Remember Mr. Mom? A top-ten box office hit of 1983, its studio-biz genre-label summed it up as “fish-out-of-water father.” Imagine: Dad loses his job so Mom goes to work and he stays home to deal with the domestic chores — and the kids! And hilarity ensues. Man, this vacuum cleaner has a mind of its own! What a wacky premise.
Of course, things have changed in the parenting sphere in the past thirty years, haven’t they?
Hmmm, kinda. Pretty much. Sorta.
My first child was born in 1987. From time to time, when I was grocery shopping mid-day in our Brooklyn neighborhood with my son in the stroller, a woman from an older generation might stop to tell me how wonderful it was that I put aside my busy workday schedule to perform such a chore. Of course, I always politely refuted such a claim by pointing out that mothers do the shopping with the kids all the time and receive no credit for it, and that spending time with my son was by no means a “chore.” On the other hand, I willfully neglected to mention that as a (perhaps-procrastinating) freelance writer I certainly had more flexibility than most dads. Moreover, as a bonus, my refutation, while sincere, did always earn me additional praise for modesty and enlightened thinking. Not bad for a trip to the supermarket!
The point is, that kind of public compliment of a dad by a complete stranger just wouldn’t happen today — rightfully so, I suppose. (Sigh.) Today there is a societal expectation that fathers should share in, and even take ownership of, a greater range of responsibilities for raising their kids. From the playground to the PTA to the pediatrician’s office, dads are responding with growing participation in more facets of their children’s lives. One very important facet they should not overlook then is, of course, the fight for clean air.
Dads have as much stake in clean air as moms do and they need to be enlisted in the battle. How? I wouldn’t go so far as suggesting a name-change for Moms Clean Air Force, or a separate Clean Air Force for dads (DCAF) or fathers (FCAF). After all, the former acronym is a brew that lacks punch; and the latter, when pronounced as a word, sounds obscene, like someone with a Boston accent telling you where to go.
Maybe dads just need to be advised that advocating for clean air as fathers can be highly effective in the public conversation as well as in the halls of our lawmakers. Because let’s face it, the people who make so many of the decisions about using or regulating the pollutants that threaten our kids, and all of us, are…men. And while gender roles continue to evolve, one man telling another man to stop threatening his kid still sends a very strong message.
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