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My Father Was a Stay-at-Home Dad

My late father was a stay-at-home dad. He was a man’s man, a strong individual right out of a 1960’s Marlboro advertisement. Yet he was broken by extreme physical suffering and the sun never set on the pain of his pieced-together spine and extremities. It was normal to me that my father was always in the home. However, he was not there by choice. When I hear of fathers opting out of employment to be at home full-time, I think of my dad who would have loved to have done the opposite.

What is a stay-at-home dad?
By one study from the Pew Research Center, the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled over the last quarter century. Any discussion of the phenomenon must take into account the variety of this broad category. Stay-at-home dads are not a uniform monolith. The reasons dads are at home vary according to some of the following:

· Ill, injured, or disabled (35% being the majority of stay-at-home dads)
· Out of work or laid-off (23%)
· In school, pursuing college or advanced degrees
· Retired from employment
· Home office/telecommuting
· Role-reversal, “Dad Moms,” or “Equal parenting”

My Father Was a Stay-at-Home Dad
It is the last category that deserves our attention here. The numbers are inconclusive but there is an obvious cultural change that is being felt economically but also amidst the broader evangelical landscape. One basic assumption is that gender roles in the home are interchangeable. One profile from the New York Times describes equal parenting as the following:

Equals and peers. They would work equal hours, spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home. Neither would be the keeper of the mental to-do lists; neither of their careers would take precedence. Both would be equally likely to plan a birthday party or know that the car needs oil or miss work for a sick child or remember (without prompting) to stop at the store for diapers and milk. They understood that this would mean recalibrating their career ambitions, and probably their income, but what they gained, they believed, would be more valuable than what they lost.

This egalitarian, if not utopian vision is not without its own set of problems. Al Mohler raises significant questions with the NYT’s piece but the underlying assumption that gender should not determine the division of labor in the home. The fundamental question for us, however, is whether such ideals hold up under the light of Scripture.

A Complementarian Primer
God has created husbands and wives to complement one another in their respective roles. This foundational aspect of creation is not a result of mankind’s fall into sin. In other words, these gender roles are oriented to being created in the image of God (Gen 1:26–27). Both men and women are equal before God in their dignity and their need for redemption. Together, they share in the glories of free salvation that is offered to all women and men without bias by faith through Christ alone.

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