An NPR Host's Other Job: Stay-At-Home Dad

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By Guy Raz

Sorry it's taken me a few days to post.  We're expecting another baby in a few weeks, dealing with a move, and someone's trying to kill me.

I suspect Jim's temporary absence from the blog has driven some of the traffic away (despite the many many compelling posts from guest bloggers).  That said, when The Atlantic sent me some stuff to read about what makes a good blog post, it occurred to me that a few things were missing.  So, forthwith, I bring to you my attempt to generate a very large viewership with the following embedded video of a very cute baby laughing.

I will do everything I can in the coming days to experiment with search engine optimization by mentioning the terms vaccines, autism, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk (or, in case of alternate spellings, Ataturk), and Ayn Rand and quite possibly may post some original video of my very cute cats wrestling.

The video clip above, however, isn't just a cheap stunt to see if it is possible to attract more readers than Andrew Sullivan. There is a point to this shameless stunt. 

The story behind this video is that a stay-at-home dad received another rejection letter from a potential employer.  He decides to rip it up in front of his son Micah, who, as you can see, finds this gleefully amusing.

So do I.  In part, because I feel a certain sense of solidarity with Micah's dad. 

I look after my 2-year-old on Mondays and Tuesdays.  I work Wednesday through Sunday.  The program I host airs in most places in America from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

While I am fortunate to have a job, I'm also fortunate to spend a lot of time with my kid on days when most people are at work.  But on those Mondays and Tuesdays, I also have the privilege of experiencing a taste of life as a stay-at-home dad. 

I take him to an organized playgroup in the morning and in the afternoon, when the weather cooperates, we are at the park.

There I am almost always the lone father among mothers and nannies.  According to the latest census data, there are 158,000 stay-at-home dads in America.  Now this number is misleading because apparently, it does not include fathers who work from home AND look after the kids or dads who may have worked a week or two during the year.  So we can assume the number is much much higher and possibly growing, in part, because of the dismal job market and in part, because childcare is often so unaffordable, that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for both parents to go to an office or a workplace each day.

Now, this isn't the place to prattle on about the challenges of being a dad in a mommy-dominated world of child-rearing. It's hard work. Even in the most open-minded communities, there's always the snickering and the "Mr. Mom" jokes. 

But here's what I have learned in all of this. One: never ask a stay-at-home parent whether they "work" full-time because raising a child is FULL-TIME WORK!  And two: Dads, don't be offended if the mommies keep you at arm's length. You will never be part of the inner circle.  The mommy solidarity at the park and playgroup is just a fact of life. 

Now all of this takes me to a question one of the mommies asked me in playgroup not too long ago. She was curious about what I do. I explained I host a weekend radio program. She asked, "So does that mean you only have to work Saturday and Sunday?"

I get asked that more than you'd think. And the answer, sadly, is no.

For those of you who read this blog outside the U.S., NPR is a national radio news network.  Perhaps you've heard of us lately?

Well, outside the recent distractions, we do one thing.  We cover the news. As I write, we have reporters in Japan covering the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in memory.  But we also have correspondents in Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Wisconsin, and dozens of other hot spots around  the world.

And that brings me to our program...

This is our staff meeting Wednesday morning.

staff.JPG

It is on Wednesday morning where our weekend program begins to take shape. Our challenge is formidable. Our main competition is the day.  Each Wednesday, we ask ourselves how we can compete against good weather, errands, the challenges of parenting, or TV sports or other news programs to convince you to listen to your radio on Saturday and Sunday.

The clock begins ticking Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. Right now, this is what the show looks like (see photo to the right).

BOARD.JPG

Our small staff will throw out all kinds of ideas. The left hand column is the shell for Saturday's program.  The right hand is Sunday's show.

On Saturday, we expect to lead the  "A" segment--so the first 11:29 of the program--with Japan.

One of the ideas that came up was to talk with the writer Pico Iyer about how Hiroshima and Nagasaki factor into the Japanese national consciousness. We are scheduled to talk with him Friday. We are also batting around the idea of speaking with someone who promotes small-scale nuclear reactors--reactors that would only power a community or even a neighborhood.

Obviously, our "A" segment will change as we get closer to airtime.

The top of our "B" segment on Saturday will include a conversation with Jim Fallows. Jim's take on the news is always surprising. I always learn something new from Jim's perspective on what is happening around us. 

We have 17:19 for that segment so for the moment, we are considering whether to run a story I reported this past week on the city of Compton.  Compton is a place made famous by NWA and Tupac. But its also a place where ordinary things happen--things far, far away from the caricature. In Compton, we came upon a community of urban farmers who raise cattle, chickens, goats, even llamas!

This story may be bumped to next week because I'll be in New York all day Thursday with our producer Phil Harrell to meet with a local historian who has traced the history of one city block of Manhattan--a place that was a swamp, a Dutch settlement, an Irish speakeasy, a tenement and today, an Apple store.

We  will also interview the physicist Michio Kaku about his new book. Finally, we will round out the Saturday program with the frontman from Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor.  I interviewed him last week about his Academy Award-winning score for the film The Social Network.

As always, this board you see will change depending on the news and on the other interviews that come through.

Between Wednesday and Sunday, I will do about 17 interviews.  Our small team of eight people will help me with research and ideas.

Somewhere in between, my wife and I will give my son dinner, give him a bath, and put him to bed.

After he falls asleep, we are both back at our computers until about 1:00 a.m.  She will do her work (she's a lawyer) and I will do mine (reading, researching, writing scripts.)

It's a labor of love.

Until tomorrow.

Guy Raz is the host of "Weekends on All Things Considered" on NPR.  You can subscribe to the podcast of  "Weekends on All Things Considered" via iTunes or RSS.

Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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