Friday, March 04, 2005

Male mommy movies

I've never found them very funny. I've never given them much thought at all. Perhaps that's because on some level I always found them to trivialize parenting.

For CBC, Katrina Onstad writes:

In the course of belittling fathers, and eliding mothers (once they go back to work, the vanished women come home late, hands on hips, shaking their heads at the messy kitchen), these films deify children. Skateboarding boys and precocious little girls prove, over and over, that they're not such pains in the ass after all. The chaos they create isn't a problem, but in fact, just harmless self-expression; we should learn from their mess, not force them to clean it up. Kids are fountains of truth that adults need only drink from to ensure their own youth. . . On screen, staying at home has nothing to do with equalizing the father-mother roles, and everything to do with men finding themselves. Balance is never an issue; it's either parent or work, play or be a slave to the man.

...And let me say that of course children better and teach their parents. And of course there's nothing wrong with choosing home over work; women have long fought for that choice...

...Childhood is a relatively new invention, a social construct...

The place of children among us has fluctuated throughout history — seen, heard, neither, both — but since the 1960s, western culture has been seized by youth worship. The upside is, of course, awareness of child poverty and abuse, and the downside is baby yoga. As a moms' group dropout, I can never quite groove to the whole "kid culture" of my Toronto neighborhood. The co-sleeping, child-centred, them-first philosophy driving pricey kiddie sing-along courses and baby salsa makes it difficult to say: "I think I’d rather do yoga without a mewling infant on my mat," let alone: "I might be ready to go back to work now." I love my son desperately, but I have aspirations outside of motherhood, too, and to fulfill them, on a daily basis I confront issues of labour division (i.e. toilet cleaning) and finding a decent, carrot-filled day care. Male mommy movies shrug off the seriousness of parenting. The reformed movie dads ask: What's the problem, ladies? Just loosen up, have fun. Kids keep dads young and free of workaday responsibilities, making them better mommies than mommies.


ilona said...

Male Mommy movies are -for the most part- light comedy, never a genre known for taking issues seriously.

Although *extended* childhood may be a modern construct, I don't know that actual childhood is. There were times when constructs had the imposition of children as "little adults", which is probably as contrived as any of the other extremes that cultures sometimes take on.

If anything, I think that pop culture ( including the male mommy movie) simply exaggerates and exhibits some of the thinking of the day. Maybe it shows more about how we think "staying at home" is a day in the park and "going to work" is the only real business of adults.

Maybe we ought to explore that idea.

Paula said...

For the past several years, there seems to be a weird glorification by the media of everything women do. If you stay at home, HOW WONDERFUL! It's so precious to be doing crafts and baking cookies all day, and that's *all* you do, of course. If you work outside the home, HOW WONDERFUL! You dress in cute suits to do Important Things and still make your kid's ballet recital, sliding into the seat next to Hunky Dad who smiles and kisses you.

Reality is a bit different, of course. Most days for most women, whether at home or not, are tedious and tiring, and not very interesting to read about, just as the ordinary man's life has always been.