Where Are All the 'Working Dads'?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Li has a post up exploring themes from The Mindy Project that dovetail with our reader discussion on shifting norms of parental caregiving:

The Mindy Project’s overall portrayal of parenting provides a spot-on reflection of the current moment, but doesn’t dare to question its constraints. “Being a working mom is really tough,” says Danny in “The Bitch is Back,” glossing over how hard it is to be a “working dad.” In a recent interview with our business editor, Becca Rosen [embedded above], Anne-Marie Slaughter notes that the term “working dad” isn’t even part of broader vernacular because the responsibilities of fatherhood and work have long been viewed as ones that don’t coexist.

The assumption that Danny wouldn’t even consider being the stay-at-home parent—all other things equal—captures the prevailing nature of existing norms about parenting and the need for a fundamental shift in perspective. The question shouldn’t by default be, “Will Mom stay home?” if parents decide this would be best for their child, but rather: “Which one of us will?”

If you have anything to add to the parenting discussion, drop me an email. Update from a reader:

Just a note that as a single dad, I can still remember the absolutely withering looks I got when my then young daughter and I would be out in public and she’d cry or have some normal three-year-old meltdown. The reaction of almost every woman around was to look at us as if I were some kind of either incompetent boob or evil molester. Those experiences completely changed my perceptions about where the issue were regarding the responsibility for child care in this society.