Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stay-at-home dads are lame

Right? I mean, come on. They're mainly just to lazy to get a real job and or to have direction in their own lives. Not true. But still I think it.

A few Sundays back a nice woman from Eastern Europe (I think) spoke in church and later on (in the nursery room before sacrament meeting was over=reverence fail) I was talking to her husband. He was going to be staying at home with their little girl while his wife got her doctorate in piano performance. First I had to resist the instinct to say "Oh and what will you be doing?" (he mentioned later that he would be staying at home). I also found myself saddened to realize that he had lost standing in my mind, although subconsciously, for letting his wife decide the direction of his life.

He was really a great guy and obviously had a great deal of love for his family and I was really disappointed by my instinctive response. If I, who am in the exact same situation as he is and am happy with the place that I am going, what if I were on a much more traditional path? Maybe it is some expression of inner self-doubt about my path, and there is some of that, for sure.

However, I feel that a lot bigger part of it is how I've been socialized. Both in my church and my culture I've been taught that the main value of a man is in his ability to provide for his family through employment. Sure, men are expected to help out around the house, but anything more than doing the chores that are hard for a woman due to differences in physical strength, such as home repairs and major landscaping. Everything else they do, i.e. cleaning, cooking or child-rearing, etc. are just bonuses, charitable entries into the woman's realm.

Of course, I would like to say that I don't need any outside confirmation of my path in life, but that simply isn't true. I'm comfortable that God approves of our path (as comfortable as I am about saying anything definitive about God), that it is best for our family and that I have no real desire to pursue a life of nine-to-five monotony. But still, I know people, even people I care about and am close to, will judge me for making the decision to stay home, and that is, of course, inevitable for anyone outside of the established cultural norm. This is sad, but not sad enough to make me want to change my mind.


  1. That's really admirable of you, Tim. Jonathan and I have had the conversation many times about what a man's true value is separate from being a provider or an opener of jammed lids. I feel like we hear all the time about the "intrinsic value of women" but what about men? We don't hear much about how cool a man is whether he decides to work or stay-at-home. Just for the record, and I know you don't need my validation, but I think your decision pretty darn cool. Besides, in addition to being a stay-at-home-dad, from what I hear, you're also an excellent writer.

  2. I'm sorry that you feel the church teaches that a man's main value is to provide financially and that child-rearing and household chores are a "bonus". That's just not true. It may be the culture that developed around the LDS church in Utah but it's certainly not part of the church's teachings.
    I'm an LDS working mom and I know sometimes well-meaning church leaders say things like "you do what you have to do" and "things will get better" (assuming I work because we're in a bad financial spot and not even allowing for the possibility that I choose to work) and it bothers me a lot (why is a woman's only value in her ability to breed and care for children?), but you have to remember that's not doctrine, that's just a guy who doesn't know what to say.
    I for one firmly believe that children need to spend as much time as possible with both their parents. And that if I spent all day, every day with my kids I'd go crazy.

  3. Very honest post. I think it's so important to examine our own biases instead of pretending they don't exist...good for you! Challenging traditional gender roles has been the best thing for our marriage and family.

  4. It goes both ways. In our society, perhaps outside the LDS church, a woman's value is also attached to her education and career. When I joined Christopher at various business school functions, I would often get asked, "What do you do?" When I replied I was a stay-at-home mom, 90% of people changed the subject or excused themselves to find someone more interesting to talk to. The people who stuck around, and were genuinely interested in my experiences and opinions, whether or not they related to children, really made an impression on me.

  5. Awesome post, Tim. Kudos for recognizing your biases and taking them on. I think our society will be vastly improved as we move toward valuing the role of caregivers. Not to mention expanding our ideas of the identity and intrinsic worth of both men and women beyond traditional gender roles.

  6. For quite some time, my older brother was the stay at home father for his family, while his wife taught high school art full time. Now he is an adjunct/possibly assistant professor at two universities in his locale. Some of his classes are in the evening, still making it possible for him to spend ample time at home with his three young daughters during the day. This has been something that my family sees (and saw) no problem with: they were both supporting their family in the best way that they could. Doors had not opened for him initially, and so he was with his children, working at smaller, non-professional jobs on some weekends and nights. Unfortunately, it is something that was and is difficult for his mother-in-law to understand, and there is definite judgment towards my brother there, for not fulfilling his "role," and "making" their daughter work. Neither of them sees it like that, so I don't think it is fair for outsiders to see it like that either. Each family really is different, and unfortunately the Proclamation to the World on the Family blends them together a little too closely, with only one or two lines reminding that the way things play out in real life is often different with different circumstances.

    I admire both of you for coming together to make the choice that you feel best about for your family. That is the highest and best that any of us can and should do.