In Honor of Educators

Error: Very Embarrassing Mistake

“Teaching requires a level of patience that I do not myself possess, and I have huge respect for people who do.”

Please excuse that typo. I am not at all patient - proven again here, when I sent this newsletter without one last proofread.

In Honor of Educators

Teachers, Pride Month and Dads Who Care

Teachers have been a reappearing theme in my research, so I thought – as the end of another academic year wraps up – I would dedicate this month’s newsletter to teachers.

Last month I published my first article in Scary Mommy. It details a situation that we went through in our family, and I give 100% credit to my son’s teacher who – I believe – handled the situation perfectly. She could have shrugged it off, assumed the kids would work it out and/or tell my son to buck up. But she didn’t – she stepped in, made a big deal out of a gendered comment, and turned a sad incident into a teachable moment.

I’ve always had a soft spot for educators. My mom is a retired art teacher, and I was surrounded by her teacher-friends growing up. (Still am, in many ways!) Teaching requires a level of patience that I do not myself possess, and I have huge respect for people who do. So I was excited to see a common link between equal partners and teachers while conducting research. Let me go back a step and explain…

Most of you know that at the heart of my book Equal Partners is detailed information from 40 interviews I did with men who, in my definition, live as “equal partners” in their home. Not men who “help” their partner from time to time, but men who intentionally work against gender norms to do half the physical and cognitive tasks in their household. For ease, I call these guys the EP40.

I didn’t mention this fact in my chapters, but it is worth noting that of those forty men, ten work in education; I interviewed an elementary school teacher, a middle-school teacher, a special-ed teacher, a few high school teachers, a few men in higher education and a few coaches. Education was the most common sector of the EP40.

It was becoming such a popular job category that when I was on interview #29, and met yet another teacher, I decided to raise the issue. I was speaking to a man I’ll call Jack, who lives in Vermont with his partner and two kids. I told Jack that I was meeting many men who worked in education, and asked him what he thought about it; what is it about male teachers that makes them likely to be equal partners in the home? Jack explained that in his mind, it is actually the other way around. He told me, “I think men who are drawn to education are pretty introspective. We’re probably already comfortable with alternative masculinities, since we were drawn to a career that is still really coded for women. I think male teachers are already comfortable going against the gender grain.”

Today I raise my coffee cup to teachers and coaches; to all those who figured out how to pivot to virtual learning, and who showed up in the classroom despite the risks of infection themselves. I thank the teachers who patiently and lovingly reminded my kids over and over (and over and over) to keep their mask on, socially distance, and sanitize. Thank you!

One side benefit of virtual learning (and let’s be honest, there aren’t many) is that I been more involved with my kids’ learning than ever before. While printing off a week’s worth of worksheets on bleary-eyed Monday morning, I was thrilled to see that Ontario integrated Pride Month into their first grade curriculum. One of Jed’s words of the week was PRIDE, which was accompanied with a discussion of Pride Month and this color-by-number. Happy Pride!

I hope everyone had a great Father’s Day!

I’m excited to be doing a series of mini-articles this summer called Dads Who Care for an organization called Fathering Together. I think it is important to normalize men in caregiving roles; share their stories and fathering tips. (After all, many women’s magazines have done this for years.)

If you identify as a dad, you can become a member and access Fathering Together’s Facebook page and all their other member benefits. (I cannot.) But thankfully my articles are on the public website if you want to check them out. I interviewed the organization’s founders, Brian Anderson and Chris Lewis for weeks one and two. Eight more member/dads will comprise the next eight weeks. There’s a stereotype that women like to talk about their partners and kids – but I don’t think men are any different. I find every conversation interesting and insightful. I also appreciated the opportunity to speak to divorced and single dads, which was new – since all my book interviews focused on the theme of partnership.

Not surprisingly, a few of the Fathering Together interviews have also included men who work in education, including a dads who home schools and a dad who works in higher-education.

If you like what you read, you’re welcome to pass this along to the teacher in your life. See you next month - hope everyone is off to a great summer.


Exciting News!

(Not Pfizer exciting - but still worth celebrating.)

A Major Milestone

I am happy to report that the unedited version of my upcoming book Equal Partners is done! Last week I submitted my first full draft to Anna deVries at St. Martin’s Press. The book is slated to publish in 2022, so there are still many months ahead before I can hold it in my hand. But it feels so good to know that this project is no longer only a theory in my head, and that it actually exists … well, at least on my computer.

I did the majority of my research in 2020 and the majority of my writing in 2021. To make sure I never forgot an idea, I turned my office door into a living table of contents. Each sticky note is some sort of inspiration – a story I heard, an article I read, a statistic or data point that I wanted to include. I thought I’d memorialize my door before it goes into the recycle bin.

Writing a book during a pandemic while facilitating virtual learning was... challenging. You can see I finally reverted to teenagers’ tactics and put this sign on my door when I was desperate for quiet time. (It didn’t always work.)

A Literary Fairy Tale

I am frequently asked how I came to meet my agent, Amanda Annis. For our 2-year anniversary, I thought I’d tell our story.

I’d had the idea for Equal Partners for years, but I had no idea how to get a book published. Thankfully, fate intervened. In 2018 I was hired by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) to facilitate their strategic planning process. After working with them closely for several months, I couldn’t wait to attend their next writer’s conference in Oregon.

AWP is a huge event – in 2019 they had over 12,000 participants. It filled Portland’s massive convention center, and most sessions were packed with several hundred participants. I specifically attended sessions that focused on the business side of writing, choosing panels that highlighted agents, publishers and marketing teams.

Amanda was a panelist for one of those sessions. I liked her immediately; she was straight-forward and had a good sense of humor. She didn’t seem to be telling her audience what we wanted to hear – she seemed to be telling us the truth. And I greatly appreciated that honesty. After the session ended, I mustered the courage to introduce myself. That initial conversation only lasted about ten minutes, but ended with an invitation to follow up the next week. It was my Cinderella moment, and I flew back to Ottawa with a giant smile on my face.

After some back and forth on email, we set a time to talk. That first call lasted over two hours – and when I hung up, my first words to Evan were, “I think she actually cares about this book project as much as I do.” I jumped at the chance to work with Amanda, and signed a contract with Trident Media shortly thereafter.

Whereas fiction writers approach publishers with a finished book, non-fiction writers approach publishers with a proposal, and then they have about a year (after the book sells) to turn that proposal into a full manuscript. Once we agreed to work together, Amanda helped me write the proposal for Equal Partners, which, I admit, took longer than I expected – about ten months. It seemed crazy to spend that much time on a proposal. But of course without a great proposal – there is no book.

I was pretty impatient at times. Amanda had to remind me to slow down, put it aside for a week or two, live with it for a while. This was all hard for me to hear – and harder to follow. But in the end, she was right. Ideas needed to simmer in my brain for a while before they sounded right on paper.

Our plan was to pitch the book to publishers in March 2020, which of course, was interrupted by the pandemic. But even as the first wave of COVID was turning the world upside down, Amanda (playing the role of the Fairy God Mother) persevered; the proposal was submitted to publishers in May 2020. After an emotional two weeks that I never want to relive, I accepted an offer from St. Martin’s Press, and the book deal was formally announced on June 17, 2020.

I still believe that Amanda cares about Equal Partners as much as I do. 💙

See you all in June! I’ll get back to gender news next month.

A Month of Empathy

You know how an idea sticks in your head, and you just can’t stop thinking about it? This month I can’t stop thinking about empathy. A lot of people I’ve talked to lately have mentioned the importance of empathy, both experts and non-experts. Empathy – or the capacity to understand another person’s situation – seems to be at the root of compassion, communication, understanding, even household balance. 

I knew empathy was a theme I wanted to write about in my book, so I took some time to read up on it this past month. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite resources here.

1. I loved Jamil Zaki’s book, The War for Kindness. There was a wait list at our local library, and I am impatient, so I ended up buying the e-book. Zaki’s research taught me that empathy is linked to both nature and nurture. He concludes that people are born with a certain bandwidth for empathy that is passed on genetically. BUT through experiences, people can either maximize their empathy range and become more empathetic, or they can minimize their empathy range and be less empathetic. I think this is an especially important point for people who spend time with kids. It seems that it is up to the “village” to help young people maximize empathy.

2. So how do you help kids maximize their potential empathy? The first step is helping kids connect with emotions; if they feel an emotion themselves, they’re more likely to empathize with another going through a similar circumstance. Because boys are not typically socialized to embrace emotion, Promundo has an excellent online resource called the Global Boyhood Initiative. According to their website, “Nearly 70% of parents say that their sons don’t feel comfortable sharing that they are scared or lonely.” To help correct this reality, the website offers cards, categorized by age, to start helpful conversations with young boys. I’ve already tried many with my son, and have learned a lot about him in the process.

My new colleague and friend, Leslie Forde, is conducting a study on parents during the pandemic. Have something to share about your experience over the last 12 months? You can take the survey here. She is encouraging fathers as well as mothers to reply. I did the survey myself, and it only took 6 minutes, so not a huge investment in time! And documenting peoples’ pandemic experiences is important data to collect.

There is an important and deeply emotional conversation happening in many of our states about transgender people and sports. Viewpoints are often driven by ideology and not by science, so I was happy to hear this fact-based NPR story. Dr. Eric Villain, who is an advisor to the International Olympic Committee, says new laws banning transgender girls and women from sports is harmful to transgender athletes and female athletes.

Villain ends the interview by saying “I would encourage parents and people interested in sports to look at all the sides of the issue and not being fixated on the sole issue of gender. There are so many different attributes for an athlete that make them so diverse, so interesting, so different. Some will be good at one sport. Some will be good at other sports. And we should just celebrate this diversity.”

Last week was devastating for the Asian American community. I am often disappointed with quick media bites that over-simplify situations, which is why I particularly liked this article in The Lily, where Asian American scholars weighed in to discuss the various issues at play in last week’s tragedy: Historical anti-Asian sentiment in the US, Intersectional Feminism, Policing, and misinformation and stigma around sex work. “This type of collective grief is why it’s all the more crucial for everyone to better understand and have productive conversations about what happened in Atlanta, scholars say. Here’s how to get those conversations going.”

It isn’t lost on me that I have ended where I started - with empathy. Zaki writes that empathy is directly linked to kindness, and that “empathy’s most important role is to inspire kindness,” which he defines as “our tendency to help each other, even at a cost to ourselves.”


Every Monday in March

I want to use February’s newsletter to highlight the #StandUpDads event. Every Monday in March, Fathering Together is sponsoring a free panel series. I had the privilege to help organize this panel with Michelle Travis, author of Dads for Daughters: How Fathers Can Give Their Daughters a Better, Brighter, Fairer Future and Brian Anderson, Fathering Together’s co-founder and Executive Director.

Each week has a different theme, and although Fathering Together’s members are, well, fathers - this event is for anyone and everyone: moms, dads, parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, babysitters and friends - anyone interested in raising kids to value gender equality.

The panelists are an amazing group of people with a variety of backgrounds: authors, activities, practitioners and small-business owners. Please feel free to join any/all that interest you. I am moderating Weeks 1 and 5, and am a panelist for Week 3. If you think of any great questions you’d like me to ask - let me know and I’ll try my best to work it in.

March 1, Conversation #1: The Early Years. How to promote gender equity with your little kids (age 0-10) with Shani King, Elliot Haspel and Steve Dypiangco. Register here

March 8 Conversation #2: The Tween / Teen Years. How to promote gender equity with your big kids (age 11-18) with Eve Rodsky, Kimberly Wolf and Joe Vess. Register here

March 15 Conversation #3: Integrating Work and Life. How to promote gender equity in your home with your partner with Jessica DeGroot, Leslie Ford and Kate Mangino. Register here

March 22 Conversation #4: Becoming a Workplace Ally. How to promote gender equity at the office with David Smith and Brad Johnson. Register here

March 29 Conversation #5: Becoming a Community Advocate. How to advocate for gender equity in your community with Quentin ‘Q’ Walcott, Ted Bunch and Michelle Travis. Register here

We have all read countless articles on how the pandemic has disproportionately affected women. I’m excited to be part of a conversation to move us forward and actually discuss what to DO about current gender inequality. Hope to see you there!

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) is having their annual conference next week. I attended AWP’s conference in 2019 and can’t say enough about it. It is a wealth of publishing information organized into easy-to-follow sessions for both writers and readers. I left with renewed excitement for writing - and with some wonderful new friends. If you’re interested, link is here. It is, of course, virtual this year. Easy to join!

See you in March! Please feel free to forward this to anyone who might be interested in #StandUpDads.

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