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Corporations Catching Up to Fatherhood

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During a recent perusal of the ProActiveDads Twitterverse, I came upon a blog post titled, "A Turning Point in the Fatherhood Revolution." The author, Al Watts, states his claim that the recent Huggies dad disaster represents a new attitude in the portrayal of fatherhood and a step towards asserting a more positive and equal depiction of dads.

As much as I wish this were true, I don't believe history will view it as a watershed moment. Just weeks later, Ragu rolled out a web video campaign completely excluding fatherhood from its depiction of caring parents. Jif still remains a bastion exclusive to "choosy moms." The entire Pampers website has exactly one article for dads, but no photos, videos or other features. Adding insult to injury, the article isn't even about diapering -- it talks about the importance of parents reading to their children. And finally, Huggies' own "Nominate a Dad" campaign -- the origin of the ad debacle -- proudly lists the recent weekly winners: All are women. So even when dads are nominated, they still aren't considered the actual winners.

I wholeheartedly support dads like Mr. Watts and John "The DaddyYo Dude" Taylor who voiced their outrage when Huggies erred and then congratulated them when the derogatory campaign was rectified. They made sure Huggies heard the anger and disappointment of fathers and stood on the front lines for all of us.

The Huggies moment is undeniably important and stands as a moment of optimism for moms and dads who hope to see parenting respected. To be clear, this is not about dads being heard. The issue is much larger and vital to all parents because we need to approach our roles differently. Men and women are both employed. Men and women are both in the kitchen. Men and women are both at the grocery store. Men and women are both changing diapers. But men and women are not both respected as parents. Moms are seen as the caregivers and despite all the social changes of the previous five decades, dads are viewed as nothing more than financial providers. Corporate America doesn't react favorably when it's men try to be dads.

Maternity leave is almost universally available in American corporations today. However, paternity leave is exceedingly rare, especially paid paternity leave. As of 2008, California is the only state with laws specifically offering paternity leave. Fortunately, fathers and mothers are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn child under the Family and Medical Leave Act. But how many families can afford to take 12 days of unpaid leave, let alone 12 weeks?

There still remains many years of patient work for dads as we seek to change the workplace and overall social perception of fatherhood. Each small battle won against companies like Huggies are successful steps in the right direction. But we have not yet seen our Rosa Parks. We're still in the back of the parenting bus and as more and more active fathers congregate, eventually, we will press forward and join the moms as socially accepted role models for our children.