Friday, January 3, 2014

Men and Housework, Child rearing, and Stay-At-Home Dads

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men"

For this next topic, I was originally going to write two separate posts.  However, I decided to discuss the issues concerning men’s duties inside the home regarding chores, work or stay home and what the means in modern times all in one post.  We already discussed the issues of women’s roles in the home regarding housework and child rearing and working outside the home, now it is time to discuss the men’s role in all of this. 
Even in today’s society as we are moving forward accepting women working outside the home juggling career and family in both the Christian and secular society, we are also excepting the changing roles for men in family life.  However, despite some of these changes, there is still a debate among many whether men should do house chores, child rearing or even be the stay at home parent. This debate is more prevalent among the Christian community who still believe housework and child rearing are women’s duties even if the woman works outside the home working the same hours.  In fact, some churches even tell men that these tasks are not primary their jobs nor should they be expected to perform such chores even when both spouses work full time.  I even read from pastors who go as far as delegate chores in the home based on gender, such as yard work and car maintenance is the man’s job and cooking and cleaning is the woman’s jobs. Then there are articles posting around by Christian men declaring real men don’t do cleaning or even in secular articles discouraging men from housework.  Lately, there has been a couple of articles floating around on Christian blogs regarding men and housework.  The first one claiming men who do traditional women’s jobs are less likely to have sex, after studying couples between 1992 through 1994.  However, this article doesn’t try to discourage men from doing housework claiming, women are more satisfied feeling an amount of fairness in the marriage if the men contribute to the housework.  Another recent article claims a study done by a Norwegian man that in marriages where both couples share of the housework are likely to divorce.  Yet, his reasoning has little to do with the housework itself, but the fact that couples who share the housework are likely to be more modern and have a less traditional attitude about marriage commitments. 
 Despite this, some Christians and secular people alike have used these articles as proof to reject the idea of men doing housework.  Even when men are encourage in the Christian community do contribute more in household chores and taking care of the children it is often viewed as a favor men do for their wives and not something that is required of them or part of their job at home.  But other recent articles are saying that marriages are actually happier when men do contribute to the housework and few years back an article claimed that men who do housework actually have a better sex life than those who don't, contradicting the earlier article that claimed the opposite.  New studies also claim children today are better off with more fathers being more active in the child care than previous generations where child care was almost mainly left to the mothers.  I even read from blog by a complementarian pastor who is also a stay-at-home-dad give a convincing post on the subject matter contradicting many of the misinterpretations other Christians claims that condemn the practice.  Still many Christians can’t get past the idea that housework and child rearing are the women's job.  Many think that scriptures in the bible support this, although I have posted my conclusions on this argument in a previous post( Christian Working Women part 1).  Regardless, there is nothing in the bible that states these tasks are preserved only for women and that men shouldn’t be involved. In fact, during ancient biblical times, there were a number of men participating in tasks considered traditionally women’s work.  Men were tailors, weavers, laundrymen, cooks and bakers.  During festivals, men cooked and prepared food and in Ancient Greece, they roasted meat over coals or on spits. Jesus himself cooked fish and bread for his disciples in John 21:9-10 “So when they got out on the land, they *saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus *said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 
In modern times, due to cultural changes it has become more acceptable for men to contribute more in the household chores and caring for the children and even encouraged especially in homes where both spouses are working to earn a living.  I definitely believe it is ideal for couples to share or split the chores and child care fairly when both parties work outside the home, working together as team for the common goal in their homes.  Even if the wife stays home and primary cares for the house and children, husbands still can help out doing some tasks around the house other than the typical man’s job of mowing the lawn or working in the garage, as well help out with child care.  That brings up my next topic regarding men being the primary caregivers of the children and home.  Today not only men are doing more around the house, but more men are staying at home and taking care children and managing the domestic affairs leaving more women becoming the sole breadwinners.  However, many rebuke these cultural changes especially Christians. Some churches even go as far as to condemn such practices and order church discipline for the men.  Even well-meaning pastors have discouraged men becoming stay-at-home dads believing that the man’s responsibility is to financially provide for his family, even if the wife works too. The popular argument is that the bible instructs the man to work to support his family using the scripture 1Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”. 
However, this verse isn’t directed at husbands to work and provide for their wives and children but more adult children or grandchildren to take care of the elderly widows in their families rather than burden the church to provide for them.  In that way, the church could focus more on taking care of the elderly widows who don’t have any relatives to look after them.  This duty isn't reserved only for men, as women are also instructed to take care of widows in her home in the verse 1Timonthy 5:16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.”  Basically as Christians, we all have a duty to look after the wellbeing of the elderly in our families and see that there are taken care of  when they are no longer able to take care of themselves be it a parent, grandparent or another relative.  Many bible verses do support working hard and discourages laziness. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  Psalm 128:2 “”You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.”  Proverbs 12:11 “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”  Proverbs 21:25 “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.”  Proverbs 22:29 “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” 
 Working hard is just about earning money for a living.  There are other ways to work and not be lazy.  Running a home that includes doing domestic tasks, cooking and preparing the meals, running errands that include grocery shopping and buying other necessities for the house, tending to the children and chauffeuring them around when needed is definitely hard work.  Although, I like many others, support the idea that men should be the providers and the protectors of the home, I don’t believe providing means only financially.  Men can provide spiritually, economically, mentally for the needs of his families and still be hard-working devoted husbands and fathers.  I also want to point out that despite the myth of the traditional breadwinning husband and homemaking wife on the past, during biblical times this concept wasn’t commonly precedent.  In fact, in the ancient times, what was now known as the cottage industry where skilled people did their work inside the home usually as family-based businesses was more common.  People during that time worked mainly as carpenters, potters, tailors, weavers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, blacksmiths, cobblers, bakers etc.  Many were shopkeepers who lived above their shops.  Other workers were farmers who grew crops and raised livestock, or herders who travelled around with their flock living in tents.  With the exception of fisherman,  traveling merchants and traders, servants/slaves, shephards, or herders,  working from home was quite the norm for many of the residents.  Even Jesus's stepfather Joseph worked as a carpenter and likely ranhis business in his workshop inside his home.  He would also train Jesus inthe carpentry field as well. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution, that many of the men started to leave the homes and work in the factories or mine especially in the western society.  By the mid-19th century the typical family unit with men as the primary breadwinner became the norm.
In my own home, both my parents worked and shared in the household chores and both had been unemployed at least once while I was growing up and took on the primary caretaker role. I recall as small child my father was unemployed for year and became a stay-at home dad during a period such a role was rare and he took prepared me for school, made breakfast, drove me to and from school.  Over the years, even when both my parents worked, they never invested too much in gender-specific household chores.  My father cooked breakfast and dinner as good as my mother and even today does most of the cooking before  retiring from work, although my mother hasn’t worked full-time in years.  Both are comfortable in their roles and never worried about the man’s or woman’s job regarding domestic tasks.  Despite my belief that on an average women tend to be more suitable as the primary caretaker of the children and home, this doesn’t mean that men could never or should never be in this type of role.  In fact some bible verses mention fathers being involved in bringing up their children.  Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers,[a] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The problem lies in outdated gender stereotypes and unfair biases on cultural norms.  Just as working women have been unfairly seen as and neglectful, stay-at home husbands and fathers are seen as lazy. 
Of course there are some men who are too lazy to work and gladly sit back and allow their wives be the sole breadwinner as well as come home and cater to them, cooking their meals and do their laundries while they hardly did anything around the house. There are breadwinning men who have wives who also worked full time, in some cases the men expect their wives to work, yet still come home do the housework, cooking or tending to the needs of the children while they just relax on the couch.  In these cases, I can understand many concerns of the of the lack of motivation on the men’s parts.  Despite this, there are men who are opened-minded enough to be willing to take over the non-traditional role of the primary homemaker, maybe even work from home, taking care of the house and children, leaving his wife to pursue her career.  Other cases could involve the husband being unemployed for whatever reason, loss of job, illness or disability forcing the wife to be the main breadwinner.  Just as women have evolved, so have men and they shouldn’t be judged to whatever works in their home being it a breadwinner or stay-at-home parent.  Men also have the responsibility to make their family their primary priority as a husband and father and in past, have been guilty of neglecting this role, in favor of their career ambition, climbing the social ladder or outside pursuits.  It’s good that in the Christian community has evolved some as well as the secular society since more Christians today are relaxing some of restrictive gender roles in the home. 
Many no longer view housework and child rearing as women’s work nor working and paying the bills as men’s work.  More pastors are encourage couples to decide what chores or duties regarding housework, managing family budget and paying the bills based on who’s gifted rather than gender.  This is a good thing, although we still have a long way to go.

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