Some people call it a role reversal. I call it a revolution! And it is just another indication that the home is being turned completely upside-down.
Traditionally it was dad who kissed his bride and then grabbed his lunch pail as he headed out the door for work. His loving wife would wave good bye as she prepared for another day of tending to the household affairs.
We’re finding that stay at home dads are becoming one of the most significant trends in America today. Last March NPR reported that there are aproximately 160,000 stay at home dads today. This is significant in that this number is up by almost 55,000 from a mere 4 years ago.
The trend has become so big that there are websites devoted to help dads obtain resources for being a stay at home dad. There are support groups that you can access. There is even an annual At Home Dad’s conference you can attend, with seminars on raising children with dissabilities, nutrition, and discipline strategies.
All this is to say that a radical change is taking place in our society. To the degree that it has become almost normalized in the broader culture. And this should catch our attention, especially as it is radically divergent from—not just a long standing cultural norm, but biblical teaching.
The Bible tells us that God designed men to be the heads of the household. As such they are responsible to work and provide for their families. This is why men have typically been looked upon as the breadwinners.
And when you look at the role of women as it is defined in places like Proverbs 31 and Titus 2, you find that women are to find their life’s work revolving around the children and the home. She is entrepreneurial in her efforts, but even that work is a home based business. She isn’t off at the office for 8-10 hours a day. She’s with the kids, tending to them.
This model has characterized most of the western world. And this migration of men to the home is a tectonic shift.
What we are seeing is that men are abdicating their roles as men. And in rejecting the authority of God and the patter God sets, they are loosening their role as an authority in the home. To set aside God’s model is to set aside your authority as a man.
Think about it! Who is the authority in the home here? Is it not the woman who is acting as the primary provider for the family? Is that not what it means to be an authority? To be an authority means that you have primary responsibility over the home and People look to you for daily sustenance!
That’s why I say this is a complete revolution.
I can’t help but say that Daddies are being mom-i-fied. They’ve rejected their role as authority in the home. They are not the head of the home. Instead they trade that for the role of mother.
They are taking up the role of primary nurturer and caregiver to the kids—which belongs to the mother. This is not to say that they didn’t have a role of nurture and caregiving before. Of course they do. Biblically, it is the father who is charged with the nurture of the children. But this is a shift in nurture. It is a revolution in that the father is coming to hold the role of the mother, being busy at home. 4:50
If I can venture a guess, this flip flop of roles was first introduced to us (in the mainstream at least) in the 1980’s with the movie, “Mr. Mom.” Back then it took something that was a rarity or what might have been a temporary situation as Dad changes jobs. But that movie was nothing more than a comedic spoof. Everyone pretty much recognized that it was parody or a silly spin on something that was abnormal. But recognize this: We laughed at it!
However, what was satirized back then has become a widespread reality today. It is becoming “normal” to be a stay at home dad for extended periods, if not for the length of a marriage.
You can even hear it on the radio today. One of the top 40 songs in country music is by the group Lonestar and goes by the title, “Mr. Mom.” And what is interesting about this song is that it is not so much a spoof as it is descriptive.
I’ve found a couple other of articles on this phenomena of Daddy staying home. Most of these sources are blaming the economy for the role reversal. The Washington Post has said that of the 8 million job losses that have occurred during the Great Recession, 82% of them have been them have been men whose jobs were cut. With dad out of work, mom steps up and takes the breadwinning role. Another factor is the presence and primacy of women in the workforce. Women today are frequently better trained and better paid then their husbands. Rather than dump a bunch of money into childcare, some men are choosing to stay home with the kids while mommy brings home the bacon.
Now, how do we respond to this?
First let me say this, these articles that I’ve read (Washington Post, ABC News, and NPR) all put this in glowing terms. The impression they give is that this is just a wonderful thing. I would agree that it is good to have men in the home. That’s something that is frequently missing. We need dads spending time with their children. However, that men are shifting their role to nurturer rather than breadwinner is not good. It’s a catastrophe. Men are not designed to be the primary nurturer. And women are not designed to be independent and severed from the home.
I would also suggest that the Washington Post, ABC and NPR might have skewed their portrayal of these men.
I would assume that things are not as bright and cheery as they say. Men need work. They find much of their life’s fulfillment in their work. And when they don’t work for long periods of time there’s a tendency to become depressed. I would posit that a lot of these men struggle with despondency. I would bet that they experience a great deal of frustration as they do not apply themselves to their God given purpose.
I would not doubt too that there is a great deal of jealousy or anger pitted towards the working spouse. What man can say that he takes delight in seeing his wife become much more successful and prosperous than himself?
Finally, I bet that behind this façade of the great stay at home dad there is plenty of sexual deviancy. I would be willing to put money on the fact that most of these 160,000 men have dabbled heavily in porn (if not become porn addicts altogether). Idleness or simply too much time at home without any sort of regulation makes for optimal conditions to indulge the delights of the flesh.
And let’s not forget that when wifey comes home from a long and hard day of work, she’s probably not got the stamina to satisfy her husband’s sexual desires.
All of this is speculation, I know. But I merely put it out there to say that there might be another side to the story.
Now, what about blaming the economy? Is the Mr. Mom phenomena to be attributed to the economic state of our society? Now, I don’t doubt that there are economic factors. Certainly the financial dynamics of a house will play a vital role in the decision process on this. But the economy isn’t to blame.
What is to blame is the de-Christianization of the culture. It is an attitude. It is the shift in the system of doctrine that has caused the shift in family roles. What is to blame is what you believe regarding the genders. Here you see again the attitude of “you are free to define yourself as you wish.” The idea is that you can define yourself over and against what the Bible says about you.
The economy is not to blame. We’ve been through economic downturns before. You did not see this sort of thing happening during the Great Depression. The Great Depression did not produce a widespread outbreak of Mr Mom’s. Not at all. Men were still men. They knew that they had to find work and provide for their families. There was a sense of the Christian worldview still ingrained in society. And the genders were still viewed through a Christian lens.
This casting off of the biblical pattern is solely because we’ve cast off that Christian worldview. We’ve said we don’t want to be who God has called us to be.
And the embrace of this attitude is an atrocity. And perhaps the only thing that will be worse is the fallout that will befall us. Right now we are in the initial stages of this transition. It is becoming something that is normalized, but it’s still “new.” Like I said, it was only 20 years ago that we were making fun of it in movies like Mr. Mom. But what will the consequences be 20-30 years from now?
I for one am concerned for the kids growing up in such circumstances. We’ve heard many reports about the disastrous effects of not having a father in the picture. Ever since the Industrial Revolution got going men have been absent from the home. As a result we’ve had children growing up under their mothers tutelage alone. The fallout of that has been wide and diverse.
Now you are seeing the opposite thing happen. Children are being raised with only dad in the home. It is an odd twist in the Industrial Revolution, to be sure. We might say that the Post-Industrial Revolution period will produce a slew of children who’ve lacked the tender care of their mother’s nurture.
Now if the Industrial Revolution has had such ill effects while still having the nurturing care of the mother, what will become of the generation that lacks it? Just as a lack of the father in the home is going to have consequences, the lack of a mother is going to have some backlash too.
But not only are they lacking their mother’s nurture. They will be raised by a man who has abdicated his role as a man. They will be raised by Mr. Mom’s who do not see themselves as providers and heads of home.
Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what the effects will be on that one. Time will only tell what will become of each person in that family dynamic: mother, father and child.
Yet one thing is certainly to be appreciated in all this: The fact that these fathers are in the picture and a part of their child’s life is a good thing. We should be glad that the father’s are not absent from their kid’s life. Instead they are trying to play a vital role. There is something to be said for that. I might say there is something very good to be said for that.
What we need though is to bring a balance. Let’s not have mom or dad absent from the home. Let’s build a system where both mother and father are truly complimentarian in that they are working together. And their children are integrated into their life’s work rather than being separated from it.
Most of all, let’s build a system where men are men. They are the providers and true heads of home. They recognize the value of work and set an example for the household in their work.
I confess, that ought to be our aim. We ought to strive to have family based businesses where we don’t have to have either parent missing. And dad is leading his family in righteousness.
Men are to be loving their wives as Christ love the church. Christ didn’t say, “Go on girl, get out there and get me my lunch.” No. Christ saw himself as the head of the church and he went out to do the work that it would take to provide for her and her children. He manned up and gave his life for her. It was because he was her authority! And he proved his authority by the work that he did for his family.
That’s the biblical pattern. That’s what God wants for our families. Men must be the authorities that they are called to be. They must be men and love their families in the same manly way as Christ loves.
The only to get that authority though is to find it in Christ. Only when you acknowledge His authority can you be the authority that he calls you to be.
To be the man God wants you to be is then, is only through manning up to your error. If you’re in this kind of system, you begin by repenting of the fact that you have not been a man. There’s where you’ll start being a man. And when you man up to your unmanliness, you start becoming the man God wants you to be.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.