Dad Bloggers Discuss Husband Duties, Father's Day Just in time for Father's Day, a roundtable of "Daddy bloggers" discuss what's new in the land of dad cyberspace. Keith Morton, who blogs at African American Dad; Jeff Steele, who blogs at D.C. Urban Moms and Dads, and Jason Sperber, who blogs at Rice Daddies discuss topics that have dads buzzing on the Web
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Dad Bloggers Discuss Husband Duties, Father's Day

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Dad Bloggers Discuss Husband Duties, Father's Day

Dad Bloggers Discuss Husband Duties, Father's Day

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe you just need a few moms in your corner. We visit with a diverse group of parents each week for their common sense and savvy parenting advice, but today with an eye toward that special day for dads coming up, we decided to get our daddy-bloggers back in the studio.

These dads are blogging all about the joys, challenges and surprises of fatherhood. They've learned a thing or two since we last checked in with them last year, and we're so glad they're back to share with us. I'd like to welcome Keith Morton, who blogs as African American Dad; Jeff Steele, who blogs at D.C. Urban Moms and Dads; and Jason Sperber, who blogs at Rice Daddies. Welcome back, everybody.

Mr. KEITH MORTON (Blogger): Thank you.

Mr. JEFF STEELE (Blogger): (Unintelligible).

Mr. JASON SPERBER (Blogger): (Unintelligible).

MARTIN: Now Jason, since we spoke to you last, we understand that there have been some changes to the family.

Mr. SPERBER: Yes. In January, our second daughter was born, and originally I was a stay-at-home dad with our first daughter. Then I went back to work, and now I am working part-time from home to stay home with our second daughter.

MARTIN: So you have more to write about but less time to do it?

Mr. SPERBER: Exactly.

MARTIN: Well, what do you think has changed with what you're writing about, thinking about?

Mr. SPERBER: First of all, like you said, I really do have less time to write about more things, and all of the blogs that I contribute to, including my solo blog, Daddy in a Strange Land, are woefully under-contributed-to, unfortunately. But I think just looking at the parent blogosphere as a whole, it's just interesting, you know, over the last year or more than a year, just the commercialization of especially the mom blogosphere, you know, moms being seen as both the new group to market to and the new group to market to themselves. And not that I'm necessarily wanting, you know, dads to get a piece of that, but it's interesting that dads aren't in that conversation really, but that's a big conversation piece…

MARTIN: In a way, that's sort of - the blogosphere has been kind of formalized on the mom side, but you don't see the same thing happening on the dad side.

Mr. SPERBER: Right. You know, there's a marketing-to-moms blogging conference now. And I don't think there's going to be anything like that for dads.

MARTIN: Jeff, what about you? D.C. Urban Moms and Dads has a lot of - had a lot of interesting community threads and debates over the course of the year, but what are some of the ones that have stood out for you?

Mr. STEELE: Well without a doubt, the biggest thing to happen to our community was the arrival of the Obamas at the White House and their two little girls. That sparked, almost immediately, a big discussion about their school choice. That's a major issue for all D.C. parents, trying to pick a school. The Obamas, of course, had more options than the average D.C. citizen.

MARTIN: They don't have to worry about carpool.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEELE: And they probably had a little bit easier time on the entrance exams. The discussion about their school choices, currently it's the second-most-popular discussion in the history of our Web site. So that's how enthusiastic users were about it.

MARTIN: That's interesting. I also hear there's been some discussion about - picking up on where Jason was about whether the dads get enough air time or whether they need their own dad space.

Mr. STEELE: Yeah, and I thought Jason was right on the mark with a number of things that he said. But we've always had moms and dads involved in our site, but recently dads campaigned to have a specific forum for their own issues. And what they asked for and what we thought it would be when we set it up would be a forum where dads could ask other dads' advice. There's a little bit of that, but it's been more of moms asking the dads' advice.

For instance, often if they want to validate their own issue that involves their husband: My husband does X, Y and Z. Do you guys feel this is the right thing? Or like, one issue was a woman felt that her husband wasn't bonding with their newborn baby. Another one felt her husband resisted having a second child. She wanted to get feedback from other dads to validate her own feelings about her home situation.

MARTIN: What do you make of that?

Mr. STEELE: I was surprised, frankly, but I can understand why it has - it's a valid course of action, and it's a reasonable thing to do, to ask other dads about a dad's actions.

MARTIN: But do the dads feel pushed out of the space, like the women are taking over?

Mr. STEELE: I don't think they feel about - regarding moms asking dads questions. Where they feel that is when moms respond instead of dads, and that happens a lot.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I feel like I should confess, but I don't know - I'll just save that for later.

Keith, what's going on in your world? Jeff was saying that the election of President Obama has really kicked off a lot of conversation on the blog. What about with you? Did that stimulate some things for you?

Mr. MORTON: Oh yeah, absolutely. The whole Obama election kind of got dads talking in a different kind of way. I think on some level we're challenged to step up. You know, he really called us out. And I say us, the collective us. You know, we have regular jobs. You know, he's like the leader of the free world and he can still be a good parent, so we have no excuse. So at this point I think we are trying to like live up to the, the new standard, which is the Obama standard, which is pretty high.

MARTIN: So if he can make it to soccer, what's your problem?

Mr. MORTON: Exactly. I mean...

MARTIN: Do you feel that that's all dads or African-American dads in particular?

Mr. MORTON: I think that historically speaking, African-American parents or fathers tend to have more challenges or barriers to being successful parents. But on a bigger level, he's probably talking all dads.

MARTIN: I know he's put the squeeze on you on date night. I'm sorry. Taking the wife to Paris. I'm sorry, that's just - and first to New York for theater, and then to Paris. Well, you're in New York, so that's not a big deal to you. But I think, I don't know. What do the other dads feel about that? Jason, do you feel that President Obama in a way kind of, I don't know if pressure is the right word, but kind of makes you want to elevate your game as a dad, that he somehow sets an example that makes you want to rethink or think anew about being a dad?

Mr. SPERBER: For me personally, I don't know if it's rethink. I think it's validation that on a much larger, more prominent stage there is someone who is an example of the kind of dad that I'm already trying to be, and that other dads that I know are already talking about. And so, you know, the whole idea of involved fatherhood, redefining the role of father in American society and culture, just having, you know, an example like that really opens up discussion.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with Keith Morton, Jeff Steele, and Jason Sperber, are daddy bloggers, they blog about their lives as dads. I wanted to ask, are you families still supportive of the time that you spend blogging? Because Keith, we talked about this when you were here with us last. You say, gee, on the one hand you're always torn. If I - I could be blogging now, but - or I could be actually doing my dad thing.

So is it hard to find that balance and are your families supportive of the time you spend doing it? Jason?

Mr. SPERBER: Actually, my family usually is on my case about why I'm letting my blogs be silent so often. But I think in this day and age it's easier to write a quick status update on Facebook while I'm watching the girls do something funny and post a mobile photo really quick than to write a full-blown, you know, essay on something.

MARTIN: Keith, what about you?

Mr. MORTON: Well, my wife still doesn't read the blog. She's still a little nervous about what I'm putting up there. But I think I'm a lot more cautious now. As my son gets older, you know, he has his own life. You know, he's six now, and you don't really want to put him on full blast with everything he does. You know, the whole reading blog world could potentially know what he did yesterday. And you know, you just want to give him a little bit of privacy. So I'm a lot more selective, I think, of what I choose to write about, which kind of limits what you end up writing about.

MARTIN: But why? Are you worried? I mean at this point I don't think - he's not worried about like nude photos showing up on job applications, is he?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: (Unintelligible) so worried about?

Mr. MORTON: No. I mean, you know, he does have opinions on what's cool and uncool. I mean when kindergarten started earlier this year, he refused to give me hugs as I left. Like all his friends were getting hugs and kisses from their fathers during drop-off, and my son is like high-fives only.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Wow. Good to know. I guess he's afraid, what, Will and Jada might not pick him for their latest project or something if he feels it's not cool? Well, good to know. Jeff, there's something I meant to ask you about. I understand that one of - another comment thread that got a lot of attention was a dad who wrote in asking how he can tell his wife that he thinks she's getting a little heavy, and he'd appreciate it if she dealt with that. And he was looking for some help in figuring out how to broach this sensitive topic. I understand that there was a lot of discussion about it.

MR. STEELE: Yeah. That was one of the examples of a topic in the dad's forum that invited lots of input from moms.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Invite a lot of input. I see. Nicely done.

MR. STEELE: The forum received lots of input. I don't know if it was invited or not, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Well, can I ask, how did it shake out?

MR. STEELE: It's still shaking. The original poster seems to not be happy with the responses he received. His frustration has grown with each of his subsequent replies. A lot of the advice turned out not to be helpful. Of course there are those who said you're a jerk. What do you - you should never say this sort of thing to your wife. And others have originally started offering some sort of support but later changed their minds, said you know, I thought you were sympathetic at the beginning but now I don't agree with you anymore.

And as I said, some people who agreed and offered - they supported him by saying that you should invite your wife to exercise with you. And then other posters pointed out if you have two young kids at home, how are you going to find the time where you both are free to go exercise? You know, you have to do that individually.

MARTIN: And he's getting more frustrated because, why, he feels people aren't really supporting him or…

Mr. STEELE: Yeah. And of course no one really wants to post a message and have the response that you're a jerk.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEELE: And so...

MARTIN: Hey...

Mr. STEELE: ...he hasn't been happy with...

MARTIN: ...I managed to survive it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEELE: Me too.

MARTIN: Oh boy.

Mr. STEELE: My favorite response was a lady who said, you know, my husband told me I was overweight and I instantly lost 200 pounds by getting a divorce.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Oh no. Oh dear. Spicy. Spicy at D.C. Urban Moms. Keith and Jason, I wanted to ask if - are the distinct cultural issues that in part brought you to blogging still as important in your blogs or do you find yourself moving to more of the universal. Keith?

Mr. MORTON: I mean in a lot of ways I think I've always kind of been universal, but I think that the issues are still important. You know, I think that the way black fathers experience fatherhood is always going to be a little unique. So I think it's still important to write from a specific point of view in the way that I experience it, in the way people who, you know, look like me experience fatherhood. One of the things that I've learned, I'm going into my fourth year of the blog, is that our experiences overall are very much the same.

You know, we all care about our children. We all love our spouses. We all love our, you know, our lives as parents, and that's where we're connected. But the way that we experience these things, I think, still are very different. You know, the way I think about my son walking the street as he gets older is going to be a little different than the way a parent that's not black thinks about it. I mean I'm hoping that as years progress it won't hold as true. I'm hoping that when my son becomes a teenager that I won't have certain concerns that I do right now. But as it stands, I remain experiencing it as an African American in the United States.

MARTIN: So finally, in the last minute that we have left, I wanted to quickly go around and say, are there any little hints you want me to throw out for Father's Day to those who might want to know what would be especially appreciated for Father's Day? Jeff?

Mr. STEELE: Well, you know...

MARTIN: Just between you and me and the millions of people who are listening.

Mr. STEELE: The holiday kind of came up on us fast and I haven't really given it a little whole lot of thought. In fact, I didn't even realize it was coming until I got invited to be on the show.

MARTIN: Oh man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Keith, any hints you want me to throw out about Father's Day?

Mr. MORTON: I had to actually Google the exact day that Father's Day was this year because I had kind of lost track. And then I started to think about what I wanted for Father's Day. And then I started to wonder if that is, you know, right, should you be wanting gifts for Father's Day? Or is the gift actually fatherhood? And I think the answer to that is I want a gift.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MORTON: And you know, I'm thinking like a series. You know, something, you know, a season of something or a full series of something. For Mother's Day I bought my wife the first five seasons of "Three's Company," one of her all-time favorite TV shows. So I'm thinking something in that vain maybe.

MARTIN: Well, we'll see what we can do. Jason?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Jason, what about you? Any hints you want us to drop?

Mr. SPERBER: I, like you were talking about with Obama's date night, I'd like somebody to step up and volunteer to babysit both of my children so that we can go out and have some alone time.

MARTIN: Okay. We're putting that out to the universe and the blogosphere. Jason Sperber blogs at Rice Daddies. He joined from his home office in Bakersfield, California. Keith Morton blogs at African American Dad. He joined us in our New York bureau. And Jeff Steele blogs at D.C. Urban Moms and Dad's, and he joined us here in our Washington, D.C. studio. We will have links to their blogs, their personal blogs as well as their group blogs, at our Web site NPR.org/TELLMEMORE.

Thank you, dads, and Happy Father's Day.

Mr. STEELE: Thank you, Michel.

Mr. SPERBER: Thank you.

Mr. MORTON: Thank you.

MARTIN: Remember, at TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. And now we'd like to hear from our other fathers out there. Has President Obama encouraged you to step up your game in the husband and father department? Are your wives expecting more on date night after seeing Michelle Obama's big nights out in New York and Paris? To tell us what you think, call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number again: 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name, tell us where you're from, or you can go to the TELL ME MORE page at NPR.org and blog it out.

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