The evolution of Dad: he’s no Mr. Mom

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Does being more of a dad make you less of a man?

That’s the question we asked in a story running (finally) in today’s TIME, Fatherhood 2.0., co-written by me and Lev Grossman. I began asking this question of dads back in May, when we first embarked on this assignment. I asked this of stay-at-home dads. I asked this of one top exec dad who traveled five days of the week. I asked this of a group of 14 dads one night at a diner in Maplewood, N.J., gathered for their monthly cake-and-kvetch as members of a group called Pop Culture. All in all I asked this rather obnoxious question of more than two dozen dads.

As you can imagine, I ruffled a few feathers.

A little back story: I’d been looking for a way to write about what I perceived as a new marital dynamic for a couple years now. When I dragooned my colleague Lev, we began homing in on the changing role of fathers of our generation. After many winding conversations and e-mail trains, he, being a) smarter and b) maler than me, came up with this thesis: men were embracing roles traditionally thought to belong to women, which for many meant abandoning that most masculine of mantles, that of the breadwinner. So what did that mean for society’s notion of what was manly?

Read our story for the full take, great pics and some new science, why dontcha. I’ll post later with links and descriptions of the many great daddy blogs I mined for sources and leads. First I wanted to introduce you to someone who didn’t make the edited version of the story, but whom I found fascinating.

Precious little is as yet known about children raised in households where the father is the primary parent. But one thing seems sure: the new iteration of the stay-at-home father is no inept and effete Mr. Mom.

Dallas Hayes, 38, was raised in New York City by a single working mother, then joined the Navy, where he loaded bombs on planes on an aircraft carrier. When his partner Aura Lopez Alvarez learned she was pregnant, he volunteered to quit his IT job at Bank of America so that Alvarez might keep her own IT job at the American Museum of Natural History.

He spends his days changing 2-year-old Javier’s diapers, toddling with him to the playground, loitering at F.A.O. Schwartz. Like many new dads today, Hayes has firm ideas about his role: “Javi needs to know I’m in control. My job is to give him not what he wants but what he needs. And I don’t like to brag, but invariably people say how well-behaved he is.”

As for his masculinity, here’s what Hayes had to say: “Does having my way paid for by a working woman make me less of man? If you’re secure in your manhood, obviously not. No one is determining my manhood but me.”

I also interviewed Hayes’ partner and Javier’s mom, Alvarez, 39. I thought she’d have an interesting take, being the family breadwinner, and also being a Latina. It’s true, she says, that her dear departed father back in Guatemala–a blacksmith, no less–might have cocked his head at their arrangement. “I doubt my father ever changed my diapers,” she says. And when she tells Latina women about it, they react in disbelief.

But this is one couple that cares little about society’s notions and rules. “I’m very, very happy about it,” she says, of their set-up. “As a woman, I was very afraid of not being able to get back into my career after taking a break. Oh, sure, it’s tiring. But then Dallas sends me a picture of Javi on the computer, and I’m smiling again. I know I’m so lucky.”

As for his manhood? “Dallas is a man to me.”

I met the couple through the filmmaker Dana Glazer, a work-at-home dad himself who is developing a documentary called The Evolution of Dad. Check out his website for more clips, but here, exclusive to TIME, he’s created this introduction to Dallas Hayes.