Updated: October 10, 2012 6:11AM
Things have changed some since I became a stay-at-home dad roughly six years ago.
I see more dads at the park during the week. There seems to be more fathers pushing grocery carts front-loaded with babies too. And more proud papas appear to be dropping off and picking up kids from school.
These activities are still dominated by mothers. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. But dads certainly seem to be playing a more active and visible part in parenting, beyond their traditional role of breadwinner.
As further proof, I point to Hollywood. Involved dads are increasingly appearing on television as well. Stay-at-home dads are even part of the cast of characters on such hit shows as “Up All Night,” “Modern Family” and “Parenthood.”
These characters have thus far been presented as both competent and caring.
In fact, I was hoping the whole “Mr. Mom” cliche was fading away. This tired cliche paints at-home dads as naturally unequipped at childrearing for cheap laughs. Predictable gags often include spilled baby bottles, backward diapers and a mother swooping in to save the day.
I saw several previews for NBC’s “Guys with Kids” during the Olympic Games. Immediately, I felt any progress made in the portrayal of fathers was about to take a giant step backward.
The main teaser for the show which debuts Sept. 26 starts with three guys sitting at a bar watching a basketball game. They turn around to cheer. And (surprise) they’re all wearing kids in baby carriers. They proceed to engage in a celebratory belly bump with their children.
I had an opportunity to speak with the show’s executive producer, Charlie Grady, and one of the stars, Anthony Anderson, last week. Grady previously worked on “The Office.” Anderson most recently appeared on “Law & Order.”
The pair promised that their new show isn’t 30 minutes of dads being buffoons. But “that’s not to say that they (the characters) can’t be befuddled,” Grady said during a conference call.
“From the moment we pitched the show, that was part of the pitch. We wanted to do confident dads,” he added.
Anderson’s character, “Gary,” is a stay-at-home dad of four children. I was happy to hear that in the script he chose to leave his job to become a full-time caregiver. He also credited the writers for not relying on “fart jokes and pee jokes and diaper jokes.”
“You can go for the quick and easy laugh all the time, but that’s short-lived,” Anderson said.
He’s right. The character of “Cam” on “Modern Family” isn’t portrayed as an incompetent parent. He’s still funny but for other reasons entirely. The same can be said for the character of “Chris” on “Up All Night.” I’ve never seen “Parenthood,” but The Wife said its stay-at-home dad character is also portrayed as capable and caring.
I sincerely hope “Guys with Kids” carries on in this fashion. If the show instead resorts to cheap gags about incompetent fathers, I hope viewers and NBC executives belly bump it off the air.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at email@example.com.