MONEY First-Time Dad

Why Work-Life Balance Is Just As Impossible for Dads

141014_FF_TEPPERBLOG
This mug is what I'm missing out on when I'm working late.

We're struggling with the same issues working moms face, says MONEY reporter and first-time dad Taylor Tepper.

Sometimes I feel like a bad dad.

Doubts over my parental savvy often correlate with how long I’m at the office. When I call to tell Mrs. Tepper that I’ll be here until 7:30 p.m. working on a magazine feature—and won’t be home to put our son Luke to bed—the soft disappointment in her voice stays with me like a faint ember.

The same guilty feelings apply to my job, too.

I’m 28 and now is the time to work long hours, take on more responsibility and show my bosses just how willing I am to immolate myself for the greater good. Every time I leave the building at 5:30 p.m., a part of me thinks I’m sacrificing future promotions, raises and glory.

What it means to be an American father, and the responsibilities therein, have changed radically in the last few decades. In 1975, 45% of families consisted of a male breadwinner and a stay-at-home mom; today 31% do. And now, men are taking on more chores and spending more time with their children than their dads spent with them.

But this blending of gender roles has done much to confuse the male mind. We want to spend more time with the kids and earn accolades on the job; we want to attend the soccer game and become senior management; we want to be Bill Cosby and Steve Jobs.

Many of us feel—just as working moms do—that we’re succeeding at neither.

The Research Backs Me Up on This

According Boston College’s Center for Work & Family, 86% of dads agreed or strongly agreed that “my children are the number one priority in my life.”

That’s well and good.

At the same time, though, more than three in four fathers wished to advance to a position with greater responsibilities and three in five demonstrated a strong desire to reach senior management.

Half of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance the responsibilities of work and family, according to Pew.

And on the whole, we don’t feel like we’re living up to the dad role either. Almost eight in 10 dads want to spend more time with their children on an average workday, and one in two say they spend too little time with their kids. (Only 23% of mothers feel that way.) From first-hand experience, there is nothing quite as enervating as coming home from work to an already-sleeping son.

In Boston College’s research, you also see dads grappling with perceptions of what they want and the reality of how things are.

While today’s fathers also recognize that parenting is a two-person job—65% say they believe that partners should take care of a child evenly—only one in three say that they actually split the work in half. Women typically spend more than three times as many hours per week solely looking after the child than men.

Even on weekends, men fail to live up to their ideal. On Saturdays and Sundays, moms spend 1.2 more hours on housework and childcare than dads do. When it comes to time spent on leisure activities, dads out-loaf moms by an hour.

While Mrs. Tepper and I have something of a modern marriage—split chores, female breadwinner—she almost certainly watches Luke more on the weekends, especially when sports are on.

In spite of my few hours more on the couch, however, I’d still argue that achieving and maintaining true work-life balance is impossible. You can’t achieve these competing goals—working at the top of my game, being the best dad and husband ever, and getting in a few NBA games to recharge my own engine—within a finite number of hours in the day.

So, What Is a Modern Dad to Do?

I put that question to Sara Sutton Fell, the CEO of FlexJobs.com, a job search site focusing on companies that allow for flexible schedules and telecommuting. Her advice: to think of work-life balance as more of a journey than a destination.

“As a working parent with two young sons, I believe that work-life balance is often mistaken as an end-point that we reach eventually,” she says. “In my experience, it’s more of a balancing act—shifting your weight back and forth between your various responsibilities.”

Some days you’re going have to work long hours at the office to close out a project or meet a deadline, in other words; and some days you’re going to work from home to take your kid to the doctor.

Try to find an employer that will embrace that flexibility, Fell says.

This makes sense.

But we’ve also got to try to overcome our own guilt. That means accepting our limitations as parents and workers and people, and setting realistic expectations for ourselves.

It’s difficult to remember, but today’s dads spend more time with their kids than their fathers spent with them by a factor of three. Today’s fathers are by and large more engaged in their kids’ lives than previous generations. So we’re definitely doing better, if not up to the standards we’d hold for ourselves.

When I’m stuck in the office until dark, maintaining that perspective is difficult. But I try to remember that the next morning I’ll be there when Luke wakes up, and with any luck, arrive home in time to help his mom put him to sleep.

And if not, there’s always tomorrow.

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly. More First-Time Dad:

TIME celebrity

Brad Pitt: “I Want to Spend More Time With My Kids”

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt Jason LaVeris—WireImage

The actor opens up about being a dad

Brad Pitt’s favorite role? Being a dad.

The 50-year-old actor, newly married to Angelina Jolie and father to six, told the U.K’s Psychologies magazine that being a father makes him “feel like the richest man alive,” according to TODAY.

Though he says being a parent is “the most beautiful thing you can experience,” he also admits that he worries when it comes to his children. “I worry about them all the time,” he says. “That’s the emotional bond and responsibility that sweeps over you when you have a family to look after. I care about them more than I care about myself, which I think is the real definition of love.”

Amid all the gushing, it’s clear that Pitt’s priorities are shifting to his family, possibly at the expense of his career. “I’ve been slowing down for a while now — and slowly transitioning to other things,” Pitt says in British GQ’s November issue. “And, truthfully, I do want to spend more time with my kids before they’re grown up and gone.”

TIME Fatherhood

Emma Watson Is Right—Don’t Take Potshots at Fathers

"All children (and dads) must be with an adult at all times."
"All children (and dads) must be with an adult at all times." Courtesy the author

Aaron Gouveia is a husband, father of two boys, and writes for his site The Daddy Files. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Men suffer from gender stereotyping, too. Sometimes—perhaps especially—dear old dads get the worst of it.

“I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.”- Emma Watson

The famous actress and Ivy League graduate uttered those spectacular words in an address to the United Nations last week. Watson, a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, gave an impassioned speech calling on men to join women in the battle for gender equality. But in the process, she spoke about the importance of dads, the gender stereotypes that exist for men, and the reasons both sexes have to speak up for one another.

And her timing couldn’t have been better.

This weekend, I waded into unexpected controversy regarding this very topic at the unlikeliest of places – a Massachusetts apple orchard.

As my wife and two sons dutifully joined me in the most quintessential of New England activities, we paid our money and eagerly set out toward the tractor that would bring us to the honeycrisp, macoun, and gala apples we love so much. But before we could hitch our ride we had to stand in line, giving my 6-year-old – a first-grader with a voracious appetite for reading – time to show off his budding skills by reading every single sign in sight.

Except this particular sign was one I wish neither of us had seen (and not just because the font was Comic Sans). It said “All Children (And Dads) Must Be With An Adult At All Times.” My son was confused, and asked me if “daddies have to be watched like kids.” I was confused as well, wondering how a “family friendly” farm could be so tone deaf in taking an unnecessary potshot at fathers (who double as paying customers).

At that point I knew two things: 1) I was going to firmly but respectfully call them on it via their Facebook page and ask them to reconsider, and 2) I was going to get absolutely slammed by angry Internet zealots upset about “political correctness.”

“You’re a whiny [expletive]!”
“You’re such a pansy!”
“Get a sense of humor. PC people like you are what’s wrong with this country!”

And those were the polite ones that didn’t insult my physical appearance, my wife, or my children. But as someone who has tackled this topic before, I expected every bit of it.

Unfortunately, this is usually what happens when men speak out against negative and harmful stereotypes that cast dads as overgrown children and second-class parents. We’re told to “suck it up and be a man.” We’re told we should shut our mouths because there are more important issues on which to focus. We’re even told there’s a lot of truth in those old stereotypes, because many dads are like children and do need supervision.

Look, this sign is not the end of the world and it’s far from the most offensive thing I’ve ever seen. But you have to understand the mixed messages fathers get nowadays, and how negative the cumulative effect can be when the bar for dads is set so low.

Men are roundly criticized for working too much and spending too much time away from home, yet many people are suspect of stay-at-home dads and routinely stigmatize them as lazy freeloaders. People call for fathers to spend more time on the home front in an effort to be equal partners in parenting, yet dads who seek out paternity leave or flexible scheduling do so while risking their advancement and earning opportunities, because many employers believe such actions show an employee less dedicated than his counterparts.

It gets even worse in the media. Huggies thought incompetent dads were the “ultimate test” for their diapers, Clorox put dads on par with house pets, and Ray Romano’s character in “Everybody Loves Raymond” constantly had to be bailed out by his wife, making him the gold standard of what not to do if you want to be an involved dad.

On one hand we’re told we need to be more involved, but at the same time we’re routinely bombarded with messages on TV and in advertisements showing dads as bumbling morons and second class parents. And as Watson pointed out, that kind of attitude isn’t just bad for men. It’s damaging to women as well.

If dads take on more work at home, more women can choose to pursue careers. As for working moms, it allows them to get out from under the so-called “Second Shift,” in which they work and then have to come home to handle the bulk of household and childcare related tasks. The upside is children benefit from time with both parents, men start to become more equal partners in parenting, and women gain ground in the gender equality department.

To the orchard’s credit, they agreed to take the sign down. I’m positive the slight to dads was unintentional and not malicious, but I stand by the decision to address it publicly because shedding light on an issue is the only way to implement change.

It’s not whiny to offer valid criticism and it’s not effeminate to speak up for change. And if Emma Watson is brave enough to speak up even in the face 4Chan bullies* threatening to release nude pictures of her, I’m more than happy to be called a “spineless lib-tard crybaby” if it helps even a few more people break down gender stereotypes.

I genuinely hope people heed Watson’s words, because she’s right. Dads or moms, it doesn’t matter. In the end it’s the same fight, and we’re in it together.

 

Aaron Gouveia is a husband and father of two boys, and writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

 

*UPDATE: That threat turned out to be a hoax.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Fatherhood

Mark Sanford’s Oversharing Doesn’t Make Him a Bad Dad

Sure, the S.C. senator wrote a 2300-plus-word breakup post on Facebook that reads like a romance novel--but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed to see his kids

Being a hideously tone-deaf oversharer and terrible husband does not necessarily make you a bad father. An embarrassing one, yes, but not a let’s-keep-him-away-from-the-kids one. I’m speaking, of course, of South Carolina Senator Mark Sanford and his latest Facebook rant.

There are so many things wrong with the way the Senator runs his personal affairs. First and foremost, he too often seems lose sight of the “personal” part of that phrase. He justified his 2300-plus-word Facebook post of Sept. 12 by saying he believes he owes the taxpayers of South Carolina an explanation: “In as much as you sign my paycheck and you have elected me to represent you in Washington, I think I owe you my thinking on this personal, but now public matter.”

This feels a little like a butcher forcing his or her customers to watch him make the sausages, because later they’re going to buy them and eat them. No, really, sir: we’re fine.

The “sausage,” in this case, is that Sanford and his wife, Jenny, with whom he split after falling in love with an Argentinian women, Maria Belén Chapur, are fighting over how much access he has to their four sons. Attorneys are involved, and while Sanford proclaims a huge aversion to the legal profession, he’s decided to lawyer up. (Jenny’s side claims he always had a lawyer.) All of this, one would think, might merit a crisply worded 250 word press release, noting that the Senator, having tried all avenues to reach an amicable settlement with his former wife, has retained legal counsel and blah blah blah et cetera. Nothing to see here; move along.

But no. The public has to endure another in a series of Heartfelt Sanford Outpourings, which–for those who haven’t been following along–so far include the one about how he was not on the Appalachian Trail but with a woman (June 24, 2009), and how Maria Belén, the woman he was with not-on-the-Appalachian-Trail, was his soulmate and how theirs was “a forbidden, tragic love story,” (July 1, 2009).

These communications always seems to come from the Harlequin playbook, full of emotional pleas and heartsore teeth gnashing. “No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter,” writes the former Love Guv in his latest post on Facebook.

The one difference is that Harlequin novels are blessedly brief. As one wit noted, Sanford’s post contains more words than the Senator has uttered in Congress this year. It’s a small mercy that there is no accompanying video to go with this announcement, as that’s where Senator Soulmate really seems to let his emotions get the better of him.

It’s clear, though, that this post too was written in the heat of the moment and without much forethought. One sentence uses the word “way ” four times. Other phrases in his Facebook tome, with their references to faith, smack of that kid in a church youth group who always used prayer requests as an excuse to gossip about other kids in the youth group who weren’t in the room.

Still other pieces of this confessional quilt have enough lashings of self-pity to make Uriah Heep throw up a little in his mouth. “It seems that history well documents that those who work to avoid conflict at all costs wind up being those destined in many instances to find much conflict,” writes Sanford. Quick, alert the Nobel Committee: Mark Sanford, Peacemaker at a Price.

What transpires is this: Sanford and his wife continue to tussle, legally, over how often he gets to see his sons. He’s accusing her of playing dirty pool–all pretty standard high-conflict divorce shenanigans–and it is stressing him out, people. As a result of this, he’s calling off his engagement to his Argentinian soulmate, whom he has “always loved.” (Not quite enough to let her know in advance of the announcement, though, reports say.)

But while Sanford may be about the most ridiculously inept and cheesy cheating ex of all time, none of it should disqualify him from being able to see his four sons. He says, somewhere in there among all the crazy, that he didn’t get to see one of them for 17 weeks. It’s hard to tell if that’s just the anguish speaking or if it’s true and it’s generally a fool’s errand to try and second guess the family courts. Maybe there are extenuating circumstances. But if true, that’s too long. There’s already enough fatherlessness in the land.

Custody battles can be ugly messy businesses and can end up in disaster and tragedy. Posting a public tear on a well-visited social media site about a mean ex-wife is clearly bad for the kids (and avert-your-eyes embarrassing for everyone else), but it does not disqualify someone from being a dad. One definite upside of regular contact with one’s offspring is that they’re not afraid to opine on how irrevocably lame attempts at social media are. Now that is advice which Sanford desperately needs to hear right now. And which we, the public, need him to hear.

TIME

5 Reasons Dads Shouldn’t Work Outside the Home

Dana Menussi—Getty Images

Your kids will be smarter and safer—and your sex will get a boost

The research is conclusive: the only way to guarantee a happy and successful family is for dads to stay home with their children. Yet, for some reason, many men continue to remain in the workforce, even after fatherhood, honestly believing it to be in the best interest of their household. One has to wonder if these misguided individuals read anything online at all. In report after report, poll after poll, no matter how few people questioned or how unscientific the study, the implications are the same: stay-at-home dads rule and working dads drool.

1. Dads who do the dishes raise the best kids. While it is true that any dad can do dishes, most of them don’t. According to a 2013 survey of a whole lot of people by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of dudes in this country are kind of slackers. Stay-at-home dads, however, must do dishes. It’s in the job description. This is important because, according to a highly reported University of British Columbia study (that hasn’t actually been published yet), a strong indicator of a girl’s ambition is how active her father is in household chores. The study found that it is one thing for men to talk the talk of gender equality, it’s quite another to diaper the diaper, launder the laundry, and vacuum the floor. Stay-at-home dads perform all these chores and then some. Though it must be said that, according to informal discussions at a local dad group, “not, like, every day,” because that would be “crazy talk, man.”

2. Stay-at-home dads create future TED Talkers. It cannot be denied that moms are integral in their child’s language development, but recent research, written about by Paul Raeburn in his book Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, has come to the conclusion that dads are, wait for it… more important. It is suggested that when fathers converse with their children “they use a broader vocabulary [than mothers], and their children learn new words and concepts as a result.” It could be said that this effect is enhanced with stay-at-home dads, who can go for long stretches of time with little to no adult interaction, but still need someone to talk to. Stay-at-home dads often forget that their kids aren’t intimately familiar with the Star Wars universe, but they’re not surprised when, after many conversations about the subject, one of their little tykes opines that Jar Jar Binks was a complete abomination.

3. Stay-at-home dads keep children the safest. Upon first reading, this may seem counter-intuitive, but Mariana Brussoni, an assistant professor in the Dept. of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, makes a compelling argument. Fathers, in general, are more likely than mothers to engage in rough and tumble play with their kids. Thus, the assumption may be that dads are more willing to allow bodily injury to befall their children, or, at least, that they are more willing than moms to take that chance. This is not the case. According to Dr. Brussoni, “children who have the opportunity to engage with risks in a secure setting with minimal hazards and appropriate supervision learn lessons that will serve them in good stead when they encounter risks in the ‘real’ world.” Basically, even though it looks to the casual observer like dads are just goofing off and letting their kids perform dumb and dangerous feats of idiocy, they are actually instilling in their children the ability to properly evaluate the limits of adventurous and enterprising behavior. Stay-at-home dads can teach PhD-level courses in playing perilously close to the edge, without going over (or, in any case, how to fall without breaking anything that won’t heal).

4. Stay-at-home dads are better in bed. It all starts with a happy marriage and a healthy sex life. In a poll by Time Money, where I have to assume the guys made sure their wives were not looking at their answers, 44% of men who earn more than their spouses said they have “hot” or “very good” sex. This number jumps to 56% when the ladies brought home more of that bacon. It is thought that the stress of office life makes it difficult for some men to perform. Not a problem for stay-at-home dads. Another theory might be that men are turned on by powerful women who make more money than they do. Nowhere is the reverse-gender pay differential greater than between a working wife and her stay-at-home husband. I do not have the specific data on how “hot” the sex is for stay-at-home dads, but the numbers are pretty easy to extrapolate. My assumption would be that 68% (with a standard deviation of 1%) of stay-at-home dads are satisfied by the temperature of what’s going on in the boudoir.

5. Involved fathers have smaller testicles (which makes their penises look bigger). It’s true. A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS for, ah, short), found that involved dads have more modest nads than their deadbeat counterparts. This is a good thing. Sack size has nothing to do with sperm count or testosterone levels, just that the berries are a bit smaller in relation to the stick. Being a stay-at-home dad won’t make your penis bigger, but it may make it look bigger. This is not the best reason to become a full time parent, but worse things could happen. And, admittedly, sometimes they do. One of the most agonizing day-to-day experiences of every stay-at-home dad is the constant barrage of tiny elbows, knees, and head-butts to your balls. Trust me, you will want your testes as small and hidden as possible.

Lesser blogs at Amateur Idiot/Professional Dad.

TIME

My Wife’s Abortion vs. Your Free Speech

I still remember the harassment the day we visited a clinic four years ago. By ruling the 35-ft. buffer zone unconstitutional, the Supreme Court is putting people in danger

Planned Parenthood Clinic Will Open After Court Battle
A truck covered with anti-abortion messages is used to protest the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora, Ill., on Oct. 2, 2007. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Thirty-five feet.

It’s a little more than half the distance from home plate to the pitcher’s mound on a baseball diamond. It’s slightly longer than the length of two Cadillac Escalades. It’s 5 ft. shorter than a standard telephone pole.

And until today, when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the buffer zone unconstitutional because it allegedly infringed on free-speech rights, it was the distance anti-choice protesters were forced to stay away from people entering abortion clinics in Massachusetts.

“That’s a lot of space.”

That’s how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan described the 35 ft. during oral arguments in January. And I guess it is a lot of space—depending on your perspective. For Justice Kagan, 35 ft. on a tape measure might seem like a lot. But I have a slightly different perspective, one that is far more personal and relevant to this particular issue.

In 2010, my wife and I went to a Brookline, Mass., abortion clinic after a team of renowned Boston doctors diagnosed our 16-week-old unborn baby with Sirenomelia. Our baby’s legs were fused together, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The baby had no kidneys, no bladder and no anus. We were given the heartbreaking news that there was a 0% chance of a live birth.

Because my wife’s health wasn’t in immediate danger, the hospital couldn’t get her in for a termination for two weeks. However, that meant it’d be a 50/50 chance of being able to have an abortion or having to deliver a stillborn. After much soul searching and contemplating a no-win scenario, my wife decided a stillbirth was more than she could handle and so the hospital sent us to a recommended clinic to perform an abortion.

When we pulled into the parking lot and got out of our car, the saddest day of our lives got exponentially worse.

Two women, 35 ft. away, were standing across the street holding signs. When they saw us, they immediately started yelling things like “Don’t do it!” and “You’re killing your unborn baby!” I couldn’t have been more horrified. I couldn’t believe how these people would willingly stand outside and harass others at their weakest and most vulnerable. I couldn’t mask my anger, nor could my wife hold back her tears at being unnecessarily and unfairly vilified.

But you know what I could do? I could hear them.

I heard them exercising their First Amendment rights from across the street. I heard them over the din of passing traffic. I heard them from 35 ft. away. Loud and clear.

Those protesters made every use of their right to free speech. Even with a 35-ft. buffer zone, they delivered their message of shame and guilt with ease. In fact, the only thing that was restricted that day was my wife’s ability to walk into a medical facility free from harassment.

And ironically, when I went out to videotape a conversation with them after my wife was in surgery to challenge them in a nonviolent manner, it was the protesters who threatened to call the police and have me removed.

So, Justice Kagan, with all due respect, 35 ft. is not a lot of space when you’re shouting insults at strangers and judging them absent any facts. What it does do, however, is put some very important space between emotionally volatile people enduring copious amounts of heartbreak and those who seek to shame them. Space that could be the only thing preventing physical altercations and scuffles. (The Brookline clinic is where John Salvi shot and killed two Planned Parenthood workers in 1994.)

Had SCOTUS upheld the constitutionality of the buffer zone it would’ve preserved the free speech of the protesters while ensuring women have unobstructed access to the buildings that house their reproductive-health specialists. But without that separation, I worry how often and to what degree future conflicts will escalate.

Too much space? With all due respect, Justice Kagan, 35 ft. wasn’t nearly enough to block out the horror and insults while running the gauntlet that day at the hands of those whose free speech you seek to protect.

Even after 35 ft. and four years later, my wife and I still hear them.

TIME

HIV Did Not Stop Me From Having a Biological Child

Author Ben Banks with daughter Finley and wife Kasiah
Author Ben Banks with daughter Finley and wife Kasiah Rachel Taylor—Piedmont Photography/Palmyra, VA

Though I have been HIV-positive since childhood, it has always been my dream to have a family. Last year, my wife and I welcomed our biological daughter

On Monday, April 15, 2013, at 8:00 a.m., my life changed forever. My wife, Kasiah, and I welcomed our first child, a healthy girl named Finley Elizabeth Banks, into this world. She was perfect. But the journey to have a healthy, HIV-free biological child began many years before Finley’s birth.

In 1981, when I was two years old, I was diagnosed with Bilateral Wilms’ tumors, a cancer of the kidneys, which had also spread to both of my lungs. The prognosis was grim; treatment was aggressive. My tiny toddler body fought a battle that required 15 months of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgeries that required multiple blood transfusions.

Unknowingly, I was transfused with blood that infected me with HIV. Ten years later, having lived through a cancer-free childhood, doctors screened my blood during a routine oncology check-up. They discovered that I was HIV-positive.

In 1991, the epidemic was still raging, and very little was known about how HIV/AIDS infected and affected children. Pediatric treatment options were limited — AZT (the drug that drives the plot of Dallas Buyers Club) had only been approved for young patients the previous year.

Support from family and friends gave me the hope and strength I needed to fight every day and continue to plan for my future: graduate from high school and college, get married, and start a family. School required hard work and determination on my part, but starting a family would require unconditional love and support from another person, someone who could look past my HIV-positive diagnosis and see all of me.

That person was my best friend, Kasiah. We married in 2003. She believed in our future together, which included trusting that research would be developed to allow us to have a healthy, HIV-free biological child.

As we began to explore options, Kasiah and I were frustrated at the lack of family-planning data or information out there for serodiscordant couples like us, in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other is negative.

After endless telephone calls and consultations, we opted for sperm-washing and artificial insemination. Sperm washing is a technique commonly used to screen for genetic disorders, but the process is especially important for mixed-status couples who choose to have biological children. Doctors separate sperm from infected fluid, producing a virus-free sample (as with anything in medicine, the process does not 100% guarantee no transmission, and it is illegal in some states, but studies have shown its vast success).

After the sperm was washed, two samples were tested for HIV and both results were negative. This step was critical because we wanted to reduce the chances of horizontal (to the woman) or vertical (to the child) transmission of HIV as much as possible. And as mentors to younger HIV-positive children, adolescents, and young adults, we wanted to give the message of prevention.

Despite the now-wide research and documentation of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), there is still little dialogue around a father’s role in PMTCT. By not considering an HIV-positive male in terms of reproduction, a large portion of the HIV population is being ignored. We share our story and our daughter’s story to let other HIV-positive men know that the possibility of having a healthy, HIV-free family is very much a reality.

In the year we have loved Finley, we know what it means to be truly unselfish. Our hearts melt when we hear the words, “Ma-ma!” or “Da-da!” And we would not trade the sleepless nights, early wake-up calls, or dirty diapers for anything in the world.

Ben Banks is an HIV-positive Ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which celebrate its 25th anniversary this week. He lives in Virginia with his family.

TIME Parenting

Breaking News: Having a Father Is a Good Thing

Hey dads, they like you, they really like you!
Hey dads, they like you, they really like you! Jekaterina Nikitina; Getty Images

A new book 'discovers' the obvious—and the headlines follow. Enough already with the wonder of the dad

Science has a deliciously entertaining habit of stating the obvious. For every ingenious, truly groundbreaking insight that has a researcher sitting bolt upright at 3:00 a.m. entertaining dizzy visions of an inevitable Nobel, there other insights—researched, peer reviewed and published—that you don’t exactly need a double Ph.D to figure out. And so you get studies showing that “Moderate Doses of Alcohol Increase Social Bonding in Groups” or “Dogs Learn to Associate Words With Objects Differently Than Humans Do” or the breaking story that opened with the tantalizing headline, “Causes of Death in Very Old People.” Um, old age?

But the thing about these studies is this: somebody had to do them. Science is nothing if not persnickety about proof, and if you don’t have the data, you can’t officially establish the case. So the work gets done and the box gets checked and progress marches on. It was with that in mind that I tried to read with equanimity a Father’s Day gift from The Washington Post, which led its review of Paul Raeburn’s book Do Fathers Matter? with the headline, “Yes Dads, You Do Matter.”

And so, too, I tried to embrace the idea that Raeburn’s book needs to exist at all.

It’s not that the book isn’t a good, solid piece of science journalism. It is. And it’s not that Raeburn isn’t a good, solid science reporter. He’s been in the game a long time and is the media critic for MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Tracker.

The deeper question is: are we not yet past this? It’s a question Raeburn himself raises but seems to answer with an emphatic no simply by having written his book. There seems to be no killing the idea of dad the extraneous; dad the superfluous; dad, who’s nice to have around the house but only in the way that air conditioning is nice to have in the car — it makes things more comfortable, but you’ll still get where you’re going without it.

It’s as if the steady shrinking of the Y chromosome over the ages is somehow being mirrored by the dwindling relevance of the parent who carries this dying scrap of DNA. That vanishing Y, as recent studies have established, has been both arrested and overstated, but not before giving rise to headlines like “As Y Chromosome Shrinks, End of Men Pondered.” And that bit of silliness came from NPR, not, say, TMZ.

The idea of the father’s expendability has been exacerbated by the persistence of the doofus dad stereotype, something else Raeburn addresses: the well-intentioned bumbler who is still a staple of kid-targeted TV (thank you, Disney Channel). He’s the guy who can’t quite boil an egg and can’t be trusted to go shopping, but is eventually bailed out by mom or one of the kids, who set things right. Eyes roll, dad looks abashed and hilarity ensues. Except it’s not really funny—though not because it’s profoundly offensive or causes deep wounds to the sensitivities of a newly defined oppressed group. There’s enough elective umbrage at large already without adding one more voice of grievance to one more cable news show.

It’s just … off, somehow—like Jay Leno’s cringe-worthy performance at the 2010 White House Correspondent’s dinner, during which he made jokes about President Obama’s courage because (wait for it!) he invited his mother-in-law to live in the White House. There was a time, maybe, when the mother-in-law as harridan image was an apt—or at least fresh—source of humor, but that time is long past. Ditto dad as dunce.

Raeburn’s book is guilty of none of this. It’s stuffed with studies showing the vital role fathers play in their children’s lives from the moment of conception, through the mother’s pregnancy and onward. But there’s still a sense of wonder that comes with it. “The discovery of the father is one of the most important developments in the study of children and families,” is a nice line. But is it true? Is this really something that needs “discovering?” And do fathers really need a new book and a major newspaper reminding them that “You Do Matter?” Not on Father’s Day at least. And certainly not on one in the 21st century.

TIME Parenting

How Work Culture Changes a Man’s Idea of Fatherhood

Diane Collins and Jordan Hollende—Getty Images

New study says dads are formed by their workplace too

Many, many, many kilobytes of data have been given over to how working mothers balance their mothering and money-earning identities and how that is changing families and therefore society. A new stream of data is trickling out on the other side of the story too, how men resolve their images of themselves as workers and fathers.

A small qualitative study on “new dads” in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that American men switch between four images of themselves as fathers: provider, role model, partner and nurturer. Depending on their work lives, one of these roles is always in the ascendant. The demands of men’s jobs and the flexibility of their working hours have a lot of sway over what area of responsibility fathers feel they should be spending most energy on. Dads with high stress or inflexible positions may find it impossible to spend time being a nurturer, for example. Studies have shown that dads are feeling the stress of work-life balance as well.

Another influential factor is the number and quality of conversations men have about being a dad while they’re at the office. There are workplace environments where any talk of child rearing or family responsibilities beyond breadwinning are rare if not exactly verboten. These workplaces are becoming fewer—a group of men who run a Deloitte Dads group out of Toronto recently made the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek— but they’re still the norm. A guy who takes a few days off playing baseball to attend the birth of his son, for example, can still produce a public roasting on sports radio.

Many of the issues fathers face are similar to those faced by females but unlike women, men seem to feel less conflict about which role they should be playing at any one time. This is probably only partly because mothering comes with more historical baggage and higher expectations from society. It may also be partly because of biology, since the role of mothers and fathers in the birth of a child is a little bit like the roles of artists and framers in the creation of a painting. One is essential, the other is helpful.

The study’s authors, Beth Humberd of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Jamie Ladge at Northeastern University and Brad Harrington of the Boston College Center for Work and Family interviewed 31 working fathers with working spouses for their results. They recommend that employers acknowledge that fatherhood is a more time and attention consuming task than it has been in recent history. This isn’t just about creating family friendly leave and work-life policies, although those are important. It’s about that tricky thing, workplace culture. “While work-life policies and programs can be designed to be gender neutral, often organizational cultures are not, ” the authors write. “There is still a strong cultural perspective that when men become fathers, little will change for them on the work front.” Perhaps office mates should start organizing baby showers for new dads, as an act of revolution.

TIME psychology

Does Daddy Love You More if You Look Like Him?

Yes, he does:

Abstract: Human fathers face paternity uncertainty and are expected to use cues of relatedness to adjust their investment. So far, the main cue hypothesised to account for paternity assessment is facial phenotypic resemblance between a father and his child. However, previous studies showing a discriminative paternal investment either relied on fathers’ perceptions of resemblance (which differs from actual resemblance, as perceived resemblance could be socially biased), or manipulated facial resemblance. In this study, we investigate in a real-life situation, whether (1) the perception of child facial resemblance and (2) the likelihood of parental investment were predicted by actual facial resemblance to self, for both parents. The actual facial resemblance of 79 French children was quantified by testing external judges. Data on ascription of resemblance and parental investment were collected in private for each parent. First, ascription of facial resemblance was found to be consistent between the two parents and to match actual resemblance to the father. Second,emotional closeness as reported by fathers, but not by mothers, was found to be predicted by actual facial resemblance to self. This suggests that paternity uncertainty has favored the use of facial phenotype matching in fathers.

Source: Are parents’ perceptions of offspring facial resemblance consistent with actual resemblance? Effects on parental investment from Evolution & Human Behavior by Alexandra Alvergne, Charlotte Faurie, Michel Raymond

Follow me on Twitter here or get updates via email here.

Related posts:

10 things you need to know about families

Why you don’t want an older brother or a younger pair of twin siblings

Is your brother smart? Then you might be crazy.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser