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Stay at Home Dads

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!

52 Comments

  1. Judy
    Comment #94245 posted July 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Cheers to the stay-at-home dads! As a doctor’s wife I see women going through medical school who then marry and have children. The women cannot stay home with the children and pay off their student loans at the same time. Many of the husbands make significantly less, yet cannot stay home and take care of the children because they are ‘the man.’ (Even though their income is small comparatively and not needed.) To me, a real man puts his family first. If that means wiping noses and baking bread then that is what he does. What is best for the family is ultimately more important than being ‘the man.’ This has always seemed like more of a pride issue than a true interpretation of scripture. I have also seen men refuse to change a diaper for the same reasons and have often wondered who would do it if their wife were to pass away…. I am proud to say that my husband is an ER doctor and a champion diaper changer, not because I am lazy, but because he loves his children enough to take care of whatever they need. He is a full part of their life, and the children are close to him because of it. Mom’s who do all of the childcare (because Dad doesn’t think it is his job) actually hinder the bonding that should occur between the children and Dad as well.

  2. RED
    Comment #94246 posted July 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you thanks thanks thanks. Thank you!

    This is SUCH an important issue. There are so many people who believe that mothers are “more” responsible for their children and more important to their children’s development than dads. It is rampant in our culture. Can I say….this belief shows up in subtle ways even in other egalitarians I know.

    I have prayed and cried and fretted over this issue, because so few in the church recognize the problem. The way motherhood is talked about in our churches, implies that moms cannot follow God properly and their children cannot develop properly unless they are 24/7 stay-at-home moms. It’s also implied that Dads cannot care for their children as well as moms, so unless mom is the stay-at-home parent, the children will be shortchanged. You won’t find these messages in the Bible, but they’re implied in Christian books and sermons all the time.

    If a couple wants to have the mom stay home and the dad work, more power to them! Do it, and have fun doing it! :) But don’t you think it’s unhealthy to prescribe that model for everyone as if it’s in the Bible…when in actuality, it ISN’T in the Bible? For people like me (who want to keep working after we have kids), that causes as much heartache as telling a woman who is called to preach that the Bible forbids her from pastoring.

    This topic is close to my heart because I was raised 50/50 by my parents, who had opposite work schedules when I was growing up and so tag-teamed raising me. My dad changed as many diapers, cleaned up as much puke, got up as much in the night, held me while I cried as much, rocked me to sleep as much, brushed my hair as much, picked me up from school as much, as my mom. During my grade school years, when my mom’s hours at work increased, there were times when Dad did more than Mom. And you know what? I cannot tell you how enriching it was to have two parents *that* dedicated to my daily care, rather than just one. I had fantastic relationships with both of them, and a fantastic childhood!

    I can’t imagine all I would have missed if my mom had done the childcare by default, and Daddy had only been there when it was time to play.

    THAT, my friends, is why I see this issue as being as important as the ordination issue and the issue of unilateral submission.

  3. RED
    Comment #94247 posted July 12, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    “Mom’s who do all of the childcare (because Dad doesn’t think it is his job) actually hinder the bonding that should occur between the children and Dad as well.”

    And yes to this also!

    By the way, did you know that in the 1700s most books on childcare, cooking and cleaning were written towards a male audience? It was not until the Industrial Revolution that childcare became “woman’s work”….before that time, most people worked at home at the family business, so moms and dads raised kids and worked, together. Moms staying home while dad goes to work is a modern invention of the last couple hundred years.

    I rest my case. :)

  4. Comment #94248 posted July 13, 2011 at 5:24 am

    My dad worked out of the house, and my mom worked at our school, so when we weren’t at school it seemed like we had two stay-at-home parents. It was normal in our house for my dad to do all the grocery shopping (complete with coupon deals of course) and to make many of our meals. It’s weird to me that this arrangement would seem weird. Thanks for this post.

  5. Comment #94251 posted July 13, 2011 at 10:34 am

    “Moms who do all of the childcare (because Dad doesn’t think it is his job) actually hinder the bonding that should occur between the children and Dad as well.”

    Well said!! My husband would not have the bond with our child if he had not participated in all the diaper-changing, feeding and bathing when she was an infant. Our child wouldn’t have recognized him as a caretaker if he wasn’t taking care of her. Infants interpret care for their basic needs as love — if one parent doesn’t do that, then no love or connection is being communicated. And this lack of ‘care’ happens among egalitarians as well as complementarians.

  6. Comment #94252 posted July 13, 2011 at 11:05 am

    “…people wonder when he’s going to get his act together, ‘be a man’ and get a ‘real’ job.”

    I think this quote shows the worst part about the attitude that seems to exist behind the traditional mom-at-home view. As a stay-at-home mom myself, I have often felt disrespected for what I do because I’m not “doing real work.” Really? Caring for home and children is not real work? Regardless of who does it, it certainly is real work!

    It is my opinion that the root cause of the belief that women can’t do real work originates in the Church’s mistaken view of the Genesis creation account that sees men as having all the “dominion” over the earth, and women as simply being “created to be a friend to Adam” (direct quote from a toddler’s bible storybook that my son was given as a gift. I don’t read him that part because I know that the Bible actually says that God gave dominion over the earth to both the man and the woman). Having been college-educated in the Bible, I think my opinion must have some degree of validity.

    At any rate, my husband made a lot of sacrifices for me to be able to stay at home, and I have a lot of respect for him for it. Sometimes I feel guilty that he works so hard, and my duties at home seem like nothing compared to what he does. But he really loves his job, and I enjoy taking care of my kids. I think that is what is most important, that we mutually respect and love each other and show appreciation for what the other provides for us. Thanks so much for this article!!

  7. MaryC
    Comment #94254 posted July 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    It’s no one else’s business who does what in a couple’s household. As long as they both agree on it and it works for them, so be it. People who make judgements about other’s life choices are really just trying to cover up their own weaknesses. And maybe they’re jealous when someone else has found a way to make things work, because it reminds them of what is not working so well in their own lives.

  8. Robyn
    Comment #94255 posted July 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    MaryC hit it.

  9. Comment #94256 posted July 14, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I was a “sub” teacher for a homeschooling family with an at-home dad. I was pleased when I took the kids to a function at how many dads I saw there. It takes some brave men willing to break into “mom’s groups” and compete with societal stereotypes to make this possible. I know some men who would gladly do this if they were more welcome in the support system.

  10. Meggie
    Comment #94259 posted July 14, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Yes, let’s hear it for the SAHDs! Like SAHMs, they take on responsibilities that don’t provide remuneration or much respect, but they do them out of love. I think it only adds to our understanding of our partners to switch roles from time to time. I worked briefly while my DH stayed home with the children. It was quite an eye opener to see how loving and patient he could be while changing diapers, etc. He was impressed to see me in the role of breadwinner and understood the pressures I experienced. We switched back. I’m now a SAH homeschooling mom. My DH never looks down on what I do, and I have more appreciation for the anxieties he experiences. A shared life is a wonderful life!

  11. Comment #94260 posted July 14, 2011 at 10:28 am

    “A shared life is a wonderful life!”

    Good Motto!

  12. Judy
    Comment #94262 posted July 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    “A shared life is a wonderful life!”
    Love it! Can we make t-shirts?! : )

  13. Jen
    Comment #94263 posted July 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. My dad stayed home with my brother and me until we were in school full-time and then he worked just part-time while we were in school. I totally agree that society and even the church is not often receptive to the fact there are many dads who stay at home. I always get a little frustrated whenever Mother’s or Father’s day comes around, because typically whatever is said as the mom’s role fits my dad way better than my mom. And I like what you said about provision. We so easily forgot that provision in a family takes many forms. And you are so right on – it is not being a “Mr. Mom.” A dad can stay home and care for kids and be a total and complete dad. I really thank you for writing. I will have to share this with my dad!

  14. RED
    Comment #94264 posted July 14, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Another important point in this discussion is this; an attitude which says “It’s best if mom is the one at home” perpetuates something which I see in the church all the time (but for the life of me can’t find in the Bible); the belief that motherhood is somehow more intrinsic to womanhood than fatherhood is to manhood. This stereotype bothers the living daylights out of me. I think it is behind much of the negative feelings towards SAHD families.

    When you think about it, it’s kind of disturbing that the church has picked up this cultural stereotype and run with it. We have whole chapters in the Bible devoted to telling us how to view ourselves in light of God’s truth. But the church seems to think we should set up some extra-Biblical standards so that women will understand their essence includes more of parenthood and men will understand that their essence includes more of going to work. Really?

    My view is, Moms and Dads should be celebrated and praised for loving on their kids! Everyone should be supported in their role as loving parental caretaker, and both men and women should see it as a blessing….a blessing which may be balanced with many other things in life, such as careers, hobbies, and of course the health of your marriage as a couple.

  15. Comment #94266 posted July 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    “My view is, Moms and Dads should be celebrated and praised for loving on their kids!”

    Thank you RED!!! Sometimes I wonder what manner of insanity causes people to criticize parents who are doing their best to care for their children. In a culture where it’s all about me and my fulfillment, we should be encouraging those that choose to sacrifice their own material wants, and their need for fulfillment from a career, to invest in their children! Isn’t sacrifice the example of Christ we are ALL to follow? Some people just get so caught up in the rules and regulations they forget what it’s all about!

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