I'm trying to sort out whether my desire to leap to the defense is itself sexist (at the moment I'm 70-30, on the 'not sexist' side)

It's certainly the kind of thing I would say to another mom friend, about a dad, sibling, sitter, whoever I saw really showing great consideration, patience, rapport with kids. I like to praise those efforts and skills. It's usually for me more in the spirit of acknowledging someone doing something good (hey, I'm like that at kids' soccer games too). And also an acknowledgment, hey you've got a good one there.

I used to have SAH neighbors make a point of telling me about their neighborhood experiences with our sitter, how wonderful and patient and kind she was when out with the kids. I *loved* hearing it! It was great to get that feedback, of others' seeing the qualities you see and extending your awareness of times you're not around to personally observe.

I get lots of positive comments about my DH, mainly because of parents' experiences of what he does for *their* kids --- soccer coach, weekly science demo guy, etc. I take it as simple appreciation and I've found I get a lot of it myself when I take on similar volunteer roles, too. Parents really are grateful for others' efforts for their kids and want to appreciate it.

I react to praise of DH much like praise of my girls --- I thank the praiser and I'm happy to hear it, because I admire them all too. Maybe because I'm introverted, I'd expect to get more praise/feedback about my family members than myself. While I thank people and express appreciation, it's harder for me to give an adult direct praise, "wow, you are really conscientious!" or "you know, you really have a great rapport with children." It's much easier for me to tell their spouse or another parent, to give indirect praise.

And I think it's not sexist, though I run into and talk more with other moms than with dads. But I know I have, for example, mentioned qualities I admire in my SIL's parenting to my brother.

Posted by: kbatl | October 11, 2007 2:41 PM

When the girls become teenagers, time, effort, and emotional involvement are no longer a requirement for dad. The membership to the "Good Fathers" club can only be purchaed with money!

Posted by: DandyLion | October 11, 2007 2:42 PM

Army Brat beat me to it. Chittybangbang, that's exactly what I thought when I read your comment.

If it's the women electing to heap praise on these guys AND the women who are agitated that guys get too much praise.....well then the women should just fight amongst themselves and leave us out of it ;-)

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 11, 2007 2:45 PM

ArmyBrat

"In other words, it's all women's fault - if women would just start treating fathers and mothers equally, the problem would go away?"

Stop being so ARRRMY and getting an erection to lay simple & easy blame and FAULT...Sheesh!

This isn't your high school debating club!

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 2:46 PM

DandyLion,
Don't *buy* that crock for a minute. Kids often do pull away as young teens and want to solve their problems on their own. Kinda like 2-year-olds in that regard -- similar tantrums too.

And kudos to ArmyBrat for noting that praise to Dads who show any interest in their offspring generally comes from the female of species not the male. The double standard is one of our own creation. You got us there.

Posted by: anne.saunders | October 11, 2007 2:52 PM

DandyLion wrote: "When the girls become teenagers, time, effort, and emotional involvement are no longer a requirement for dad. The membership to the "Good Fathers" club can only be purchaed with money!"

Not necessarily. Dad may well be the one who teaches his daughter how to play tennis, softball or golf, or take her ice-skating or hiking. Dad may be the nighttime chauffeur, the one who teaches his daughter to drive, change a tire, do small maintenance chores on the car or around the house. Dad might teach his daughter his cooking specialties, discuss a book they've both read, watch a favorite TV show together, etc., etc.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 11, 2007 2:55 PM

anne.saunders

"The double standard is one of our own creation. You got us there."

I agree. I see no point in turning it into a war.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 2:58 PM


chittybangbang:
"Mom was then shocked when her 15-year old daughter was caught sleeping with several different guys."

Looks like your coaching influence wasn't much use...


Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 02:33 PM "

Well, she never did it on the field or even in the dugout during a game!

(I'm sorry, that was so wrong, but I just couldn't help myself. Much like the box of Leonidas Belgian chocolate in the desk drawer - gonna hate myself later on, but it felt good at the time. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 3:10 PM


anne.saunders

"The double standard is one of our own creation. You got us there."

I agree. I see no point in turning it into a war.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 11, 2007 02:58 PM


Wow - I did NOT see that coming!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 11, 2007 3:14 PM

Ouch, Mehitabel! Your 02:55 hurt me. Not easy to do.

Posted by: DandyLion | October 11, 2007 3:20 PM

DandyLion, I know that you have a great heart, and can share some of these wonderful inexpensive activities with your daughters, too.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 11, 2007 3:29 PM

Ouch, Mehitabel! Your 02:55 hurt me. Not easy to do.

You're kidding right? I hope so.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 3:51 PM

Who do you think is(n't) kidding? Me or the Lion?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 11, 2007 3:54 PM

I definitely got a prize-winning modern dad in DH. He's been the SAHP for nearly 16 years. He's the cook - nobody eats my cooking attempts, including me. (family joke that happens to be true) He's taught the boys to do laundry, and is working on teaching them cooking and dishwashing. The kids take out the trash and recycling. The older boy (autistic) doesn't even need reminders anymore to feed the cats - most of the time.

DH volunteers at the schools, and supports the PTA and various fund-raisers. He's also the homework monitor, and it's always finished before I get home from work. He's the primary advocate for special services for our disabled kid. He does most of the chauffeuring, and reenforces practice for the boys' music lessons (piano and guitar).

Does he get recognized? Not in the early years when older son was a toddler, and the moms at the playground wouldn't talk to him, and got freaked out if he was the closest adult and picked up a kid in tears over a "boo-boo". He used to call it the "glass floor of the sandbox". He once had the police called on him, because someone thought he was kidnapping our child when the kid didn't want to get into the car to go home. The anonymous tipster gave our car's license plate, and the officer showed up at our door about 45 minutes after they got home.

In the last five years, it's finally become "normal" for dads to be involved. Other parents will call him for specific things they know he can help with. We both regularly give advice to parents of special-needs children who are trying to navigate the school system and get their kids appropriate services, but most often it's DH who spends hours on the phone with a distraught mom or dad, and gives them the specific legal terms to use, or language pulled from our kid's IEP.

All I have to do is bring home a paycheck, pay bills on time, enjoy my evenings with the boys, and supervise their getting-ready-for-bed routines.

Posted by: sue | October 11, 2007 3:57 PM

Sue, I truly mean this not to cause offense, but why do you always mention that your son is autistic?

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 4:08 PM

"He once had the police called on him, because someone thought he was kidnapping our child when the kid didn't want to get into the car to go home. "

This is interesting. It is always an irrational fear of mine that someone thinks I am kidnapping my kids when they have one of these meltdowns while putting them in the car.Anyone else feel that way?

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 4:10 PM

Who do you think is(n't) kidding? Me or the Lion?


Dandylion is who I was referring to. That was considered a hurtful post?

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 4:11 PM

"To me, you don't have to have a role reversal, or even have the work even split inside the home or outside the home, for the relationships to be modern. The way I see it, it is modern if the particular couple is able to negotiate something that suits both parties particular needs, preferred duties, and personality, regardless of society expections (toward traditional or even modern relationships)."

Posted by: Emily | October 11, 2007 02:33 PM

I agree with Emily. This definition may be a circular definition (it uses "modern relationships" as part of the definition of a modern relationship), but it is easy to fix: just replace the first two occurences of "modern" with the virtue-ethics term, "admirable," like this: "To me you don't have to have a role reversal, or even have the work even split inside the home or outside the home, for the relationships to be admirable. The way I see it, it is admirable if the particular couple is able to negotiate something that suits both parties' particular needs, preferred duties, and personality, regardless of society expections (toward traditional or even modern relationships)."

I especially agree with Emily's phrase, "regardless of society expectations." The idea that my wife and I should look for a stamp of approval from two newsmagazines that we do not even read is ridiculous. Consider:

"In 1981, S. Robert Lichter, then with George Washington University, and Stanley Rothman of Smith College, released a groundbreaking survey of 240 journalists at the most influential national media outlets -- including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS -- on their political attitudes and voting patterns. Results of this study of the 'media élite' were included in the October/November 1981 issue of 'Public Opinion,' published by the American Enterprise Institute, in the article 'Media and Business Elites.' The data demonstrated that journalists and broadcasters hold liberal positions on a wide range of social and political issues. This study, which was more elaborately presented in Lichter and Rothman's subsequent book, 'The Media Elite,' became the most widely quoted media study of the 1980s and remains a landmark today.

Rothman and Lichter, professional scholars, had the Drive-by Media pegged as bleeding-heart, fuzzy-minded, knee-jerk liberals long before Rush ever coined the term, "Drive-by Media." How can any non-liberal couple base their relationship on Time and Newsweek articles and still claim to be true to themselves?

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | October 11, 2007 4:13 PM

pATRICK, I hope I touched Dandy's heart in a good way.

At the risk of putting words in Sue's mouth, I think the reason a number of parents posting to this blog frequently mention a child's challenges is that it may take a parent more work and patience to teach some things to that child.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 11, 2007 4:17 PM

Matt, a 1981 study was undoubtedly based upon research conducted in the 1970s. Times have changed. Have you never visited the WaPo morning political chats? How about the positive TV network news reporting on the Iraq War? And remember how the MSM fawned over Bush during the run-up to the 2000 Presidential election, praising his alleged bonhomie? The MSM have vividly changed since the antiquated study you cite.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 11, 2007 4:29 PM

Patrick and Mehitabel,

I think Mehitabel's list of dad-activities-with-teen unintentionally featured a lot of sighted-only activities, especially centered on driving, and not being able to drive is a great frustration/regret for DandyLion.

I'm sure these were just top-of-the head examples, and there are many other everyday inexpensive activities that are less visual as well.

Gotta go do soccer carpool, and believe me DandyLion, it's not parent-child quality time, my daughter just veg's putting on cleats and shinguards then reading.

Posted by: kbatl | October 11, 2007 4:35 PM

"Too many women who want babies, not enough decent men out there to choose from."

I disagree. Maybe the secret is to grow a pair of disproportionately gigantic hips, because every guy I've ever dated wanted kids, and I don't. Of course, it never happened, so I have no idea if they would have been decent dads. Probably not. Never mind. :-)

Posted by: Monagatuna | October 11, 2007 4:42 PM

"That was considered a hurtful post?"

pATRICK, I'm one of those fathers who has never given my kids advice on playing tennis, golf, softball, I've never even taken my kids to the doctor, much the ice skating rink or movies, and will never teach them to drive. It's a rare occasion for me to read a book and I've never read one to my kids, and I rarely watch TV.

So how is it possible that mehitable could think I'm a good father? Because I have a good heart? Maybe that's the key! I only wish my doctor shared the same opinion. LOL!

Posted by: DandyLion | October 11, 2007 4:43 PM

kbatl, I grasp your point. No hurt was intended. Some of these activities can still be done, perhaps with reasonable accomodation, regardless of visual acuity -- books on tape (or reading aloud by the more-sighted person), listening to music or TV, cooking, instruction in small household chores (giving instructions to the more-sighted person). I'm sure others can suggest additional appropriate possibilities.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 11, 2007 4:44 PM

Dandy, I was referring to your figurative heart. Literally, it would be part of your brain!

Posted by: mehitabel | October 11, 2007 4:47 PM

Sue, I truly mean this not to cause offense, but why do you always mention that your son is autistic?

Posted by: pATRICK | October 11, 2007 04:08 PM

Fair question -and I'm not offended at all.

The first half-dozen times I posted here, I would mention the autism if it was relevant or omit it if I didn't think it was. People didn't know who I was or what my circumstances are, and I got some weird/unpleasant reactions. So, trying for clarity, I got into a rut, I guess.

Now the regulars (you in this case) seem to have gotten to know me a bit, and I suppose it's not really needed. So, I'll take the hint - thanks.

Although, in fairness to others who join the OB fray in the future, I'll probably still mention it once in a while.

Posted by: sue | October 11, 2007 4:48 PM

pATRICK-

I have that same fear. Although some of it is because my son and I have very different skin tones. But when he's being fussy in public I definitely cross my fingers that nobody thinks I'm trying to steal someone else's kid.

Just in case, I carry one of these in my wallet:

www.identakid.com

They come to his daycare every year so it's easy to have it done. A little peace of mind for many different scenarios.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 11, 2007 4:54 PM

Wow, it sure would help if the Ident-A-Kid website was up.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 11, 2007 4:56 PM

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