Doug Derda began blogging in 1997, just to update family and friends on his life.
“Then five years ago, my youngest was born, and that changed everything,” he says. The child, whom Derda calls Teaspoon in his blog, spent his first month of life in neonatal intensive care. The couple had gone to only their first parenting class when Teaspoon arrived prematurely, at 32 weeks.
Derda’s first major child-centered blog update came when his son was released to go home. “First I asked my wife, ‘Do you mind if I do this?’ She said, ‘No, go ahead and do this. If it can help another preemie in the NICU, let’s put it out there.'”
Ever since, blogging has helped him figure out things going on with his kids, who are now five and three. “There’s a lot of mommy bloggers but there’s not a lot of dad bloggers out there,” he says. “Is everything I’m going through normal? It’s been a real relief to find out I’m not alone.”
While the most famous local father online may be the satirical Pittsburgh Dad–his Twitter bio says, “Quit screwin’ around on the computer and help your mum carry the groceries into the house”–Pittsburgh dads find value in blogging online. Putting serious fatherhood issues on Facebook, Twitter and their blogs helps them exchange worthwhile advice, form a kind of fraternity and realize they’re doing okay at the job of raising their children.
Derda is still careful about what he puts out there. “In 20 years, when my kids come back and read this, what are they going to see there?” he says. “So I think of my kids reading my blog.
“We try to limit documenting every moment,” he adds, “trying to keep in mind that down the road when they’re 13 and 14, one of their friends would see the site. Do you want them seeing a picture of your kid running around without his pants on? I tried in the past to keep my kids out of my blog for privacy reasons. Then I realized there were too many fun things that were happening.”
Derda was laid off in December, which has focused his blogging even more on his family. “Since I’m now a stay-at-home dad, I’m realizing a lot of stuff my wife was doing as a stay-at-home mom,” he says. Where he had previously taken the evening parenting shift, the couple have now switched roles, with Derda’s wife moving from part-time to full-time at her health-care post. “It was quite a shock,” he says, but he has adjusted; now he has plans to get his kids involved in sports this spring.
Meanwhile, he says, “I consider myself a connoisseur of mall parks. I get picked on, on Twitter, by the mommy bloggers because I spend so much time at mall parks.”
A fraternal connection
“If I’m not talking about my kids, I try to share a lot of articles about parenting,” says Eric Williams of Greenfield, who blogs and tweets about his three kids ages 5, 4 and 3 (and another one coming in September) at Funky Dung (which is not a diapering reference but an ancient Pink Floyd song). He also joins other dads, local and otherwise, for Twitter chats through Dads Roundtable and Dads Talking which can cover everything from school choice and discipline to cognitive development.
“My interaction with other dads on the ‘Net is sort of fraternal – knowing that there are other folks out there who see the world in a similar way,” Williams says. That’s partly because it is taking longer for stay-at-home dads like himself to gain acceptance, he believes, compared to acceptance long-ago won for moms entering the workforce.
“Sometimes other men look askance, or some women don’t care for it,” he says. “They’re kind of weirded out when men show up at places with their kids.” He remembers getting stares as he sat on a park bench one weekday afternoon – the only dad watching his own kids at play. He also recalls the time he took one child to the grocery store and the kid was loudly unhappy, but Williams kept shopping, prompting unsolicited comments from moms. “They asked ‘What did daddy do to you?’ like I’m some bumbling Homer Simpson character. It can’t be because the kid is just over-tired!”
He also believes dad bloggers are looking for something slightly different from their online associations than their mom counterparts.