by Cathy Resmer
Did anybody see the big cover story the Free Press ran on Sunday about stay-at-home dads?
Mariana Lamaison Sears profiles two stay-at-home dads. She writes that the US Census estimates there were about 159,000 stay-at-home dads nationwide in 2006. There are no numbers for Vermont, but Sears says their numbers are increasing:
With dad as orchestra director, the Barronsof Burlington are one of what seems to be a growing number of familieswho choose a nontraditional arrangement when it comes to raising thechildren and providing for the family. While Barron, 33, stays at homewith Milo and Linus, 2, his wife, Carrie, works full time as a labtechnician at the University of Vermont.
"If you're a mom, you need to be a part of www.greenmountainmoms.com," reads the little advertorial on the front of today's Living section. "It's a social networking site for local moms — a place for them to connect, share information and news. It's informal, and the Free Press is simply facilitating the discussion by providing the forum — the content is the mothers themselves."
What do the moms talk about on the site? Says the Freep: "Best playgrounds, preschool recommendations, where to pick strawberries, using cloth diapers, Mom's funny secrets."
So let's review: the Free Press ran a big, front-page story about how more fathers are staying at home with their kids, but when it comes to their parenting website, they think only moms will be interested in preschool recommendations. Does anybody else see a disconnect here?
Apparently someone does — I was just reading the reader comments on the site, and came across this one, from tickedoffdad, who titles his message, "This website is insulting to modern parents."
Tickedoffdad also saw the cover story on Sunday. He writes,
For such a progressive state/country, the Free Press has insulted dadsand reinforced the typical gender stereotypes that plague modernAmerica.
This is even more ironic since the Free Press had an article onFathers day about stay at home dads? Where is the forum for them?
I am the proud parent of a 1 year old girl. I have done everythingfor my daughter that her Mom has, with the exception of breastfeedingand childbirth and even those two topics I contributed to the decisionmaking process.
I change diapers, have opinions on her childcare and feeding, etc, etc, etc. Where is my website?
The Free Press has been going down the toilet for years and thisconservative traditional motherhood nonsense that they are reinforcingis insulting to many woman and many men.
Tickedoffdad didn't bother to change the generic avatar that GreenMountainMoms gives to all of its commentors. Which means that, ironically, the avatar displayed on his post shows a woman cradling a baby!
One of the site administrators responded with a message entitled, "Dad, you can join the conversation, too." She explains that she's created a "special spot" on the site for dads to comment, though I couldn't find it to add a link here.
I told that to one of my co-workers, who called it "The Dad Ghetto."
Here's an observation about how I suspect this site came into being: a few months ago, I attended a seminar sponsored by Newspaper Next: The Transformation Project. It was an interesting day of presentations about how newspapers can create systems within their companies that encourage innovation.
At one point during the day, the consultant who spoke to us offered us a couple of case studies of people who are not currently using newspapers. One of those case studies featured a generic, 36-year-old mom with two kids who doesn't have time to read the paper. The consultant basically recommended that newspapers create social networking sites where mothers can reach out to each other.
There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that this website is a product of the Newspaper Next process.
Which is not to say that the idea behind it is necessarily bad. I like the concept.
I just find it puzzling that the Free Press is choosing to frame the conversation in this old-fashioned, outmoded way, especially in this particular market. Do the people at Gannett know who lives in Burlington?
I guess their market studies told them this was a good idea, but it's definitely not pitched at the parents I know.