Wednesday, November 15, 2006

God vs. Stay-at-Home Dads

God hates stay-at-home dads:

Men and women were created by God for specific roles and when men start giving up their responsibility to be the primary provider for their household, they’re falling short of the goal. Men should be out there doing whatever it takes to insure that mom can spend as much time as possible with her family because she is uniquely equipped by God for the role of managing the household and the kids on a daily basis.


No evidence offered, Scriptural or otherwise. Surprised? Probably not.

And evangelical Christians wonder why they've become so marginal to mainstream discourse.

Actually, most of this post is spent pushing an idea that I agree with:

Turn down that promotion. Give up some money. Do what it takes to be there for your family. People speak of quality time, but I remember that any time I spent with my dad was cool. Even if he just took me to the bar with him so that he could drink. Hey, we were still hanging out together.


Do they even allow kids in bars? That aside, it's interesting to explore the common ground that progressives might have with evangelicals on family issues, which are normally seen as divisive. Might we work together to win more family-friendly workplace policies?

In other news, the Ottawa Citizen covers a new book, Do Men Mother?, by Carleton University professor Andrea Doucet:

Many fathers who opt to stay home with their children do so as a fallback when they need a career change or are seeking a break from work, according to new Canadian research.

And once they are at home with their children, they are likely to combine paid work with child-rearing and offset the time at home with an eye to an eventual return to work rather than immerse themselves in the social world of parenthood.

The author of a new book about fathering says men’s reality is at such a remove from the conventional image that she wonders whether the term “stay-at-home dad” is even relevant anymore.

“So many do keep a hand in the labour market, whether through a bit of part-time work or through some studying/retraining, because so much of male identity is tied to earning or achieving or simply doing something apart from caregiving,” said Andrea Doucet, author of Do Men Mother?

“I think that men do not face the same fatherload because they do carve out time for themselves, even when they are at home with the kids. Perhaps there are some interesting things that we can learn from men.”

Her book, which is the result of four years of conversations with men who are primary caregivers for their children, charts the many differences in the way men and women view stay-at-home parenting, from their motivations for doing it to the way they shape their at-home experiences.


The article includes an excerpt from the book. I'll definitely be reading Do Men Mother?; I'll review here when I do.

21 comments:

Jared said...

Most conservative Christians I've encountered aren't exactly hostile toward stay-at-home dads, they're simply unsure how to respond. At-home fathers are an emerging everywhere, let alone within the Christian community. As with anything, we simply need a return to scripture. To wit, my response to Mark:

"If a man’s role isn’t ‘restricted to wage-earning’, then why concern yourself with stay-at-home fathers? Scripture is explicit in what God expects of fathers: leadership, discipline, guidance, and provision.

‘Fathers,’ reads Ephesians 6:4, ‘do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’ As a father, would I be a better teacher spending eight hours each day apart from my son?

And 1 Timothy 5:8: ‘If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’ Scripture commands provision, and leaves it at that. It doesn’t specify a paycheck.

If my family needs income, and my wife is better suited to earn it, why risk my family’s stability by forcing my way into the workforce?

God is vague about provision so that we focus on the essentials, about which He is very clear: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment.’ (Matthew 22:37-38)

Which is more important: that a man work outside the home, or that he love the lord? Only one choice leads to salvation."

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

I thought your response to Mark was terrific, Jared.

I've read quite a few non-hostile articles about SAHDs in Christian (though not necessarily evangelical) publications - as you read the articles, you can sort of see the cognition happening, like, "What is this and what should we think about it?" My evangelical relatives didn't give me a hard time about staying home with my kid; they actually were very supportive of the idea of coming up with an arrangement that allowed him to be with his parents instead of in daycare. We agreed on that point, though I wouldn't elevate it to a moral principle or judge a family that came up with a different arrangement.

So, as your comment makes clear, it's complex. It just infuriates me to see the Bible used to prop up whatever the current social order happens to be. I don't see this as the fault of Christianity per se; religion has always and will always be used this way. It's a powerful tool of oppression and social regulation, because you can't argue with it without stepping into the frame. You can either reject the frame (which is what I've chosen to do in my life), which in this case has the disadvantage of leaving you culturally and spiritually homeless, or you can try to change it (which is what you and many Christians are doing), which has the disadvantage of trapping you in the frame.

~Mark said...

"If my family needs income, and my wife is better suited to earn it, why risk my family’s stability by forcing my way into the workforce?"

~Why,if you have faith in God, do you believe that your family would be at risk if you seek to follow a Biblical example?

"So, as your comment makes clear, it's complex. It just infuriates me to see the Bible used to prop up whatever the current social order happens to be."

~To do so is totally and completely in violation of following God's Word, and yes it is infuriating. Current social order, which is ever-changing, is to be viewed through the lens of something that never changes: the Word and will of God.

Viewing the Bible through the lens of culture is what has led to the false conception that men and women are interchangeable in role, and that neither is gifted particularly differently from the other.

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

I see what you're saying, Mark. I understand perfectly. I just don't agree with it. You simply can't tell me that God doesn't want me, or any man, to take care of kids; I consider that to be absurd. It's at odds with my experience, my values, and my acquired knowledge about parenting and kids.

The point we're making, each in our different ways, is NOT that men and women are interchangable. I personally consider sexual and gender differences to be an interesting and complicated part of our humanity. Rather, the point is that those differences should not become social prisons, given the range of individual variations as well as a changing social landscape. In the end, you have to do what's best for the kids and the family as a whole -- and I don't think you're going to get there by imposing a rigid and arbitrary division of labor between the biological male and the female. Parenting should be driven by love, not ideology.

~Mark said...

"I see what you're saying, Mark. I understand perfectly. I just don't agree with it. You simply can't tell me that God doesn't want me, or any man, to take care of kids;"

~I'm fine with disagreeing, and I can respect your right to your opinion, that's part of life. The problem is that it seems you are either misstating or misunderstanding my point. I'm saying intended best-case scenario. In no way have I said that Scripture rules it out or overtly states against it. It does however offer lots of examples and plenty of principles which cannot be ignored by a Christian.

"I consider that to be absurd. It's at odds with my experience, my values, and my acquired knowledge about parenting and kids."

~Do you understand then what I mean now when I say you have placed your knowledge above the knowledge of God as revealed in Scripture? I'm not looking to be disagreeable for no reason, but you did just say that you know better, and you know that my case is drawn from Scripture.

"The point we're making, each in our different ways, is NOT that men and women are interchangable. I personally consider sexual and gender differences to be an interesting and complicated part of our humanity. Rather, the point is that those differences should not become social prisons, given the range of individual variations as well as a changing social landscape."

~The term "social prisons" makes me believe that you really aren't understanding what I'm saying. There is trememndous freedom in living after the ways of God, despite how people would protest. It's like when kids have no rules, they are more afraid and confused than when they do have a set of boundaries within which to live. That applies to us grown-ups too.

If you really don't believe that women and men are interchangeable, why have you seemingly taken the stance that they definitely are? How can it be both ways?

"In the end, you have to do what's best for the kids and the family as a whole -- and I don't think you're going to get there by imposing a rigid and arbitrary division of labor between the biological male and the female. Parenting should be driven by love, not ideology."

~You just said that males and females are not interchangeable,and by that logic each one should be in the role that fits best, otherwise they ARE interchangeable.

Also, I say for the last time, there isn't a RIGID rule that states men are the parent who should go to work. (Why do I have to keep restating what I've said clearly already?) It's after doing an actual study not only of Scripture but also of human nature that you find there IS a better and best conclusion that can be readily drawn.

Parenting is always laregely driven by ideaology, as your firm stance is proving. Every parent who DOES love their kids has or is forming an ideaology which they think will provide the best life for their child. It's those parents that don't form an ideology whose kids drift aimlessy.

Love means having an ideology. You have one because you obviously love your kids.

My life is directed by God's Word because I am His. I understand that is difficult for the majority of people because it isn't an easy life to live. I am without doubt that His ways are best though.

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

Hi Mark! Hope you had a good thanksgiving!

I'm not going to respond point by point; I don't think that'd be productive. There was one comment, however, that I think can be used to carry the conversation another step forward:

"If you really don't believe that women and men are interchangeable, why have you seemingly taken the stance that they definitely are? How can it be both ways?"

In this same post, I mention a new book called Do Men Mother?. I haven't yet received the book, but I have read excerpts as well as some of Doucet's papers.

The answer is that men can and do "mother" -- that is, take primary care of children -- but the style and content of their caregiving often differs from what women provide. Men, for example, will tend to emphasize physical and outdoor activity, while promoting independence and risk-taking. This is often true, in my experience.

We still don't know if these differences are due to nature or nurture, but research by Doucet and many others show that men and women are both perfectly capable of taking on the same roles in relation to children, even if they do it in different ways, and raising healthy children.

"Don't expect that being a primary caregiver makes you a 'male mother,'" says Vincent, one of the dads Doucet interviewed. "You will likely not have the same instincts or the same support networks that mothers have. We all have to find ways to be fathers as primary caregivers. This is pioneering work for this generation of fathers."

So, how can we have it both ways? Nobody is trying to. Nobody says that there aren't any rules; although I think it's fair to say that many moms and dads are rejecting the old ones as being no longer very useful. For those of us who are discovering new ways to father (many of whom are Christian, as Jared's comment indicates), we're in the process of making new rules. The process doesn't represent a failure or a surrender; quite the opposite. It's a challenge and a triumph. That's how I see it.

scribbit said...

What you've said rings true with me in that I feel that "stay at home" denotes inactivity. I don't view my job as a passive principle, sitting back and watching my kids tear through the house. Whenever I hear mothers complain that being at home with their children is boring or unfulfilling I wonder what the woman is doing to keep her skills current, learn new things or actively participate in her children's learning and growth. Raising children is the hardest job in the world, I know of no other profession so widely discussed, examined and debated--and when it's succesful, there's nothing as satisfying and fulfilling.

Eric said...

I just came across this site after reading an article promoting once again, that mother's stay home with their children. I'm so excited I found this site and will be letting my husband know ASAP. I enjoy working although I enjoy the summers off with my son. My husband enjoys (although it was harder at first) staying home with our son, and he is thankful for this type of relationship. My job offers a lot of time off and is very flexible. His didn't when he was working full-time (and I made more). Why on earth would we want him to keep working when in essence, I see my son throughout the day and all holidays/summer along with my husband? Beyond the logical decisions of that choice, I appreciated the scriptural backup regarding a man's provision for his family...it would be a selfish and arrogant man that would say he should keep working even if it wasn't the best situation for his family. Looking forward to reading more!

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

Welcome to Daddy Dialectic!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a Christian and my husband is a stay at home dad and not because it was something we both agreed upon. He was fired from his job over 3 years ago and has tried to get a real estate business up and running but has had no success. Mostly, he is home with the kids and it seems to me that is is getting comfortable with the idea of being a stay at home dad. I feel cheated, I never agreed to this and would much rather stay home with the kids. My income is enough to cover his lost salary but I feel forced into this arrangement because my husband doesnt want to get a job now. I feel the real estate is an excuse for not getting a job. Am I being unfair in asking him to get a job even when my salary is enough to cover all expenses? Am I being selfish for wanting to be the one to stay home with my kids?

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

Hi Anonymous. I hesitate to comment on your situation, because I am not qualified to give out advice of this kind. I will say, based on my experience and research, that a) no, you're not selfish; and b) your husband has likely struggled with feelings of depression and inadequacy--which has limited his confidence. This happens to many stay-at-home parents, male and female--the longer they are out of the job market, the more scary and foreign in seems. So, I strongly recommend talking to your minister and seeking some kind of joint marriage counseling, so that you can begin talking through these issues and get clear about what you both want. Forget the sex-role BS about what a man should do and what a woman should do--that won't be helpful to you as a guide for action. Instead focus on what's best for your family. I also think you as his partner should focus as much as possible in helping him to regain his confidence, not so that he can get a job, necessarily, but so that he can focus on doing what he really wants to do and making the best out of whatever situation he finds himself in--from there, you can renegotiate your roles. Again, I'm not qualified to give out this kind of advice, but you can take it for what it's worth, and I hope this helps.

Sutton said...

hi i am in the navy and my husband is a SAHD we have a one and 1/2 year old son and we both desided that it was better for a parent to stay at home than for him to be rased by a daycare. at fist my husband worked and i stayed home but after much prayer, bible study, and discution we desided that my husband would support my dream to surve our great country and that he would stay at home with our son. both my husband and i are delighted that we have made this desision and the LORD has blessed us greatly becouse of it. i am still submisve to him as the bible teaches and we make all finacal desisions together. it dosn't make him any less than a man to say at home. it is very discouraging though when we get pastors lecturing him to get a job and for me to quit mine. what advise would anyone have for this?

Anonymous said...

I have to say that it does not necessarily apply to everyone. I am a woman and had a child this year and have never been so unhappy staying home with my child. I want to go back to work. I also believe that my husband does a better job with taking care of the child and enjoys it more. I end up being very cold to it because I feel that it has taken my life away from me. The bible is very vague about what it asks of men and women, especially in the new testament. I do not see men and women as interchangeable either but that doesn't mean are roles are fixed either.

Mike said...

I'm not hostile towards stay at home dads, I'd take that over an absent father any day. Personally I'm a "stuck at home dad", at home for medical reasons.

There are a few thing I wanted to throw into the ring and get a response on.

I know there aren't really any verses telling us who should bring home the paycheck, but aren't there a lot about women and the things they should be doing, which seem to more home focused? On that note, it seems that SAHD wisdom doesn't start with the bible, it's usually cultural wisdom or financial concern. I'm just trying to figure out how someone would read the bible and from that, say "my wife should work and i should stay home"

Also I noticed some of you SAHD commenters talking about the differences in the parenting styles of moms and dads, wouldn't that support the other side, who say that all men and women are different physically and emotionally on purpose for certain roles?

Okay, this is my last one, but I also noticed that this book said that the SAHDs usually had something else going on, job searches, part time jobs, etc. Wouldn't that point to an inherent design and desire to follow that design?

I'm still forming some opinions on this issue and would really appreciate some good replies (which are hard to come by), Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous
Seems like your issue isn't a SAHD one, but something else. You've "never been so unhappy"? "It has taken my life away from me"? The bible is very clear about the role of husbands and wives, men and women, sounds like you need to figure that out. There are things that God has to teach us through our children, mostly how selfish and self-absorbed we are, but you'll never get what God has for you by running from it.

Anonymous said...

My mother is a doctor, my father has a four-year degree. My father has raised four well-rounded children, and our home is full of the love of God.

Anonymous said...

My name is Kenneth.
I have read all the comments and I must say that each side is missing the point. First, Mark is like so many other people in this world who mischarecterize the Word of God. In regards to fathers staying at home, there is no scripture you can cite that validates your perspective of fathers staying at home unless you misrepresent the scripture. 1 Tim. 5:8 isn't refering to fathers being bread winners. Rather, the context is refering to families who have widowers and others who are in need and those families choose not to take care of those family members. To take the Bible out of context to bolster a position is not only wrong but totally UNGodly. I seem to recall the sageses and pharises use to do that a great deal. As for the role of women, I find it laughable that people with your position seem to cut and past the descriptions of women working outside of the home. Additionally, if your perspective is the ideal order of things I would caution you to tread very softly. For I beleive the Bible says in all that you do, do it to the Glory of God. Using your perspective, a man that is injured, and unable to support his family is outside of the will of God. I know, you have some back door excuse but that would be my point. The Word of God does not have back doors. It is straight forward and unchanging. It works in all situations and if you find the anwswer needs to be edited to fit different situations, I would caution you that it isn't the Bible but rather your opinion. Finally, the other side of the arguement. Mark is correct in regards to one thing. To many times in this day and age, we make decisions not from the position of Gods point of view but rather that of comfort and our selfish desires. We think it is Gods will for our lives if it turns out the way we think it should turn out. Regardless what the decision is, I would leave you with this reminder, In Exodus, the Israelites infuriates God so he told them that if all they wanted was the promise land, then they could go but he would not go with them. Moses interceeds and tells God that he didn't want the promised land if God didn't come with them. Which means this, if you are making decisions from the perspective of self needs, I would be careful because God might just give it to you. We have a love problem with in the church. A love of self, which is idolatry. Are your decisions based on self or selfless desires for the glory of Jesus Christ first and family second?

Anonymous said...

My name is Kenneth. I have read all of the discussion points and I must say that each side is missing the point. First, Mark is like so many others who mischaracterize the Word of God. Nowhere in the bible does it support your position. 1 Tim. 5:8 isn't refering to fathers. Paul is talking about families who have widowers and poor family members and refuse to take care of them. This is actully refering to what is known today as the extended family. You have heard of the phrase charity starts at home? To take the Bible out of context to support a position is not only wrong, it is UNGodly. I find it laughable that people with your position seem to omit all the references to women working outside of the home. Second, If I used your standard, a man who is injured and can not work to support his family is outside of Gods plan. I know, you have some back door excuse but that would be my point. The Word of God doesn't have back doors. It always works and is unchanging. If you find that you need to edit a position, I would say it is not the Bible but your opinion.
Finally, Mark does have a point, this day and age, we make decisions not from the persective of God but rather our own selfish desires. I will leave you with this reminder, In Exodus, the Israelities angered God so he told them if all you want is the promised land, then go but he (God) would not go with them. Moses interceeds and says they didn't want the land without God but the point is this, Are your desires more for the things of Christ or more for the things of this world? The reality of life is this for some families, both parents will work, for others only one will work outside of the home. If it is the mother, praise God. If it is the father, praise God. Remember, in all that you do, do it to the glory of God.

Jonathan said...

Mark,

Everyone interprets the Bible through a cultural lens. You do it. I do it. Augustine did it. Calvin did it.

Your friend,

Jonathan

Leanne Y. said...

I just have to comment on this. I was searching on the topic of stay at home dads because I am currently a SAHM who may be facing the possibility of going to work FT while my husband cares for our two kids (toddler and baby) because he is currently in school...well, in an effort to uphold the so-called "biblical" gender-appropriate family model, he has been working full time (and then some) AND going to school mostly full time (as a result of being laid off before the birth of our first child), with me taking care of children...and the job I used to have was significantly higher pay (we're not talking disposable income here, we're talking the difference between utilizing govt benefits or not). I am happy I was able to stay home with my kids during their infancy, because I really feel that I was at least biologically made more capable to handle this. Now, however, it seems silly to put extra stress on our family by me NOT taking the opportunity to work, and thus balance things out more for us. More and more as a Christian I have learned not to "major in the minors," put God and his people into a box, and NOT to approach his Word with an ignorant and faulty understanding. Even verses that promote a certain social order have to be viewed within the context of the writing itself and the society at that point in history. I am not getting into that right now, this is not the time or place, but I just wanted to say that sometimes in life, things don't work out according to some kind of "perfect, godly model" and trying to force that is going to always leave the people with "less-than-perfect or ideal" situations falling between the cracks. Thank you for this post and this blog.

Anonymous said...

If it is Christ's will for a true Christian man to be a stay-at-home dad while the wife works and supports they family, he would do it. But, the wife must tell her husband that she is going to work and that she might run late. Sometimes working wives can easily be tempted into affairs with other men and the next think you know, they end up raped, missing, or murdered when they wanted to come back. Sometimes wives who work outside the home can be sexually harassed by other men too. So it's best for them to tell their husbands what is going on and work together to sue the company at least.