Message #1: Dad should be the bread-winner, no matter how hard he has to work, to provide for stay-at-home mom and kids.
This message means well, insisting that kids need a stable parent (Mom) to raise them and care for them while the other (Dad) is working. What bothers me is the unintended consequences: Dad ends up taking a job he hates to pay the bills, or a job that has him working 50-60-70-80 hours a week, or even two jobs. This message insinuates that the only thing children really need Dad for is his money/provision and a little guidance on the weekends. I emphatically disagree with this. Children need their fathers and need them more than just bath-time some evenings and weekend afternoons.
Message #1A (Church-version of above): Men are created by God to provide, which means they must be the bread-winners, and women are created by God to nurture, which means they must stay at home to raise children.
Pretty darn similar to Message #1, except justified by God's differential design of men and women. Now, I'm totally on board with the idea that God created men and women differently for some specific plan, but I am just not convinced that He created men to work at a job away from home most of the time while women struggle by themselves to raise children. God created both men and women as parents. Plus, He must think pretty highly of the importance of fatherhood, since He calls Himself Father. If, as Christians, we're doing God's work by insisting that men bear the burden of full-time work while women raise the children, I don't think we're fully appreciating the importance of fathers. Also, I don't think this view really appreciates the fact that God may have given women gifts that are being ignored, even repressed, in this scenario.
Message #2: It's the new millenium, both parents should work, and children can be raised by daycares/schools. Independence is good for you!
This message also intends well, since it's the natural outgrowth of the feminist movement. Women should become exactly like men, as men currently exist. Since men currently work 50+ hours a week, if women want to be equal, then they too should work 50+ hours a week. This is clearly just stressing everyone out. And we are completely devaluing parenting in general. We're saying that daycares and schools do just as good a job as parents? We are paying $20,000 a year for someone else to teach our children? Now, I'm not totally qualified to speak to this, since my oldest is not quite 3, but it rubs me wrong that we expect others to care for and teach our children as well as we could. Reminds me of Plato's Republic, the disturbing part of the book.
Message #2A (Church counter-position to the above): Men are created by God to provide, so they can keep doing whatever they're doing, but women are created by God to nurture - AND secular schools are trying to destroy our children - so good mothers will stay home to raise their children, but the BEST mothers will homeschool their children. Bonus points for every child you homeschool. Extra bonus points for having them memorize Scripture.
Okay, I'm poking a little fun here. In all seriousness, I do think parents should be much more involved in their children's schooling than they generally are. Memorizing Scripture is also probably good for all of us. But, again, this insists that Dads should still spend the majority of their time and guilts Moms into homeschooling. Well, heck, what if it's Dads who should homeschool and Moms who should provide? Well, that just screws up the whole created by God for specific tasks argument.
Message #3: It's the new millenium, so Dads can stay home, if they want, and Moms can go to work, if they want.
This message has interesting intentions, freeing individuals up to work or parent as they see fit or feel called to do. A couple of issues, still. Again, we're saying one parent is more important than the other, one is disposable for 50+ hours a week. Also, we're beginning to say that "good" Dads want to stay home. Let's just put everyone on various guilt trips, right? If you're a good Dad, you'll stay home, if you're the typical, emotionally-distant, non-nurturing kind of Dad, it's okay for you to go to work.
Those are the main messages that I feel like I hear, and I feel uncomfortable with all of them. Hence, my frustrated post last time. What's the answer? Some might suggest retreating to a family farm or something, but, as a Christian, I think we need to learn to live in such a way as to impact culture, to be in but not of.
At this moment in time, I would love to see some crazy system, where Moms and Dads both work something like 25-ish hours a week, so we might call it the "Dual Part-Time Parent Plan," and it might work out something like this:
Monday - Mom works 6 hours, Dad stays home with kids.
Tuesday - Mom works 6 hours, Dad stays home with kids.
Wednesday - Mom and Dad each work 6 hours, babysitter or family or tutor with kids.
Thursday - Mom and Dad each work 6 hours, babysitter or family or tutor with kids.
Friday - Mom stays home with kids, Dad works 6 hours.
Saturday - Mom stays home with kids, Dad works 6 hours.
Sunday - Everyone's at home together.
This model would not be easily adopted because Americans love weekends. Honestly, though, we spend half of our weekends just trying to rest from the stressful week. Or we travel and exhaust ourselves more. This kind of model would work better if people lived close to family and friends and didn't travel as much. Now, I know, Chad and I are traveling fools, but we would probably prefer to see family more regularly for something like Saturday night dinner and just take a week off to travel somewhere cool. That's totally doable with my "Dual Part-Time Parent Plan."
Does anyone else feel these messages in our culture? Do you think the arguments I set up are too simplistic or don't adequately represent the true message? Are there any messages that I missed? I churn through these thoughts actually quite often, and my sister is probably sick of hearing them, so I need new insight from other people! Comment below! :)
I would like to note that I know parents who are amazing parents, in spite of difficult work circumstances. In some cases, just the father works, and both parents are extremely involved. Or both parents work and work hard, and they're very in tune with their kids' lives. I hear tell of fathers who stay at home and working mothers who are still present for the kids' lives. I don't want to sound like I'm saying that these situations make it impossible to parent and parent well, but I do think these messages are pervasive in our culture and make parenting, arguably a phenomenally important job, even more difficult than it already is. And, yet, think, when you hear a woman lamenting that working is difficult and then say that parenting is phenomenally important, what's your first thought? I'll bet it's, "Well, then, lady, stay home with your kids." And I just want you to think about that immediate mental jump.