Beta Dad just might be the most prolific daddy blogger on the interwebs. Either that, or he's the most exhausted. Besides blogging in his own private space at Beta Dad, he contributes to a plethora of dad- and parent-centered sites. Oh, and did we mention he happens to be insightful and hilarious?Beta Dad spends his days taking care of his twin girls, who just turned two, and his unique situation leads to some interesting insights about parenthood. Having married a woman whose first language is Vietnamese, he writes eloquently about raising bi-lingual kids and encounters with his wife's culture and religion. Of course, many parenting arenas wouldn't be complete with a time-consuming animal to take care of, so Beta Dad fills us in on his struggles with their complicated dog. Not unsurprisingly, he sometimes ruminates on the gender politics involved in stay-at-home parenting. Mostly, though, he simply shares the battles, bewilderment, wonder and sheer joy of raising his kids.
Read on to find out a little more about what makes Beta Dad tick.
When did you start blogging, and why?
I started in March of 2010. I have a friend from grad school who wrote her thesis on mommybloggers. She introduced me to the whole concept, and also steered me toward some good daddybloggers. I was all, "Hey...I could do that! All I need are some kids!" So I hatched a plan to impregnate my wife, become a stay-at-home dad, and start blogging.
After Step 1 was accomplished, though, I had to build an addition onto our tiny bungalow (I'm part carpenter and part writing teacher when I'm not all SAHD), so there would be some place to put the twins. The house was about half done when the girls came home, so I continued working like a madman (a conscientious, highly motivated one) during the four months that my wife was on maternity leave. Then I took over the childcare, but I still hadn't finished the house. So whenever the kids were napping, I would run outside with the monitor in my toolbelt, jump on the scaffolding and hang some siding or put shingles on the roof. Step 3 of my plan was a bit delayed by the construction because I didn't have much time or energy left for writing. But finally, when the kids were about 8 months old, I launched my blog.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't really start blogging to create a "digital scrapbook" of my kids' childhoods, or to avoid isolation and frustration by sharing stories and commiserating with other parents. I just wanted to write, and here I had a community of writers and readers I could insinuate myself into; and, in my children, an inexhaustible font, not only of excrement, but of writing material. But as much as I tried to remain cynical and detached about the whole process as I strove to make my millions in the blogging biz, I did end up with a digital scrapbook and a bunch of close friends, many of whom I've never met in "real life."
You wrote recently about a certain "twinge of self-consciousness about my role as a full-time nurturer in a world where men are usually expected to be out hunting down prey." What do you find to be the most difficult part of full-time parenting as a dad?
The most difficult part is definitely not dealing with the societal pressure to conform to gender norms. Worrying about that stuff is a luxury reserved for rare moments of tranquility when the kids aren't running amok, the dishes are all done, the meals are cooked, and the leaky roof is fixed. The most difficult part of parenting is the workload, and I think that's pretty much the same for dads as it is for moms. The main difference, I suspect, sadly, is that stay-at-home dads probably get more support from their spouses than stay-at-home moms (or any kind of moms, really) do. I know that's a gross generalization, but it's one supported by anecdotal evidence from a lot of parents I know, as well as by research on the distribution of unpaid household work in families. So the most difficult aspect of parenting for me is staying on top of the drudgery; but my wife does more than her share, so it's really not that bad. I've had far, far, far more frustrating and tedious jobs.
How has blogging, or more generally the internet community, changed the way you parent?
I've been blogging almost as long as I've been parenting full-time, so I don't know that it's really "changed" my parenting style. But it has definitely affected and helped shape it. The whole idea of sharing the parenting experience definitely plays into a lot of the choices I make. The most cynical way to think about this is that I might do some cool activity with my kids because I think it would make for a good blog post. But, hey, we're getting out of the house, right? A more subtle and positive way this compulsive storytelling affects my (and other bloggers', I'm sure) parenting is that I think about what I'm doing on a "meta" level. It becomes more than, "how will this play out on the blog?" and "what will my readers think?" It really makes me examine what I'm doing from the point of view of some objective, hypothetical judge.
OMG, as they say. Did I just imply that my relationship to the internet is like a religious person's relationship to their god? I think I did.
Having recently attended Mom 2.0, how do you imagine the relationship between the mommy blogging community and the daddy blogging community? Have you experienced any conflict from bloggers of either gender?
At Mom 2.0, the dads were treated like rock stars. I would have been embarrassed if I hadn't been too busy enjoying every goddamn second of it. I haven't felt anything but love from mommybloggers toward myself or the daddyblogging community in general, with just a couple exceptions. And the few instances of contention that I have witnessed have been, generally speaking, dads feeling bitter because they don't get as much recognition as moms, and moms feeling like dads are encroaching on their territory. I empathize with both perspectives, and I think they are worth talking about, but not worth everybody getting huffy about, which they generally don't.
Except for the one time when I publicly attacked the World's #1 Daddy Blogger of All Time Ever, I haven't been involved in any conflict with anyone. I've been privy to plenty of gossip and blogger-bashing, but it hasn't had much to do with gender--it's mostly about who sucks and who doesn't.
Where do you go on the web for inspiration?
I don't usually go anywhere looking for inspiration. I look for laughs, and to see what my imaginary friends are up to. That said, the internet places I frequent that are most likely to inspire me to be creative, fearless, and to write like I give a shit are probably Steam Me Up Kid, and Sweet Juniper!Do you have any favorite posts you'd like to share?
Of mine? Of course!
Night at the Park, where I ruminate about our local park, where children, hobos, athletes, coyotes, and tranny hookers all coexist in harmony.
Project Trike: I built my kids some elaborate balance bike/trike contraptions out of plywood. You know, because I thought it would make a good blog post.
Tex: My dad guest posted for Father's Day and share some amazing stories about his own dad, a cowboy, railroad worker, and the toughest guy I've ever known. I didn't write most of this one, but it might be my favorite.
Thanks, Beta Dad! Read more about Beta Dad, Butterbean and Cobra over at Beta Dad.
(Images: Beta Dad)
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