Stay at Home Dads: Too Feminine?

I draw your attention to critical reaction about a Thingamababy viewpoint in an article, Boys: the New Girls?, posted on the Gender Blog of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

The Council picked apart my question, Are Doll Houses OK for Boys?, although perhaps missed my more strident follow-up post about a video titled William’s Doll. My view is that boys playing with doll houses can help demonstrate a man’s role in the household, in addition to being good imaginative play. Likewise, a doll can demonstrate a father’s role in caring for an infant. I don’t agendize it for every boy, but a dad shouldn’t sweat his boy wanting to play with dolls or a dollhouse.

I found this quote really interesting from the Gender Blog article:

“We don’t need boys who can push a baby carriage and appropriately dress
a doll. We need boys who have had a sense of courage, adventure, resilience, toughness, and predilection to protect and provide for others built in them.”

Why can’t boys have both sets of qualities? Are they really mutually exclusive?

I wonder what that viewpoint says about me, a man who changes diapers and pushes a baby stroller while my wife works outside the home. Okay, my wife and I actually each work part-time, so that may explain why I have a “quasi-androgynous approach” to parenting. Something tells me our lifestyle is objectionable to certain Americans. I’m flabbergasted.

But actually, I don’t have to wonder. In the Council’s earlier post, Dads: the New Moms?, it clearly spells out that my manhood may be on the line:

“The new stay at home dad phenomenon [...] may indicate that when men do not have clear biblical grounding for masculine behavior and expectations, then in their efforts to be more involved, will give up the very things that are at the heart of masculinity.”

Wow. Simply wow.

A single religious text is often used by opposing groups to justify polar opposite viewpoints, so please think of the Council’s reaction in terms of being a far-right conservative opinion and leave your own religious bias outside when reading their articles. You could, for example, be an atheist and still agree with many of the Gender Blog viewpoints.

I don’t share these articles wanting to spark a reaction from my readers, although I’m sure they do. I think it’s important for you to know these viewpoints exist because we usually surround and insulate ourselves with like-minded people and media.

Comments

18 Responses to “Stay at Home Dads: Too Feminine?”

  1. Bee says:

    Sooo… where do they think that our little men will get there sense of “courage, adventure, resilience, toughness, and predilection to protect and provide” if daddy is some crestfallen wage-slave? Surely any model of fatherhood is reliant on actually getting to see your kids for more than 2 days out of 7?

    To give them courage, you have to be seen to be overcoming your fear; not simply bemoaning your boss. To give them adventure, you have to explore with them; not just hear what they did at school. To grow toughness, they need tenderness; not some hollowing posturing from their hero-dad. To know how to protect, they have to be protected. And to learn how to provide they need to know that family is worth working and not working for.

    And if you need a religious view point, consider that Joseph – as a c.1 carpenter – would have worked from home and never ever had to call up his family from a hotel to say good night.

    ——-
    As well as being a home-dad, a daycare provider of others kids and a play-blogger. Bee is also married to a vicar and has a big ‘ol theology degree himself, so can grin at any references to not having a clear understanding of biblical masculinity and happily wash children’s feet.

    November 27th, 2007 at 3:06 am

  2. adrienne says:

    First, this is the link where they talk about you:
    http://www.cbmw.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=996

    Wow.

    When WWII broke out, my grandfather and all his brothers tried to enlist despite the fact they were somewhat older than military guidelines.

    Every brother was accepted and sent to foreign theaters except for one who had serious health problems.

    That uncle, Lyman, was devastated by the rejection. As his brothers left for the military, all their wives and children moved back to their hometown of Owosso, MI where Lyman was able to watch over them all. For a few years, Lyman shepherded multiple households through the difficulties of an absent parent.

    When my brother was born decades later, my father named him (middle name) for Lyman- not his own father. In my dad’s estimation, Lyman’s strength to stay behind took more courage and ongoing strength than serving in foreign combat.

    And, I think the same thing is true for good stay at home dads. It is hardest to be different than the norm- and doing it well seems a magnet for criticism.

    Maybe these “Biblical men” (who all presumably grow their beards long, keep their heads covered, and eat Kosher as the Old Testament also mandates) view their gender duties as exempting them from unpleasant tasks like diaper changing or barf scooping. And your day to day duties expose that men can indeed change diapers and push baby buggies, but they don’t want to do that. So they have to attack your manhood in response.

    I think it’s short-sighted. If they’d ever been to a mid-week play group, they would see how one dad’s presence is a magnet for some kids. We have a cop dad who often attends our playgroup and the kids LOVE him because he plays differently than the mommies. Isn’t it a good thing to have male models PRESENT in early childhood when you’re worrying about gender?

    Plus, their main argument seems to be that masculine play is the best gender modeling. Fort and zip lines, etc.. So dad being home to play with the kids in the formative years is damaging? I just don’t get their logic.

    I simply don’t get how nurturing/caretaking behavior and courage are mutually exclusive. My husband (raised by a career-military father) embodies both qualities.

    Side note: The TIME article they reference (in the not about you specifically article) seems like simple biological response to external stimuli. If men are presently holding babies, they might not need more babies right away… anyone losing sleep with a newborn will probably appreciate this biological act of mercy.

    I could go on about this ALL DAY, but I won’t.

    You’re a SUPERMAN in my book, AJ. Don’t let ‘em tell you otherwise.

    November 27th, 2007 at 6:50 am

  3. Mark says:

    Sigh.

    Words fail me. The first stay at home dad I ever knew was a guy at church. Stuff like this makes me be irritated to be a Christian sometimes, cause now there will be readers on this blog who think we ALL think like that.

    November 27th, 2007 at 9:58 am

  4. RobMonroe says:

    INSANITY!

    The first toy I bought for my daughter was a truck. Does that mean she will grow up to drive a truck? Not necessarily. If she does will I love her less? Heck no.

    Quote from their article: “The Bible teaches that generally men will be husbands and fathers, and women will be wives and mothers.”

    #1 issue: the use of “Generally.” Are they even too afraid to actually choose a side?

    #2 issue: where is there any reference to my having to work versus stay home? Where is there any reference to a father not being allowed to push a stroller?

    I am the one that typically has our daughter attached to his chest in a Bjorn whenever we leave the house. I am proud to be a father and proud of the fact that I am parenting differently than the ideals of the CBMW organization.

    And yes, I am looking forward to my first tea party with my daughter, whenever it may be! (And if I am blessed with a son later in life, he will be at that table too!)

    November 27th, 2007 at 10:44 am

  5. judy says:

    Words fail me too. There are all sorts of wack-jobs in this world and it’s too bad that some of them have created a platform to spread their stupidity. Your view needs no defending. I thought it was almost quaint to raise the issue in the first place! Of course boys should have a dollhouse and dolls and even tutu’s if they want to. Kids learn about the world through play. Why would anyone cut off a child’s access to understanding part of the world? That’s really pathetic and sad. I’m not even going to give them any traffic by going to read their site.

    November 27th, 2007 at 12:47 pm

  6. AJ says:

    Judy, there’s no advertising on their blog. It’s a preaching-to-the-choir purely-for-education arrangement. In that respect it was easy to read because they’re not trying to persuade or even vilify through snarky comments. They dryly explore ideas that their readers already accept.

    These far-right viewpoints increasingly appear at all levels in our government, so it’s important to be aware of, and understand, them.

    That said, I was very tempted to compile a snarky list of all the childhood toys that turned me into a quasi-androgynous father. I blame George Lucas and his damn action figures — dolls by any other name.

    November 27th, 2007 at 1:03 pm

  7. Erin says:

    It’s not fair to say “far-right” Christians would agree with that sites view of manhood. My husband and I are conservative Christians, and our 1-year-old son loves dolls. Dolls that we bought for him. Although we do feel a stay-at-home parent is very important, we never felt that it HAD to be me who stayed at home (although it has worked out that way) My husband finds this whole discussion of dolls rather ridiculous, as he plainly states “Little Man is modelling what he sees me do. I take care of him and his sister, he takes care of his dolly.” The people who wrote the site are fringe, not just far-right.

    November 27th, 2007 at 1:15 pm

  8. Jim says:

    Erin-

    I am Christian as well, though I would say that I am a jumbled mix of conservative, progressive and liberal (as I truly believe most people are).

    I would disagree in saying that this is “fringe” thinking.

    If I flip on ANY of the the 4 (or 5 depending on the weather) Christian radio stations in town, the exact same thinking is espoused on all of them. Not a contradiction in any of them. It’s all about the threat of a feminine culture and the need for manly men and women that know their place in the home to reclaim a culture gone wrong. The word “lesbians” pops up more often than at a gay pride march.

    No Joke.

    Very popular Christian movements like Promise Keepers (I’ve been to one gathering and I have friends and family members who are regular attendees) are all about men regaining their manhood and reclaiming the head of the household.

    I don’t know where to place it; far-right, mainstream, what have you. But I wouldn’t call it fringe in the least.

    This is a consistent message that’s out there. It’s probably not fair to say that ALL “far-right” Christians would agree with the site. I’ll give you that.

    However, I have to wonder how many Christians that are consumers of this type message presented on what I can only guess are mainstream Christian media outlets in generally conservative Christian areas of the county would not agree with the sentiments of that site?

    If they don’t agree, why the constant drum beat?

    November 27th, 2007 at 1:53 pm

  9. Bee says:

    @Adrianne, Judy & Erin (and any other supportive ladies present)
    Thank-you.

    @AJ
    I think that’s list needs making. Add my Action-Man with non-removable blue pants and pushable pram/tank to the list.

    @Jim
    Over here in the UK this is definitely ‘fringe’ thinking. Last year the Church of England made more female-clergy than male; of these church leaders about a quarter of them have hubbies who are or have been a home dad (http://cucumbersandwiches.org – clergy husbands united). There is a problem with the ‘normalising’ of fluid gender roles in the church here though, in that the dissenters from our more liberal norm are the really, really noisy ones. —sigh—

    November 28th, 2007 at 3:08 am

  10. Christy says:

    One thing to keep in mind about alot of these biblical quotes and beliefs is taht the Bible was written during a time where men were more or less controlling over their wives and wives were meant to be subservient to their husbands. I am a Christian, albiet not an overly conservative one. My mom has turned into a pretty conservative one. She remarried 5 years ago after being divorced from my dad for about 20 years. She used to be very independent and never wanted to rely on a man for anything. Since she started attending her church she believes in the Bible verbatim to the point that she believes her husband comes before her children. Her husband not being the father of her children. She also believes in being subservient to her husband which is the exact opposite of everything she taught me growing up. So to sum up, that gobbldegook about manhood and masculinity was written during a different period in history when men and women had distinctly different roles. Now the lines are blurred. If I made loads of money, I would have no problem with my husband being a stay-at-home dad. He would love to do it. My sister-in-law’s husband is a stay-at-home dad and a friend of ours is considering becoming one when he and his wife have kids becasue she is the breadwinner in the house.

    November 28th, 2007 at 1:05 pm

  11. Paul says:

    I too am horrified at that blog’s interpretation of scripture and Biblical gender roles. As a new father to a beautiful boy, I was moved by your posting about teaching our sons to be good, loving, caring fathers.

    As a Christan working in Christian higher education, I see that type of thinking being indoctrinated at all levels to our students (ie the only movie discussion to teach about what it means to be a man is Braveheart). Raising our sons to be anything but who God made them to be is NOT courage. Nor is raising them to be one-dimensional “manly-men” who are threatened by the thought of a boy not fitting into their Western stereotype of “manhood.”

    Please don’t take Gender Blog’s twisting of scripture as accurate. A good place to start is http://www.cbeinternational.org.

    November 28th, 2007 at 1:55 pm

  12. Karen says:

    Don’t these people realize that rearing children both *requires* and *develops* “courage, adventure, resilience, toughness, and predilection to protect and provide for others”??

    November 29th, 2007 at 7:02 am

  13. Chris says:

    After reading their article I think I undestand the intent of what they are saying. They encourage fathers to take much more active roles with their children than the cultural stereotype and may have been done in the past. That can hardly be a bad thing. The part about stay at home dads is more poorly said than anything else.

    The senior pastor of my church happens to be a member of the council and he’s given a number of messages to this point. He is not suggesting that there something wrong with the stay-at-home dad, but wants us to fight against the urge to do so because of laziness and comfort. Part of what the author of the blog is arguing against is that involved fathers are like mothers. His second to last paragraph is very positive in suggesting that these things that people are attributing as being more feminine is “recovering what is good and right about fatherhood.”

    Maybe I should add though that I would have no problem giving my sons a doll, if they wanted one. I still have quite a collection of stuffed animals of my own.

    November 29th, 2007 at 1:15 pm

  14. AJ says:

    All of the primary caregivers in the room just passed out.

    Chris, you wrote: “He is not suggesting that there something wrong with the stay-at-home dad, but wants us to fight against the urge to do so because of laziness and comfort.”

    What part of being responsible for full-time care of a child is lazy and comfortable? It is one of the most demanding, most exhausting jobs in existence. I’ll turn that around and ask, why aren’t more men man enough to be stay-at-home dads?

    November 29th, 2007 at 1:22 pm

  15. Chris says:

    Hi AJ. I am not saying at all that staying at home is any easier that working. I’m not really good at wording. My time at home with my kid has been absolutely exhausting and I know it can probably be even harder. I can’t imagine those who have multiple births.

    My pastor was addressing a very specific example of counseling where a young, childless couple decided to let the husband stay home and not work simply because the wife made a significant income. When they were expecting their first child, he chose not to look for employment to allow his wife the option of staying home.

    My wife and I are struggling through this right now. She makes a decent living as a pharmacist and it would be “easier” for me to stay home and care for our newborn when her maternity leave is up. But I do feel that I have a responsibility to my family to keep working and progressing through my career so that my wife, if and when we have another, could choose to stay home, which is her preference. So at least for now, we’re going to go through the more “complicated” dance of timing schedules to make sure that we don’t need to leave our child with a nanny.

    I hope that clarifies a bit. In terms of men being man enough to stay at home though. At least for my brother-in-law I don’t think that will work. His son refuses to take a bottle and until the kid is on solid food consistently breast feeding’s the only option.

    November 29th, 2007 at 1:45 pm

  16. Alan Thomas says:

    @Jim

    Are you seriously stating that the radio represents how people actually are? I certainly hope not.

    It’s not fringe to say that there are different roles for men and women. It’s fringe (and un-Biblical FWIW) to say that a woman’s place is always in the kitchen and a man’s place is always the wage-earner outside the home.

    It depends on the individuals involved. Some men are better suited to stay at home, and some women would murder their children if that’s all they did. Some kids do better with homeschooling, some would do fine in a classroom environment. God distributes his gifts among us all.

    November 30th, 2007 at 9:44 am

  17. Jim says:

    @Alan

    Not in the least, but I think that media does say something about its audience. This is the same media that is referenced by the local Christians (the audience) when I talk to them. The authors of the books that these Christians read often have prominent shows on those stations. The locals grace the local Christian book stores that stock best selling books by these Christian media personalities and organizations (like Promise Keepers).

    So, it is not the only message and by no means do I think that the it represents every facet of all Christians in this area, however (especially on the stations that are “community supported” as a few of the 4 or 5 stations in the area are), I would say that the message being presented is endorsed, both figuratively and literally, by its audience.

    December 3rd, 2007 at 12:16 pm

  18. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Conservative Christian here. I absolutely believe in different roles for men and women. Don’t listen to your Christian radio stations, Jim so I don’t know what you are hearing.

    But right now my husband is the stay at home parent for our son. None of our pastors, even though they lead the Gideon’s posse and make a big deal about teaching men to be Men, have any problems with this.

    So I have a feeling that something is getting lost in the translation here.

    December 16th, 2007 at 8:38 pm

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