Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Prince William and dads everywhere show 'Mr. Mom' is outdated

By Josh Levs, CNN
July 24, 2013 -- Updated 1900 GMT (0300 HKT)
Ron Sherwood was 48 when he found out he was going to be a father. The single dad has two daughters, ages 2 and 3, and says, "They are and will always be my greatest achievement." (<a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-996705'>Read his story.</a>) Click through the gallery to see other real dads share their real-world challenges. Ron Sherwood was 48 when he found out he was going to be a father. The single dad has two daughters, ages 2 and 3, and says, "They are and will always be my greatest achievement." (Read his story.) Click through the gallery to see other real dads share their real-world challenges.
HIDE CAPTION
'Couldn't be happier'
Not Mr. Mom, just Dad
'I get to be a kid again'
Blurring the gender roles
'A blessing every second'
'Dad was the breadwinner'
'Most men I know are responsible fathers'
'I look forward to every day'
'Hardest part is showing up'
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Mr. Mom" was made 30 years ago, and created the archetypical stay-at-home dad
  • Modern fathers are rejecting the "Mr. Mom" label as outmoded
  • Surveys show fathers doing more and more primary child care tasks at home
  • Stay-at-home fathers say they are simply doing their duty, not shooting for perfection

Editor's note: CNN's Josh Levs covers a wide range of topics and also offers his personal take on issues affecting fathers and families. He covers fatherhood for CNN Parents and HLN's Raising America. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

(CNN) -- In minutes, the world's most-watched new father sent a message about millions of dads.

Stepping outside the hospital with his wife, Catherine, and their newborn son, Prince William was a picture of confidence. Each parent held the baby, now known to the world as George Alexander Louis -- and they looked equally comfortable doing so.

He got his newborn all set in the car seat, and drove off.

Prince William holds his new-born son
Prince William holds his new-born son

Analysts noted that he was projecting an image of equality.

To many dads, he was representing the reality that we know: The image of bumbling, clueless dads is an outdated stereotype.

Of course, that doesn't mean we think we're picture-perfect -- a point that came up when CNN recently asked dads what it means to be a father in today's world. Some decided to use the iReport assignment as a chance to open up about their insecurities.

"Although I know that the intent of this report is to stand up proudly and say, '... I'm a dad and I'm damn good at it,' the truth is I don't feel that way half the time," stay-at-home dad Chase Roper wrote from Puyallup, Washington. "Most days, if I'm being honest, I feel like I'm faking my way through this."

That's how just about all parents feel sometimes: overwhelmed. Yes, that includes, I'm sure, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, even in the life they lead.

Josh Levs
Josh Levs

"I am far from perfect in my role as a father," writes Lance Somerfeld, who has been a stay-at-home dad in Manhattan for five years and founded the NYC Dads Group. "I lose my temper, get impatient, too structured, don't do the laundry, and fail miserably, often. It's the most challenging job I have ever encountered as well as the most rewarding."

We were looking for dads' thoughts on the 30-year anniversary of "Mr. Mom" -- a movie that made sense at the time, when a dad taking on traditionally female roles at home was so rare. And when it was more believable that he would have so much trouble figuring out how to do basics around the house.

Little did those behind the film know that it would ultimately stand as something of a historical demarcation. The funniest thing about the idea of "Mr. Mom" now is that it was such a funny idea in the first place.

Modern fathers face new expectations

Statistics tell a piece of the story. There are about 189,000 stay-at-home dads now, caring for 369,000 children, according to the U.S. Census. These are defined as married fathers with kids younger than 15 who have stayed out of the labor force for at least a year primarily to care for the family.

A more striking figure: 18% of preschoolers are regularly cared for by their fathers during the mother's working hours.

It's the most challenging job I have ever encountered as well as the most rewarding.
Lance Somerfeld, stay-at-home dad

As these numbers keep growing, the perception that child-rearing and homemaking are "women's work" that dads sometimes do becomes increasingly anachronistic.

"1983 was Mr. Mom's Year. It's 2013. Just call me dad," Chris Bernholdt, stay-at-home father in Devon, Pennsylvania, writes on his blog, "DadNCharge."

The National At-Home Dad Network, which provides support and advocacy to its members, has even launched a campaign to banish the term, citing a Wall Street Journal declaration: "Mr. Mom is dead."

Dads to media: We're not idiots!
Dads 'march' for education
Dads pick TV's best fathers

Many people who use the term certainly mean no harm. But for some dads, getting past the term is an important way to end the mindset that suggests their work at home is any less "manly" than bringing home a paycheck.

"I was called 'Mr. Mom' by a random guy at my wife's hair salon," says Joseph Carlson, full-time dad of a 14-month-old boy in San Diego. "He said, 'You can't play Mr. Mom too long.' I was pretty stunned."

And a female relative asked Carlson, "When are you going to get a job? You can't stay home forever."

"She said 'Mr. Mom' without saying 'Mr. Mom,'" Carlson says. "I just let the comments go. I know I'm not going to change any person's worldview with a 30-minute debate."

Those of us who work full-time but are more committed to our kids than to our jobs are just as quick to reject the stereotypes of bumbling, clueless fathers in commercials, TV shows, or online. That's partly because negative portrayals of dads can cause problems -- like affecting how the judicial system views fathers' parental capabilities.

We also speak out to share ideas and advice -- because modern dads understand each other. We know what it is to be fathers in changing times, facing challenges and pressures, and committed to keeping parenthood our top priority.

A vociferous "no" to "Mr. Mom" doesn't mean claiming the mantle of Superdad.

There's a kind of communal celebration going on. On blogs and at conferences, dads are sharing with each other how awesome it is to live in a time that's so far beyond "Mr. Mom."

We know we're part of something special: A generation that's helping turn American fatherhood into something more emotional and deeper -- something I referred to in a TEDx Talk as a part of the ultimate dream.

But saying a loud, vociferous "no" to "Mr. Mom" doesn't mean claiming the mantle of Superdad. It just means we're trying to do our best. Just like good moms across the country.

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

American dads have come a long way in 30 years. And we're not alone, as Prince William showed. Just imagine what's ahead.

Chris Bernholdt's son was asked in kindergarten what he wants to be when he grows up.

His answer: "A stay-at-home dad."

Got a parenting story to share? Post your personal essays here.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1438 GMT (2238 HKT)
Not knowing exactly where her ancestors come from has always bothered Kelly Wallace, but she's heartened to learn about some of the famous cousins she never knew she had.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
Many superstar athletes from Michael Vick to Tiger Woods were ultimately forgiven by fans and the public. Could Ray Rice also get a second chance?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
The indictment of NFL star Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges has revealed sharp differences in cultural, regional and generational attitudes toward using physical force to discipline kids.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
cara reedy
The world often treats little people like Cara Reedy as less than human. She's learned to stand up for herself and shout back.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
The unheard voices of domestic abuse spoke up on CNN iReport when Rihanna's story of abuse came to light. In light of the Ray Rice controversy, we decided to bring back these stories that are still just as powerful as the day they were told.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1410 GMT (2210 HKT)
More than 3 million children witness domestic violence every year, and the damage can last a lifetime.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
As media outlets Monday circulated video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator, many wondered why the woman -- now his wife -- could remain with him.
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
The ways mother-daughter book clubs can help empower girls are the focus of a new book, "Her Next Chapter."
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
Colleges are working to prevent sexual assault by educating students on affirmative consent, or only "yes means yes."
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
A mom questions if she wants her daughters seeing a "sado-masochistic relationship, dressed up as a Hollywood love fantasy?"
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
In 2014, why is society still so incredibly uncomfortable with public breastfeeding? Kelly Wallace gets to the root of the controversy.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Seven years ago, Barbara Theodosiou, then a successful entrepreneur, stopped going to meetings, leaving the house and taking care of herself. She grew increasingly distraught -- her two children were addicts.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, throws America's problem with talking about race into sharp relief.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0225 GMT (1025 HKT)
Mo'ne Davis is the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series. She's an inspiration, but will she change the face of the sport?
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
There is a reason why when people post pictures of themselves during their middle school years on Facebook for "Throw Back Thursday," we all stop and take notice.
It could cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise your child -- and that's not even including college costs, according to new government estimates.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0409 GMT (1209 HKT)
From parent to son, uncle to nephew, there's a raw, private conversation being revived in America in the wake of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Children sometimes get left out of our conversations about mental illness. The truth is, they suffer too.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
CNN's Kat Kinsman says that talking freely about personal mental health and suicidal thoughts can help others.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
morning person
Easy tips on how to improve everything from your dinner order to the song in your head to your career.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
The case of an Arizona mom who left her kids in a car during a job interview highlights the fluid line between bad parenting and criminal behavior.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
A children's book about gun rights has benefited from an unexpected boost in sales after it became the subject of a mocking segment on a talk show.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Some campers and counselors keep the campfire flames burning with summer flings that become lifetime commitments.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
After letting her 7-year-old son walk from their home to a park to play, a Florida mother faces up to five years in jail for child neglect.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1916 GMT (0316 HKT)
Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, who lost her son in a hot car, hopes mandatory technology in cars and car seats will stop child death from heatstroke in cars.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Not to mention your jeans, bras and pillows? Here's a definitive guide to keeping all your quarters clean.
Imagination Playgrounds have snaking tunnels, platforms and springy mats just like any other playground. But they're different in one fundamental way -- they're built by kids.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Grammy Award-winning singer Sarah McLachlan, a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls, talks about parenting, sex and whether women can have it all.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)
Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
The case of a South Carolina mother arrested for allegedly leaving her 9-year-old daughter at a park while she was working sparks debate over how young is too young to leave a child alone.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1515 GMT (2315 HKT)
CNN's Kelly Wallace reveals 5 common parenting mistakes that many parents admit to making.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Is it a bad idea for parents to let kids drink underage at home, or does an early sip make drinking less taboo? Studies are divided on the subject, which is a tough nut for parents to crack.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cellphones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night
Post your personal essays and original photos, and tell us how it really is.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT