Dear Amy: I'm a 25-year-old guy. I have a 16-month-old daughter that I stay home with full time. One phrase keeps coming up that I absolutely hate.
People often say to me: "You're a Mr. Mom!" Sometimes they follow this by saying, " ... but there's nothing wrong with that."
My reason for writing is to get some clarification. Is "Mr. Mom" a putdown because I stay at home with our daughter? Or is it just another way to say stay-at-home parent?
Amy says: "Mr. Mom" is the title of a 1983 movie starring Michael Keaton and Teri Garr as a couple with three children who are forced to switch traditional gender roles when he loses his job in the auto industry. She goes back to work, and he stays home.
When this film was released, the idea of a father who stayed at home with his children was so novel that it was deemed both heartwarming and hilarious. In honor of your question, I rewatched this charming movie, and I am happy to report that it holds up well.
But the context has changed. Approximately one in five American children have one stay-at-home parent, and stay-at-home dads make up roughly 17% of that number. (Figures measuring at-home dads are mutable, based on various parameters; for instance, the U.S. Census counts only those who are married to their partners.)
Surely the numbers coming out of the pandemic will shift this at-home parenting balance — possibly radically.
Is "Mr. Mom" a putdown? I don't think so. It's just one of those signifiers that people use when they encounter something they feel the need to name.
Also — speaking from personal experience (as a longtime single mom) — when someone condescendingly tells you that "there's nothing wrong with" your perfectly healthy and functioning domestic situation, you can respond: "Hey, thanks! I was worried about what you might think." And then wink.
Never forget that you have a vital and important full-time job. You are raising a person!
The National At Home Dad Network (athomedad.org) offers blogs, a podcast and many ways to connect with "the brotherhood of fatherhood." They also offer T-shirts. My favorite: "Dads don't babysit (It's called parenting)."
Who are you?
Dear Amy: A high-ranking person where my wife works constantly calls her by the wrong name. She has told this person (on numerous occasions) about his error, to no avail.
It happened again in a staff meeting today. Afterwards, this person asked her if everything was all right. She lost it and told him, "No — you keep calling me by a name that isn't mine!"
He said, "It isn't personal." How much more personal can it be? She is afraid she will be fired. I told her to discuss it with HR. What are your thoughts?
Amy says: I cannot imagine the possible grounds for firing someone who is merely asking to be called by their correct name.
Whether your wife should take this personally is another matter. In my experience, people who refuse to take things personally in the workplace seem to plow forward with few complications.
This high-ranking person did not apologize, or say, "I'm sorry — I seem to have something of a block regarding your name." He said, "This isn't personal." And yet, as you point out, there is nothing quite so personal as someone's name.
The reason for your wife to discuss this with HR would be to establish that this has been an ongoing issue. Therefore, if this happens again (and certainly if she is fired from her job), she can demonstrate a pattern.
Send questions to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.