I’ve known Jack for many years. He is married to a woman named Geraldine, whom I have known since I was ten. Jack is what people consider a man’s man. He loves football, action movies, video games and would totally run in the opposite direction of a romantic comedy if it weren’t for his love for his wife. And he’s a stay-at-home-dad. The decision was made for them as Jack lost his job right before they were about to have their first child. Geraldine has a stable, well-paying job, and it just made sense for her to continue working and for Jack’s work to be staying at home. He cooks and cares for their child, and she goes to work — and it works for them. Jack has told me that it’s hard for him, though, finding activities for them to do during the day. He feels somewhat awkward about going to the park or gymboree, because he would face the inevitable stare (or glare!) from all the other women with their children.
Although the number of stay-at-home-dads is on the rise, it is still not common enough. Men are expected to work, and when they don’t, they are criticized as lazy. Eyebrows are raised, as people wonder, “What is wrong with that guy?” While this trend has begun to change – with mom-focused parent’s magazines lauding men for choosing to stay at home – there is definitely still a double standard. When women choose to stay at home, she is praised for making that choice and honored for getting that privilege. When men make that same choice, people wonder when he’s going to get his act together, ‘be a man’ and get a ‘real’ job.
This attitude prevails in the secular world as well as in the church. One pastor even chastised men who are stay-at-home-dads and identified it as “a case for church discipline.” He uses 1 Timothy 5:8, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” He says that men who don’t work and bring home the bacon are worse than unbelievers. I take issue with his misuse of this verse because I know that he is reading it only in English and not in Greek. Whatever version of the Bible he was using probably says, “If any man…” However, the Greek actually does not specify “a man” but is referring to “anyone.” Paul is telling Timothy that anyone who doesn’t provide for their family, especially in regard to widows, and is thus burdening the larger church family, is not doing what God has called them to do. However, Paul’s exhortation is not only referring to financial provision. He is communicating that believers ought to make sure that all their family’s needs are being met. So I believe that a dad who dresses his children, changes their diapers, prepares and gives them food, reads to them, teaches them new things, bathes them, etc, is certainly providing for their needs. In other words, stay-at-home-dads are pleasing God by investing in their family.
I love the idea of the stay-at-home-dad. And I hope that dads who stay at home would not demean their children’s need for them. They are not Mr. Mom — as if the role of parenting was only meant for moms. Dads are dads, and dads are needed by their kids. It’s a privilege for any parent to get to stay at home with their kids when they are young – a mom or a dad. Cheers to all the SAHDs out there! I admire and commend you for what you are doing!