In 2012, father of two Doyin Richards started a blog called Daddy Doin' Work about the hilarities, joys and challenges of being an involved parent. The project started as a fun way to share family anecdotes, but has since explored deeper topics, such as the evolving nature of fatherhood and society's definition of what it means to be a man. Last month, Richards left his job in the corporate world to stay at home with his daughters and focus on his writing career, which now includes a book based on the blog. Here he discusses the preposterous "Mr. Mom" moniker and why women can occasionally be their own worst enemies when it comes to active fatherhood.
The tag line of the book is 'Empowering mothers to evolve fatherhood.' What made you decide to speak to the opposite sex?
Almost all of the fathering books out there are written by dads for dads, but I started looking at my following on Facebook, which have always been women, and I just had this realization that, wow, women play this humungous role in getting dads to be involved and be engaged and in evolving fatherhood as an institution. I looked for a book on that topic, but I couldn't find it. It's like half of the equation was missing.
What inspired you to start the Daddy Doin' Work blog?
After I had my first daughter, I was always sharing crazy stories about her and the things she would do and say. People kept telling me, hey, you should start a blog. For a long time it was a hobby, but after a while I realized that my platform was growing and the content was changing a bit, too, or at least expanding. The blog became more of a movement and a place to talk about fatherhood in a way that it isn't often talked about. So often men are viewed as buffoons who can't take care of their kids without a woman around. That's just not true. There are so many great and committed fathers out there and I'm here to be their advocate, their daddy consultant. … Their dad-vocate! Trademark alert!
A lot of people were first exposed to you earlier this year as the dude who became a viral sensation for brushing his daughter's hair. Can you give a quick recap?
I was on paternity leave from my corporate job. My wife, who was usually the one in charge of doing hair, was running late to get to work, so I told her to just go and I would handle everything. I put Reiko, my youngest, in the baby carrier and I put Emiko in front of the sink and started brushing her hair. I thought my wife would want to see this moment, so I took a photo and sent it to her. She loved it and later I shared the photo on social media. It wasn't a big deal. I have shared hundreds of cuter pictures of my kids over the years, but nothing like this, I guess. The Internet completely exploded.
Did you enjoy your 15 minutes of mega-fame?
It was a cool experience, but it also felt strange. Why is this news? I do this every day and so do dads all over the world. Why does Katie Couric want to interview me?
There has been a lot of progress with respect to gender equality in parenting, but in terms of the next generation, it seems like those early gender divides – provider vs. caregiver – are still the norm.
It's so true. You just don't see that many boys who say, 'when I grow up, I want to be a dad.' It's more, 'I want to be a lawyer, an astronaut, a rock star.' The boys want to do something that's strong and provides an income. Like you said, though, there is progress. Ten, 15 years ago the idea of a dad who chose to stay at home with his kids was laughable. Like, what are you – Mr. Mom? I hate that term, by the way. … Is a woman who works in corporate America Mrs. Man? Enough with these labels. It's just such a lazy, antiquated narrative that needs to be put to death.
Speaking of expressions that need to be outlawed, let's talk about dads and 'babysitting.'
Before I had kids I can remember hearing guys say how they couldn't come out tonight because they had to babysit. I didn't think much of it, but now that I'm a dad that term drives me crazy. Dude, you can't babysit your own kids, it's called raising your children. A babysitter makes sure your kids don't break the furniture or hurt themselves. People will say relax, it's just semantics. But you know, words matter.
Speaking of the controlling-mother archetype, let's talk about her role in all of this.
A lot of women are very well meaning, but there are cases where they tend to micromanage and the result isn't good for anyone. You know, like dad is giving his daughter a bath and he washes her hair last instead of first, the way that mom does it. And she's there saying, 'Why are you doing it that way? Don't do it that way!' Of course the guy is going to feel demotivated and then he just says screw it, and the woman is complaining about how she never gets any help. Moms, you have to let a dad do things his way. It might not be your way, but that doesn't make it wrong.
This interview has been condensed and edited.