A Shift in Our Culture
Bob: More and more families are making a decision these days that breaks with centuries of custom and tradition in a variety of different cultures. The decision is for dad to stay home and take care of the kids while mom earns a living.
First, I'm not sure centuries is correct here. But even if he is correct that it breaks with centuries of custom and tradition that is a pretty small time in the history of humans. It certainly doesn't date back to Biblical times for which they will eventually reference as to why dads should not stay at home.
Dennis: It’s not a huge number right now but I do think what’s happening is there is a shift going on in the culture. There is a rejection, in many places, of what is normative. What I want to do is provide a biblical mirror for you to look into, and some biblical perspective to hold up, and perhaps reveal some blind spots that you may have as you consider making this decision.
This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll take a look at the phenomenon of stay-at-home fathers today—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, you really want to open this can of worms?
Dennis: You know, in my office, I have a hornet’s nest. I think I’ve shared with our listeners—I actually paid cash money for this hornet’s nest on E-bay. [Laughter]
Bob: As you mention this, I’m just wondering if I went online and searched for a six- pack of a can of worms—I just wonder if you can get a can of worms. I should get you a six-pack because, from time to time, you just like to pop one open and just see what’s in there. [Laughter]
Dennis: You’re mixing the metaphors.
Bob: I am.
Dennis: We’re going to throw a stone at a hornet’s nest, here, in a moment; but before we pick up a couple of stones and then run for our lives, I just want to say, “Thanks,” to the folks that keep us on the air, here, through their prayers, folks listening, and calling the radio stations and letting them know that they really like what we’re doing here and how we operate.
Translation: We are so brave for standing up against culture.
Bob: Folks who get in touch with us—send us emails—share the word about the program with their friends.
Dennis: Yes, it takes a lot of folks to keep us going, here on FamilyLife Today. These have been challenging times; and I just wanted to say, “Thanks,” to the world’s best listeners and the world’s best donors for making this ministry possible. I just appreciate you. I want you to know that. Now, back to the hornet’s nest. [Laughter]
Bob: Now, let’s get those stones ready.
"All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!" just saying
Dennis: Let’s get back to the hornet’s nest. I want to read an email to get the stone ready here. This is kind of a lengthy email; but I want to read this because I think this guy was genuine who wrote me, and I think it’s a fair ask. I really do.
He says, “Dear Dennis, I’m a stay-at-home dad.” Okay; now are we clear where the hornet’s nest is, at this point? “I’m a stay-at-home dad, and my family and I recently settled into a new city and found a church. While I was there, I was looking for resources on parenting and found your website, as well as a few others. However, I do not see any resources for stay-at-home fathers.
Perhaps his first mistake was looking for parenting advice on their website.
“There is stuff for stay-at-home mothers and single mothers but nothing for a stay-at- home father or, even, fathers who spend more time with their kids and are not the sole breadwinner.”
He goes on and asks a fair question. He says, “Is my lifestyle somehow against the Christian family and that’s why you do not feature any articles or help for a growing segment of the population? At last count,” he writes, “there are 300,000 households led, at home, by stay-at-home fathers.”
So either this guy isn't a very good Christian or the Bible isn't really clear on this subject.
I’m going to stop reading for a moment and just tell you, Bob, I checked into this. This is a growing movement. There are actually conventions on an annual basis for stay-at- home fathers, where they can get together and talk about the challenges of raising children, while their wives are in the workplace, being the sole breadwinner in the family.
Bob: So, you are not talking here about guys who are working from home or they have their office in a back bedroom somewhere. These are guys who have taken homemaking and childcare as their primary job, while their wife is in the marketplace or in the workplace, earning the money for the family.
Hey they are talking about ME. I'm on the radio.
Dennis: We’ll talk more about that in a moment. For the most part, that is an accurate statement. He goes on to say, “Am I living in sin?” This is interesting. “Am I living in sin since my wife has a job that more than provides for our family?” He goes on to ask one more. “Should we somehow readjust our lives, top to bottom, so I can earn a third as much and allow her to be home?”
No. Show over, let's move on.
Now, we’re talking about a serious issue here.
He goes on to conclude his email by saying, “Maybe I’m missing something on your website or your ministry. However, I think it’s something that fathers and families out there need, which is support from family organizations and resources, as opposed to being shut out from the conversation; or is it that we are living a sinful lifestyle, as I mentioned earlier, and is best kept in the closet? Pardon the pun,” he said. “Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response.”
Well, I got his email, and I started thinking about it. You and I talked about it, and we did do a little further research on this. We found out that a 2008 survey—that is done annually on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day—by a website called Careerbuilder.com found that 37 percent of men would stay home with their children if their wife could comfortably support the family.
Bob: That’s like four in ten guys, who would cash it in and stay home. Now, I have to just stop here. Maybe it’s just where I am; but I’m wondering if those guys have ever spent a week at home, taking care of the kids, when they say, “That’s what I’d do”? I’ve had a few days where I’ve done that; and I have been so grateful when my wife has been back home, and I could go back up to work—[Laughter]—just being honest with you, here!
No pay attention, because right now he calls it cashing it in. Definition: To obtain a profit or other advantage by timely exploitation
Dennis: Yes, I understand. I have to tell you, Bob, and I’ll read some more of these a little bit later. I asked for advice from my Facebook® friends.
Bob: Oh, you went right to the experts. [Laughter]
Dennis: I went to the experts, and your comment reminded me of one I received from Julia. She said, “Boy! Would I love that—for my husband to try that for a couple of weeks! We could both use a renewed commitment for me to be the homemaker. I’m pretty sure that that would do it!” [Laughter]
Ha ha ha. That guy can't take care of his own kids. That is so funny. And Godly. Funny and Godly.
Yes, well anyway, here’s another one—said, “Well, my husband would have done a better job than me, except for sewing; and there’s no way I could have done his job.” Yes, so, you know—I’m with you, Bob. I mean, being a homemaker is challenging. In fact, I’m going to tell you something. I still marvel at how Barbara did this with six children—that we had in ten years—and all the things we did in the ministry—because Barbara has helped me, since the beginning of this ministry. Yet, she’s been a worker at home, as well.
So right now we are going down the staying at home is hard work road.
Bob: So, I guess the question is—back to the original email you got—“Is this one of those gray areas, where couples can sit down and determine what makes sense for them, and there’s freedom to do whatever works for you; or is there anything in Scripture that guides us in what has been the more traditional pattern—men go out in the marketplace and earn a living, and women stay home and take care of the kids?”
Dennis: Yes, your question really reminds me of a conversation I had with a young couple, at a convention that was filled with missionaries. This particular couple worked with college students. They came up to me, at the end of one of the messages, and they said, “Is there anything wrong with my husband staying at home with the kids because I really do a better job on the campus than he does. Should we embrace that as our model and as our lifestyle?”
You know, that occurred about five or six years ago; and I’ve thought often, “What would I have said to that young couple if I’d had a good tall cup of coffee because it would have taken about an hour to have had a conversation and to have asked a ton of questions of them to really find out what’s behind that decision. So, my effort here, Bob, is going to be as though I was sitting down with a young couple—maybe, even, my son and daughter-in-law or daughter and son-in-law—who were coming to me for advice.
Bob: So, should our listeners pour a tall cup of coffee?
Dennis: I think they may have to cancel the next broadcast that follows us here on FamilyLife Today. No, we’ll actually take a little extra time and talk about this because here’s what I found out by asking my friends on Facebook. When I raised the issue, a number of them said, “Yes, it’s okay because my husband is better at it than I am. A hundred years ago, it wasn’t an issue because we had an agrarian economy. Men worked around the home and on the farm—he was there. Husbands and wives did it together.”
Others on Facebook said, “When dads stay home”—this is pretty brutal—“the whole family suffers.” So, they were pretty honest about that.
Yes, that is pretty brutal. Factually wrong, but hey.
Bob: So, you’re saying it is split down the middle—from those who would say, “There’s really no big deal, here, to—”
Dennis: No, I wouldn’t say it was split down the middle. Others who said, “Men who don’t work suffer from depression because of their inability to provide.” Another woman wrote, “Money is power. It can give a woman, who’s the sole breadwinner, the power in the family and eliminate the man as the leader of the family.” There are going to be some of our listeners who really do not like that statement.
Not split down the middle with your friends on Facebook. I get that. It wouldn't be split down the middle if i asked my friends on Facebook either. Most all would think it is fine.
Others raised questions of whether a stay-at-home father really projects real masculinity—if that’s something you want your sons to be able to emulate—or your daughters to look for in a husband and in a father of their children.
Cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of your kids=not manly. Sitting at a microphone=manly. Got it.
Bob: You are modeling something; aren’t you?
Dennis: You really are. I’m thinking of a dad who never worked—never provided for his family. The wife struggled to provide for the kids. There were four kids in the family. Those kids grew up wondering, “What is the responsibility of a dad if he doesn’t get out and work?”
Working inside the home. Which just a little bit ago you said was really hard work.
This dad didn’t. I won’t get into what he did, but he didn’t go to work. He didn’t get out and provide. As a result, those four kids—as they’ve grown up and married—have all struggled, from an identity standpoint, with either being a man and, “How you do provide for your family,” or with being a woman—a wife and a mother— and how to relate to a man who is something different than their frame of reference.
It also reminds me of another story—that is really at the other end of the spectrum—of a father who had a very lucrative job—made a lot of money, had season tickets to the Dallas Cowboys games—and was laid off. He came home and told his kids. They were initially ashamed as they watched their father take a job that paid significantly less. He even worked alongside some teenagers—in a form of employment that he could find because of the economic situation in their community.
The son of the father reflected back, as a young man. He said, “When I initially saw that, I was ashamed of my father because he had taken this job;” but he said, “Then, I began to realize that what he had really embraced here was his responsibility to work and to provide for his family. Then, I began to be extremely proud of my dad and respected him, as I watched him take a second job because he didn’t quickly find another job where he was able to earn enough money to provide for the family.” He said, “I realize, as I grew up and became a man, what a gift my dad had given to me by modeling self- denial and moving into a tough situation to have to provide for his family.”
I’d ask anyone who is doing this—as you make this decision for your daughters and how they relate to a man, later on—for your sons and who they become as husbands, fathers, and breadwinners in the family—are you modeling something you want, from a generational standpoint, to be passed down to succeeding generations?
Yes, thanks for asking.
I think it’s a tough question,
Actually it wasn't that hard.
Bob: but I think it’s one that is worth really considering.
Bob: Now, we ought to be clear here—you’re talking about somebody who makes a deliberate choice, for an extended period of time, saying, “This is how we’re going to set up our family.” I mean, I’m thinking of those folks, where it may be that a dad gets laid off from a job—we’ve seen a lot of men laid off from their jobs, over the last many months.
Dennis: I’m not talking about the temporary loss of a job. While we are talking about job loss, though—if a man does lose his job—I’m not talking about a man unplugging and just staying home, at that point.
Dennis: I think men, who have lost a job, need to be diligent and deliberate—even though they are fighting discouragement, and depression, and a loss of some of their identity, perhaps. I think they need to fight that through and find full-time employment— to be providing for their family.
I’m also not talking about a father who stays home in the event of the death of his wife. One father—that I heard about through Facebook—stayed at home for a year, to bring stability to his children, in the absence of their mother. I am not talking about that. I’m also not talking about health issues, either.
Bob: I was going to ask about that because some men are at home because of physical disabilities or some kind of a situation that has them sidelined.
So if you are disabled you can't be manly? Is that what you are saying?
What you are really focusing on here is the couple that says, “You know, I think she’s better in the workplace,” or, “She can make more money in the workplace. He’s better at home, taking care of the kids. That just feels right to us, and that’s how we’re going to organize our lives.”
Dennis: Right. There’s one other category I want to just put a disclaimer on. I’m also not talking about men who work from home, full-time. What we’re talking about is, as you said, Bob, a husband and a wife who decide that it’s better for dad to stay home and take care of the kids, while the wife goes out and provides for the family.
Bob: This could be something—I’m just trying to imagine a guy who is a skilled laborer—he’s a trim carpenter, or he’s a plumber. He has a good career, and he fell in love with and married a doctor. She has the training and the background to be able to bring in—for the family—three, four, or five times as much money as his job is going to make it possible for the family to earn.
Dennis: I’ve received emails, laying out that scenario. These are excellent questions that people raise. I want to ask a very fundamental question here; and that is, “What is really going on here?” To answer that question, you have to pull back to the big picture and you have to look at our culture. First of all, we have a culture that is homogenizing the sexes. It is a gender-blender culture. It doesn’t care about the distinctives of male and female—that God created in men and women, in the beginning. In fact, if anything, it wants to distort that distinction between men and women. I also want to say that, in my years of counseling couples, and having talked to a lot of couples who have tried this—this is going to sound pretty painful here—but over time, I have never watched a couple make this work and work well, over an extended period of time. I have seen some make it work in the short-term; but I have never seen a couple—who ended up, at the end of the journey, 15 or 20 years later—happy that they made the choice for the wife to become the sole breadwinner and the husband to provide the nurture and the care for the children.
Bob: You know, as soon as you say that, we have listeners who are saying, “Well, you haven’t heard our story. We’ve gone 10, 15, 20 years; and it is working great for us.”
Dennis: I don’t claim to know all people.
Dennis: I just am speaking from my experience of what I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of people try it. Now, having said that; okay?—I’m going to make a couple of absolutestatements. First of all, I’m not going to say that it’s wrong, 100 percent of the time. I’m going to sound like I’m on the fence by making a second statement—by saying, “I will not say it’s right, 100 percent of the time, either!” What I will say is that we live in an imperfect world and that there are some general guidelines of Scripture, that I believe God has given us, that can guide us in the journey in this imperfect world of determining what is God’s will for you, in Christ Jesus. I am not responsible for your decisions made in your marriage and in your family. You are.
I’m just simply trying to give you my perspective—as best I know it from the Scripture, from the experiences God has given me—and lay it out in a way so that I can share with you. Here’s how I would talk to my son and daughter-in-law, if they were about to make this decision, on a permanent basis, for their marriage and their family.
Bob: So, let me see if I hear what you’re saying. You’re saying we can’t make this a black and white, “Thus sayeth the Lord”-kind of a decision—
Dennis: I don’t think the Scriptures speak to it, absolutely, to be able to make that statement.
But let's try anyway.
Bob: —but, at the same time, the Scriptures do give us some clues. We can apply biblically-based wisdom as we evaluate, in our own families, whether this is a right or a wrong decision for our family to make. I’m just guessing here—that you would say, “Most of the time, if we do that, dad’s going to be out doing the work and mom’s going to be overseeing the household.”
Sorry, you guessed wrong.
Dennis: Yes; and I think moms will work outside the home—part-time, full-time. I think that can happen. I think it does happen. Yet, if you want to take a look at what’s happening in the culture—the family is falling apart because of the economic pressures we are putting on it—to have more, acquire more, live at a higher standard. I’m now tipping my hand, Bob, about what I will say about this because I’m looking at the cup of coffee—it’s about half-gone.
Here’s what I’m going to do, as we unpack this, this week. In the absence of any clear biblical prohibition against or blessing for stay-at-home dads, what I want to do is provide a biblical mirror for you to look into and perhaps reveal some blind spots that you may have as you consider making this decision—or, you know someone who has already made it. Perhaps you see them headed for disaster; and maybe, you’d like to help them.
So the Bible doesn't say it. But you will say it and then say how the Bible says it.
It’s not my intention, on this broadcast, to beat people up. Life is tough enough as it is. We’re all about encouraging people, cheering them on—but cheering them on, according to the biblical blueprints—to be a follower of Christ, and to do our best to try to live life the way God designed it, and pass on that perspective to the next generation.
I feel so encouraged. Is my sarcasm font working?
Bob: I feel like we need to say we’re not tackling the issue of two parents working—in this context.
No no no. It is ok for both parents to work. Just not for dad to stay home.
Dennis: No. No, the hornet's nest that we’ve thrown a stone at—this is sufficient. Although, it’s not a huge number right now; but I do think what’s happening is—there is a shift going on in the culture. As we’ll talk about, there is a rejection, in many places, of what is normative in Scripture.
Didn't we just say scripture didn't address it?
Bob: You don’t talk about this specifically in your book, Stepping Up. I mean, you don’t address the phenomena of stay-at-home dads specifically, but you talk about provision and protection and how that is a part of what courageous manhood ought to look like.
Now lets do the manly thing of hawking our wares.
If our listeners don’t have a copy of the book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, I would encourage them to get a copy. I hope many of our listeners are going to be joining us at the Stepping Up National Men’s Simulcast that is taking place on Saturday, August 4th. Details about the simulcast can be found, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You can find one of the simulcast sites near where you live and plan to attend; or if there is not a simulcast site near where you live and your church would like to host one, again, more details can be found, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. The simulcast is Saturday, August 4th. FamilyLifeToday.com is the website; or call if you have any questions: 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
By the way, we want to say a quick word of thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today financially. We are listener-supported. It is folks, like you, who provide the funding for the production and syndication of this daily radio program on a network of stations, all across the country, and around the world, on the internet.
We appreciate your partnership with us. During the summer, when things slow down a bit, every donation we receive is really appreciated. We are grateful for whatever you are able to do to help support FamilyLife Today. Again, thanks for your financial support; and we look forward to hearing from you.
And we want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we are going to continue to look at the subject of stay-at-home dads and talk about some of the problems that may be associated with that. Hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.