By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
It was not what was expected by any means when I fell into the role of the primary financial breadwinner, and my husband became the childcare giver. I was raised in a very traditional household with the blessing of a father who could make enough to support the family and thus give my mom the freedom to stay home and manage the household, the finances, the children, and other vital roles. It never dawned on me that those roles would reverse in my life, not to mention, when faced with the reversal, there was a nagging question of "is this okay?"
Many of us have been raised hearing that a woman's place is in the home. She is the nurturer, the caregiver, the one who manages the household. Often, she's held up to the chapter in Proverbs that has become most beloved and also most argued for decades. The father is not typically synonymous with taking care of the children, teaching them, managing meal plans for the family, and excelling at the laundry.
But sometimes circumstances don't fall into perfect line up with expectations. Whatever the reason, it makes more financial sense for Dad to stay home, or perhaps he prefers this role because it's what he's good at, while Mom excels at a career.
This was our situation. Not only did I make more income, but I was not blessed with a talent for homemaking. Even raising young children was a challenge for me, and often, I was at a complete loss with what to do. My husband, on the other hand, was a natural at homemaking. His ability to care for young children was an art to watch. It worked for us.
But how did we know it wasn't wrong for Dad to stay home?
1. Staying home doesn't reassign leadership.
A big argument for why men should not stay at home with the kids is because of the argument that men should be leaders of their families. For some reason, we have assigned financial provision as synonymous with family leadership, and I believe that is putting far more inflection where it never was. In fact, even Proverbs 31 references the woman doing business at the city gates. Financial earnings are as much a part of her make up as the man's. So, where the finances come from really shouldn't influence who holds the leadership role within the family. A man can stay home, raise the children, and sometimes make an even more effective leader because his focus is solely on the family's health and well-being.
2. Staying home doesn't emasculate the father.
Culture has long equated homecare and childcare with feminine traits and abilities. Fathers who stay home are sometimes assumed to be more feminine in nature, more docile, timid, and even weak in the lineup of male strength and power. But this simply isn't true. Strong males do a fabulous job of being stay-at-home dads. There is nothing within the role that requires him to take a step down and bow to his female counterpart. In fact, when viewed as a team process, both roles—male and female—become equally important within both realms, inside and outside the home. A man shouldn't need to be afraid that he'll lose his respect as a man simply because he made dinner for the family. Wives in this situation should be cautious that they reinforce their husband's sensitivity as strong male qualities and not mock or undermine them as they pick up the role of caregiver.
3. Scripture never states a man must exit the building.
One can make a strong argument for the leadership roles of men, the authority of men, the strength of men, and the father role that men are to take for their children. That being said, I cannot draw on any Scripture that states clearly that a man must leave home and work outside of it, and further, that they are wrong to remain in the home and care for their children.
Historically, the man has taken the out-of-the-home role simply because much of the work in the workforce has relied on the abilities found in most men. Can they be found in women, and can women do this work? Absolutely, but that isn't the argument at hand here. The fact is, because of abilities, innate genetics, and cultural assignment, men have traditionally carried this role of leaving home to bring home the bacon. And that's okay! But so is staying home to care for the children.
When one takes time to study the Scriptures, they will discover that men are highly leaned on to take the role of Spiritual leader to their children. To raise the children in things of the Lord. To teach the children wisdom and strength. One may argue then that if Dad is able to stay home with the children even part of the time, this also aids in fulfilling that role that God has given to them as a father.
We found rather quickly that there were pluses and minuses to Dad staying at home. About as many as there were to me staying at home. In the end, we had to step back and analyze what was a Spiritual issue versus a circumstantial issue.
Did Dad staying at home threaten his role as leader and captain of our family's team?
Did Mom going to work disrespect and demean Dad because he chose to stay home?
Was Dad able to invest his gifts and talents to serve not only his family but also the Lord in a way that he couldn't, were he to join the workforce?
Were we viewing this as a team effort, or was this a struggle for hierarchy within the marriage and, therefore, a power struggle instead of an educated, caring decision made for the family?
These are important questions to ask yourself as you approach this discussion. Many people will have a knee-jerk reaction that, yes, staying at home is wrong for the man. But often, that is because it's equated with the feminist viewpoint that mom is trying to set herself up as independent, stronger than, as capable as, etc. This isn't always the case. Oftentimes, it truly is a reality check of where life has the family or who is gifted where and for what.
Be very cautious that you and your spouse don't make dad staying home into a right versus wrong issue. There is nothing immoral about a man staying home. There is nothing overtly anti-biblical about the man staying at home. There is no blatant disobedience before God when the man stays at home. One could argue that the "wrong" becomes when a man is mocked, criticized, or questioned for staying at home, especially when he and his wife have taken a position of humility before God and each other to be as effective as they can be in their family and Spiritual upbringing of their little humans.
The impact of a father as a caregiver, a spiritual influence, and a daily investor into a child's life can be priceless. May the Lord lead you and your family as you decide who stays home and who follows a career path, but either way, it is a team effort, with your children being the ultimate reward.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Maria Korneeva
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!