Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Prince William and dads everywhere show 'Mr. Mom' is outdated

By Josh Levs, CNN
updated 3:00 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
Ron Sherwood was 48 when he found out he was going to be a father. The single dad has two daughters, ages 2 and 3, and says, "They are and will always be my greatest achievement." (<a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-996705'>Read his story.</a>) Click through the gallery to see other real dads share their real-world challenges. Ron Sherwood was 48 when he found out he was going to be a father. The single dad has two daughters, ages 2 and 3, and says, "They are and will always be my greatest achievement." (Read his story.) Click through the gallery to see other real dads share their real-world challenges.
HIDE CAPTION
'Couldn't be happier'
Not Mr. Mom, just Dad
'I get to be a kid again'
Blurring the gender roles
'A blessing every second'
'Dad was the breadwinner'
'Most men I know are responsible fathers'
'I look forward to every day'
'Hardest part is showing up'
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Mr. Mom" was made 30 years ago, and created the archetypical stay-at-home dad
  • Modern fathers are rejecting the "Mr. Mom" label as outmoded
  • Surveys show fathers doing more and more primary child care tasks at home
  • Stay-at-home fathers say they are simply doing their duty, not shooting for perfection

Editor's note: CNN's Josh Levs covers a wide range of topics and also offers his personal take on issues affecting fathers and families. He covers fatherhood for CNN Parents and HLN's Raising America. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

(CNN) -- In minutes, the world's most-watched new father sent a message about millions of dads.

Stepping outside the hospital with his wife, Catherine, and their newborn son, Prince William was a picture of confidence. Each parent held the baby, now known to the world as George Alexander Louis -- and they looked equally comfortable doing so.

He got his newborn all set in the car seat, and drove off.

Prince William holds his new-born son
Prince William holds his new-born son

Analysts noted that he was projecting an image of equality.

To many dads, he was representing the reality that we know: The image of bumbling, clueless dads is an outdated stereotype.

Of course, that doesn't mean we think we're picture-perfect -- a point that came up when CNN recently asked dads what it means to be a father in today's world. Some decided to use the iReport assignment as a chance to open up about their insecurities.

"Although I know that the intent of this report is to stand up proudly and say, '... I'm a dad and I'm damn good at it,' the truth is I don't feel that way half the time," stay-at-home dad Chase Roper wrote from Puyallup, Washington. "Most days, if I'm being honest, I feel like I'm faking my way through this."

That's how just about all parents feel sometimes: overwhelmed. Yes, that includes, I'm sure, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, even in the life they lead.

Josh Levs
Josh Levs

"I am far from perfect in my role as a father," writes Lance Somerfeld, who has been a stay-at-home dad in Manhattan for five years and founded the NYC Dads Group. "I lose my temper, get impatient, too structured, don't do the laundry, and fail miserably, often. It's the most challenging job I have ever encountered as well as the most rewarding."

We were looking for dads' thoughts on the 30-year anniversary of "Mr. Mom" -- a movie that made sense at the time, when a dad taking on traditionally female roles at home was so rare. And when it was more believable that he would have so much trouble figuring out how to do basics around the house.

Little did those behind the film know that it would ultimately stand as something of a historical demarcation. The funniest thing about the idea of "Mr. Mom" now is that it was such a funny idea in the first place.

Modern fathers face new expectations

Statistics tell a piece of the story. There are about 189,000 stay-at-home dads now, caring for 369,000 children, according to the U.S. Census. These are defined as married fathers with kids younger than 15 who have stayed out of the labor force for at least a year primarily to care for the family.

A more striking figure: 18% of preschoolers are regularly cared for by their fathers during the mother's working hours.

It's the most challenging job I have ever encountered as well as the most rewarding.
Lance Somerfeld, stay-at-home dad

As these numbers keep growing, the perception that child-rearing and homemaking are "women's work" that dads sometimes do becomes increasingly anachronistic.

"1983 was Mr. Mom's Year. It's 2013. Just call me dad," Chris Bernholdt, stay-at-home father in Devon, Pennsylvania, writes on his blog, "DadNCharge."

The National At-Home Dad Network, which provides support and advocacy to its members, has even launched a campaign to banish the term, citing a Wall Street Journal declaration: "Mr. Mom is dead."

Dads to media: We're not idiots!
Dads 'march' for education
Dads pick TV's best fathers

Many people who use the term certainly mean no harm. But for some dads, getting past the term is an important way to end the mindset that suggests their work at home is any less "manly" than bringing home a paycheck.

"I was called 'Mr. Mom' by a random guy at my wife's hair salon," says Joseph Carlson, full-time dad of a 14-month-old boy in San Diego. "He said, 'You can't play Mr. Mom too long.' I was pretty stunned."

And a female relative asked Carlson, "When are you going to get a job? You can't stay home forever."

"She said 'Mr. Mom' without saying 'Mr. Mom,'" Carlson says. "I just let the comments go. I know I'm not going to change any person's worldview with a 30-minute debate."

Those of us who work full-time but are more committed to our kids than to our jobs are just as quick to reject the stereotypes of bumbling, clueless fathers in commercials, TV shows, or online. That's partly because negative portrayals of dads can cause problems -- like affecting how the judicial system views fathers' parental capabilities.

We also speak out to share ideas and advice -- because modern dads understand each other. We know what it is to be fathers in changing times, facing challenges and pressures, and committed to keeping parenthood our top priority.

A vociferous "no" to "Mr. Mom" doesn't mean claiming the mantle of Superdad.

There's a kind of communal celebration going on. On blogs and at conferences, dads are sharing with each other how awesome it is to live in a time that's so far beyond "Mr. Mom."

We know we're part of something special: A generation that's helping turn American fatherhood into something more emotional and deeper -- something I referred to in a TEDx Talk as a part of the ultimate dream.

But saying a loud, vociferous "no" to "Mr. Mom" doesn't mean claiming the mantle of Superdad. It just means we're trying to do our best. Just like good moms across the country.

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

American dads have come a long way in 30 years. And we're not alone, as Prince William showed. Just imagine what's ahead.

Chris Bernholdt's son was asked in kindergarten what he wants to be when he grows up.

His answer: "A stay-at-home dad."

Got a parenting story to share? Post your personal essays here.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Not again.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
I happen to agree with Renee Zellweger that all the chatter about her face is "silly." But I, and many other women I talked with via email Wednesday, would add some other choice words to the mix to describe the non-stop attention about her appearance: nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
I have long thought millennials, who expect flexibility in the workplace, would be the group that would bring an end to the stigma that is too often associated with flex time -- the belief that wanting a flexible work arrangement means you aren't willing to work as hard. But now I'm thinking it's going to be men who will get us there.
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Say it with us: Kids today have it sooooo easy.
updated 2:29 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
An Atlanta judge reportedly reprimanded an immigration attorney for bringing her 4-week-old to court for a hearing -- a hearing she asked the judge to reschedule because she was on her six-week maternity leave.
updated 4:18 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Monica Lewinsky tweeted for the first time. She called herself "patient zero" of cyber-bullying.
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter with something to prove: "Kids and guns don't always mean bad things happen."
updated 10:57 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
"Breaking Bad's" Walter White may have cleverly dodged authorities during his career as a drug kingpin, but his action figure hasn't dodged the wrath of a Florida mother.
updated 9:50 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
strawberry ghosts
We love Halloween season. Sweets. Sweaters. Sipping hot cider (maybe spiked). Halloween can certainly get you in the spirit, and nothing warms our hearts like these healthy Halloween treats that help you stay energized instead of stuck in a sugar coma.
updated 3:23 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Does your baby cry during long flights, causing you to want to disappear from the glares of fellow passengers?
updated 10:52 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ask any teen if they suffer from social media anxiety and they would probably tell you no. But the truth is getting "likes" and the fear of missing out are adding stress to teens' lives.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to document stillborn and terminal babies' precious moments after birth.
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
As part of the insurance coverage offered to its female employees, Facebook is paying to freeze their eggs.
updated 2:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Amal Alamuddin was well-known in many important circles long before she snagged the world's most eligible bachelor. But Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney, according to her law firm's website.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Trends in young adult fiction have shifted from wizards to glittering vampires to bloodthirsty "Hunger Games" and now, to teens coping with illnesses and realistic issues.
updated 8:56 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Before he died this year, 14-year-old Martin Romero wanted to do something for his community.
updated 6:33 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
A 12-year-old girl called Dick's Sporting Goods out on its lack of female athletes in the Basketball 2014 catalog.
updated 12:36 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Before he was even born, Shane Michael Haley had already met the Philadelphia Phillies, been to the top of the Empire State Building and shared a cheesesteak with his parents.
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I read the initial comments from Microsoft's CEO on how women who don't ask for raises will receive "good karma."
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
A photo series "From the NICU to the Moon" imagines premature babies in future professions with a series of imaginative doodles.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
Jessica Dunne and her father Michael P. Dunne
"I don't think anyone is ready for grief. But when it hits you, it knocks you out cold," Jessica Dunne wrote after the sudden loss of her father.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Most moms will say they long for a day when moms stop criticizing one another, but most of us are guilty of tearing each other down.
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
When we think of terminal cancer patients, we don't imagine Brittany Maynard -- 29, vigorous, happy. But she will soon take a handful of pills that will end her life.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
"Back in my day, we used to walk five miles uphill, carrying all our books in the blistering cold and the pouring rain..." Some schools have found a new way to making walking to school safer -- and more fun.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
The death of a New Jersey boy, the first health officials are directly linking to Enterovirus D68, has parents wondering whether school is the worst place to send kids susceptible to the virus.
updated 10:22 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
It's a heartbreaking time for three families, football teams and communities after three players died last week. Investigations are under way, but some parents are wondering, is the sport safe for children?
updated 1:26 PM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Here's what some schools are doing to create welcoming environments for transgender and gender nonconforming children.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Nothing could prepare this mom-to-be for what she learned at her first ultrasound.
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A 15-year-old British schoolboy has struck a chord with his eloquent response to actress Emma Watson's United Nations speech encouraging men to join in the fight for gender equality.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT