In 1979 it was actually news that I helped raise my child.
As I was going through my files, I came across an old newspaper story written not about me, but about my son, Isaac. He was a precocious 2 ½-year-old who accompanied me to my office about half the time while he was growing up, and the “Boston Herald American”—the Boston Herald’s predecessor—undertook a full page profile of my and Isaac’s workplace routine.
The Law offices of Silverglate, Shapiro, and Gertner provided Isaac with a chair, a desk, a sleeping couch, an Elmo telephone, and all of the crayons a two and a half year old could want. He would work at his desk while I worked at mine; we ate croissants in the morning and pancakes at the café downstairs in the afternoon. Isaac played, napped, and otherwise acted his age, and I worked. For both father and son, the routine worked, and it made sense.
Upon re-reading the article, though, I am struck by just how seemingly radical our routine was. Julie Hatfield meant well with her piece, but her tone of bemusement is unmistakable:
The chair at Silverglate, Shapiro, and Gertner is such a departure from the old leather lounger that it makes you wonder what kind of law gets practiced in these Broad Street offices. It’s blond, and stepped to two levels, so that someone very small can sit on the upper level and rest his feet on what will someday be the seat.
On the wall is a framed print of an exceedingly pregnant man, with the words, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” scratched underneath. And under a small oak desk is a toy box, filled with stuffed animals, blocks and the other usual paraphernalia that you would find in a …law office?
The chair belongs to Mr. Silverglate: Isaac Dorfman Silverglate, 2 ½ years old who comes to work every Friday with his father from their Cambridge home.
…Silverglate took four months off when Isaac was born and soon afterward began carrying the infant, in his little sleeping “pouch,” to the office…[T]his summer [Elsa Dorfman] has spent more time in her darkroom and Isaac has been coming to work with Dad for as much as a whole week at a time. The couple has hired a male babysitter (“he drives a cab, takes courses and is writing a novel too” Silverglate said,) to care for Isaac for three hours every morning. And sometimes their teen-age babysitter from Cambridge, Kelly Williams, will come to the office with Isaac. But most of the time, the father-son partners go it alone, and that includes changing diapers.
The details Julie Hatfield decided to include in her piece are rather striking to a modern audience. She wonders what “kind of law gets practiced” in the office. She implies the utter strangeness of Isaac’s presence by emphasizing the print of the “pregnant man.” She makes sure to mention that we had a “male babysitter”—even going so far as to include my description of him—while calling our female babysitter, simply, a “babysitter,” the job implying the gender. She emphasizes that I took paternity leave. Finally, she highlights that I changed Isaac’s diapers, as if such behavior were shocking for a man in my position to undertake.
Times have certainly changed, and I doubt that, today, it would be news that a father takes his son to work, or that he splits the child-rearing duties 50/50. At least, I hope it would no longer be news.