Things to Consider
About the Guest
If the wife makes more money than the husband, why shouldn't she make the living while her husband watches the kids? Dennis Rainey shares some points couples need to consider before they make the decision for the husband to become a stay-at-home dad.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
If the wife makes more money than the husband, why shouldn’t she make the living while her husband watches the kids?
Things to Consider
Bob: Some families today are breaking with cultural norms and traditions and deciding that Mom will be the provider and Dad will stay at home and raise the kids. Dennis
Rainey says the long-term implications of that decision are consequential.
Dennis: I’ve watched a number of couples make this decision. In their 20s, it was fun and kind of novel. In their 30s, it was okay. When they hit the 40s, they hit a wall; and they wake up, one day, angry. And they don’t get over it, especially the women. They get angry at the price they’ve paid, at the loss of being a mom, and at the man who was supposed to provide. They are looking at him, and they’re evaluating him. They say, “He’s running around, having a lot of fun; and he’s become passive.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. So, is there something really wrong with making the decision for your family—Mom is the provider and Dad stays home to take care of the kids? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, you’re going to take on “Mr. Mom” today; right?
Dennis: No, I’m not going to take on anybody. Mr. Mom was a movie that had the actor, Michael Keaton, in it. He had to stay home for a period of time because he lost a job; but it wasn’t a permanent decision between him and his wife. He didn’t become a stay-at-home dad on a long-term basis.
What I want to talk about today is probably best illustrated by Becky, who wrote me on Facebook®. She said, “My husband has been a stay-at-home dad. He calls himself a homemaker, which he is. I work full-time, and it works great for our family. He does the homeschooling of our kids, as well. I think, when you look at this, you need to see how
God has gifted each of you and not go by what society expects.
“We got a lot of flack when we decided to do this, mostly from the Christian community. It was quite disheartening. My husband and I are in partnership to raise our family. Our kids are well-adjusted. They are actively involved at church and love Jesus Christ.”
Bob: What we’ve already heard you say is that, as you look at this, you don’t see it as a black-and-white issue, with an absolute sense—that it is always right or always wrong—for a dad to be at home as a stay-at-home dad; but you do think there is some biblical wisdom we can apply.
Dennis: I want to say that it is not wrong, 100 percent of the time, to stay at home, as a dad. It’s not right, 100 percent of the time, to stay at home. I think some people are making that decision for the wrong reasons. I think some people are making that decision without understanding where it is going to take them, without understanding what it is going to do to their kids, and without understanding what it is going to do to their marriage, to their family, to their relationships, to them and their identity.
But I’m running ahead of myself, at this point, and throwing the stone too soon.
Dennis: I have four questions that I would ask a couple who would be considering this kind of lifestyle. The first question really gets near the heart of the matter, in my opinion.
Ultimately, what are the values that this decision represents for your marriage, your family, and your children?
Ultimately, Bob, I believe it is a value decision. As I’ve heard a lot of people make the decision, I think that money and standard of living is ultimately driving—not all, not all, certainly, not all—but is driving a number of folks to make this decision so that they can provide a standard of living that provides a lot of comfort and freedom for their family.
Bob: Now, you’re saying that is a factor for some couples. They are just looking at the raw economics of it. They are saying the wife can make a whole lot more money than the husband can. So, doesn’t it just make sense—if she’s earning and he’s staying home so that you can enjoy the financial benefits? If that is a couple’s primary motivation, you’re suggesting that couple really needs to pull back and say—
Dennis: I think they need to evaluate seriously because I think that can be and often is a faulty value system to make that decision.
I think, also, another value is that of fulfillment. We’re talking about a woman who feels more fulfilled in the marketplace than she does at home and may say, “My husband is more gifted to stay home than I am.”
Bob: “He’s more of a nurturer. He likes the home environment. I go stir-crazy when
I’m around that.” I remember talking to a wife, one time, who said, “If I was at home, I would be a raving lunatic. It would not be good for our family.”
Dennis: Right. You talk about the consequences of all these decisions. First, you make your decisions and then your decisions make you. I talked to one person who said, “You know, I’ve watched a number of couples make this decision. In their 20s, it was fun and kind of novel. In their 30s, it was okay. When they hit the 40s, they hit a wall.” This person said, “They wake up, one day, angry. And they don’t get over it, especially the women. They get angry at the price they’ve paid, at the loss of being a mom, and at the man who was supposed to provide. They are looking at him, and they’re evaluating him. They say, ‘He’s become passive; and he’s just having a good time because the kids are now teenagers and don’t really demand a lot of his time. So, he’s running around, having a lot of fun.’”
I think what has to happen here is—I think you have to step back and you have to ask yourself, “What are the values that we embrace as a couple, and what are the kinds of values we want to represent our family? That really leads me to a second question, “Is the world pressing you into its mold as a man, as a woman, as a father, as a mother, and as a family?” Romans 12:1-2 says, “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The Scripture calls men, clearly, to be the heads of their homes—not a Gestapo head, not a dictator, but a servant leader of their wives and their children. Making money does not represent the power for a man to be the head of his home.
Bob: Making money isn’t how you demonstrate leadership.
Dennis: No, it is one way that you can provide for your family; but because you make the most money or provide the money for the family, isn’t the primary reason why a man is to be the head of his home. He’s to be the head of his home because in the Bible—it clearly established a man as the leader of his home and called him to give up himself—to deny himself to follow Christ, and to lay down his rights to love his wife and his children. In some cases, Bob, it is a heavy mantle for a man to wear—to have to be that provider and to care for his family in extraordinary ways.
Bob: You know, some of our listeners heard you quote Romans 12:1-2—where you said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,”—and they would say, “Now, Dennis, if I’m being conformed to this world, I’m going to embrace these traditional roles. I mean, the world has established the role of the husband in the work place and the wife at home. Isn’t that being conformed to this world if I just jump in and say, ‘Okay that’s how it has to be for us’?”
Dennis: I don’t think the world was the one who established that. I think that was established, in Scripture, in Ephesians, Chapter 5, verse 23, where it says, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.” I think, if there is anything we need to be suspicious of today, it is anything that seeks to undermine the pattern that is found in the Scriptures—of God giving men clear responsibility to love, lead, serve, and deny themselves on behalf of their wives.
Bob: So, the first two questions you are calling couples to look at—as they are evaluating—“What ought to be our response to this?” and, “Is this the right way for us to organize our family?” Question number one: “What do we value? What are the priorities that we are trying to establish here, and what is important to us?”
Question number two is the question of, “Are we kicking against a biblical design? Are we being pressed by the culture into an unbiblical mold?” You really just have to pull back and say, “Are we taking our cues from the Scriptures and what it would teach us, or are we taking our cues from the culture we live in?”
Dennis: I know I’ve been strident here. I know some of our listeners have recoiled at that, and I’ll get some mail.
Bob: There is some bristling taking place, even as you speak.
Dennis: I realize that; but I said earlier, “I do not believe that a stay-at-home dad can do it and feel like it is right, 100 percent of the time. I don’t think you could say it is wrong, 100 percent of the time. Are there cases where this can occur and should occur? I think it is possible. I really do. I think it happens; okay? I’m saying, ‘For this to become normative in the Christian family has huge consequences.’”
That leads me to the third question or the third issue. “Will this decision ultimately create an identity crisis?” Will it create an identity crisis for men--of what true masculinity is and his responsibility to work and to provide for his family? Will it also create a crisis of identity for a woman—who she is and how God has hardwired her as a nurturer--one who cares about the next generation?
I visited some of the websites for stay-at-home dads and read some of the comments. I have to say I really had compassion on a group of dads because you could sense it in their writing. They were wondering, “Who are we? I go to PTA meetings at school, and
I’m there with a bunch of moms. Who am I? How do I relate to them? Where are the other men I have a chance to relate to?”
I think it is one of the reasons why this convention for stay-at-home dads occurs every year. I think that is why they gather together. They are looking for other men they can identify with to be able to have a sense of self-respect.
Bob: Whenever I think about this issue, I go to passages like 1Timothy, Chapter 5, where Paul tells Timothy to instruct men--that if a man fails to provide for his family and for those of his household, he is worse than an unbeliever. He doesn’t say, “If a person....” He doesn’t say—it is not “man”, in a generic-sense. It’s pretty clearly understood that the man is providing for his household. There seems to be a clear instruction to men that the provision role is something that rests with them.
Dennis: That’s right. That passage you are talking about in 1 Timothy is actually talking about widows and how men are to provide for their extended family; but I think the principle can be applied here—that a man needs to assume the responsibility to be that one who does provide for his family.
When a man doesn’t work, when a man is not employed permanently, he will not thrive. I’ve watched it, Bob. Men who don’t work, men who don’t provide for their families will end up losing self-respect. They will end up with a lot of confusion about what it means to be a man. They will end up becoming, in many cases, passive; and they will start to coast.
I want to read—my friend, Robert Lewis, who works here, at FamilyLife--in his book, New Eve—I want to read what he said here. He said, “For men, this spells an identity crisis of the first order. A Newsweek article bears this out. For, with few exceptions, stay-at-home dads, who were interviewed, confessed their dislike of this new role. Why? Because from earliest boyhood, males fix their eyes on the broader world, outside the home, where they have a God-made hunger for adventure and accomplishment.
“Women, too, are exhilarated by success; but for men, it’s the very stuff of life. Men, who aren’t conquering turf God has called them to, are not merely standing still. They are losing ground, and their masculine soul, in the process. Something dies inside a man when he gives up on authentic manhood and settles for something less than the call that lies within them. His manhood becomes hollow. When a man surrenders his life and leadership to a woman, as Adam did to Eve, both inevitably hate it in the end.”
Dennis: Those are pretty strong words.
Bob: I think we also need to talk about that provider woman in a family--the one who is out in the marketplace. She is going to have to wrestle with Titus, Chapter 2, where older women are instructed to teach younger women to be lovers of their husbands, lovers at home, and trainers of their children. Now, a woman may say, “I can work in the marketplace and do those things.”
Bob: And I would say we are not disputing that; but there is a primary responsibility here, and your job is going to pull you away from that a lot.
Dennis: And again, we are not picking up another stone and throwing it at working moms.
Bob: Yes, we are not addressing the two-parent working household. We are really talking about that situation where mom has taken on the mantle of provision and dad is saying, “I’ll just stay home and keep the house.”
Dennis: I think it is back to what my friend said. It’s what is going to make her angry in the end. Is she really going to be happy with her identity and with how that gets expressed because I do think there is a hard-wiring issue here of how God created us, male and female.
Let me go onto a fourth question I would encourage couples to ask, “What is the message you are sending to your sons and daughters by having Dad stay at home and take care of the kids?”
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?” This dad didn’t. I won’t get into what he did, but he didn’t go to work. 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? I think it’s a tough question, Bob; but I think it’s one that is worth really considering.
I hope what I have done here is—is hopefully leave enough room for someone to disagree with me or to take on some of these issues, and make a decision, and to ultimately say, “This is God’s will for me and for us, as a couple, and for our family, in Christ Jesus.” You know what I say to you? “You know what? That is your decision. You’ve got to make it;” but I do think there is a rebellion against God, occurring in this world, against His design for marriage and for the family. I think the world wants to distort what it means to be a godly man, a godly husband, and a godly father—and the same for being a woman, wife, and mother.
I just don’t hear a lot of people speaking up today on behalf of God’s design and being willing to take the shots that come with it because it’s not a popular message, necessarily; but you know what? We aren’t called to popularity. This book right here, the Bible—it calls us to live in a counter-cultural lifestyle. It calls us to embrace the truth of Scripture and to pass it on generationally to others, who, hopefully, will pass it on to their kids. We are involved in a generational war for the soul of the family, and we need to win it.
Bob: Yes. And the only we are going to win it is exactly as you have said—by pointing people back to Scripture. We have to have our hearts and minds soaking in and saturated with what the Bible has to say about how we are to live—first of all, as transformed people, whose lives have been radically altered because of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
And then what that transformed life looks like—in our marriage relationships, as we raise our children, and as we think through the kind of issue we’ve been talking about here today. You are right. There are going to be folks who hear us talking about this subject this week—in fact, there have already been some who have gone to our website and looked at the transcripts of these programs. They have typed in where they disagree with what you are saying or why they think your view is the wrong view.
It’s fine to engage in that kind of dialog and that kind of debate, but we have to keep pressing one another back to the Scriptures. What does the Bible say? What do we learn from Scripture about the husband’s role and the wife’s role and how we are to live that out in a marriage relationship?
You talk, at length, about what a man’s role in a family ought to be, what a man’s role in the society ought to be in the book, that you’ve written, called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. You don’t address this issue of stay-at-home dads in that book, specifically; but you do address dads as providers and what that provisionary role ought to look like in a family. Again, I want to encourage our listeners, if you don’t have a copy of Dennis Rainey’s book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, get a copy. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how you can order the book from us, online. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
And then make note of Saturday, August 4th. There are going to be churches all around the country that are hosting the Stepping Up National Men’s Simulcast with James MacDonald, Crawford Loritts, Robert Lewis, and Dennis Rainey—all speaking at the event. You can find a church in your area that is hosting the event and sign up to join them—be a part of that Saturday event; or, if there’s not a church in your area hosting the event, there’s still time for you to sign up and be a host site for the Stepping UpNational Men’s Simulcast. Again, find out more about the event when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Call us, toll-free, at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
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You can do that by making a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. That’s what it means when we say we are listener-supported. Folks, like you, respond—make a contribution. We just want to stop and say, “Thanks,” to those of you who have done that in the past and ask those of you, who have maybe never made a contribution, to consider doing that today. Again, you can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call, toll-free, 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation. We do appreciate your financial support.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to go from talking about men in the family to talking about a wife’s role and a mom’s role in the family. Judy Rossi joins us tomorrow as we explore that subject. Hope you can be here with 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.
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