Stay-at-Home Dads (or “Guys the Church Would Like to Forget Exist”)


Just this last week, the following was posted to a few Christian blogs:

Probably if everyone in the United States circa 1960 had known that taking modest steps in the direction of feminism would, in fact, lead during their lifetimes to the legalization of sodomy, to gay men marrying each other, to a small but growing number of fathers staying home to take care of the kids, to legal abortions, etc., etc., etc. the public would have overwhelmingly rejected those early steps. But the poo-pooers won the day, the people did not believe, and now majorities support most of those developments….
—Matt Yglesias—“Slippery Slopes

Sodomy. Homosexual marriage. Legal abortion. Stay-at-home dads.

In the Church in America, it is not hard to see how many—particularly of the Evangelical persuasion— are up in arms about the moral slide of this country. But when I read something like this, it hurts me. A lot. Dad with kidsThat’s because I find myself lumped in with women who murder their unborn children, with men who lust after other men, with people who seek to mock God’s great gift of heterosexual marriage.

You see, I’m a stay-at-home dad.

In the four years that I have been in this role, the one thing I have learned is that Evangelicals find stay-at-home dads to be that chunk of indigestible gristle that wedges in the back of the throat. Now while I don’t need for them to come right out and say this to my face, the position taken by so many Evangelicals is the literal “death by a thousand cuts” when it comes to stay-at-home dads. If every stay-at-home dad would simply vanish overnight, I think most Evangelicals would breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Open up any Christian book that discusses the American family and you see this:

  • Dad works a high-paying job outside the home as the sole breadwinner. He continues this till the day he retires from the firm with the solid-gold pocketwatch.
  • Mom stays at home with the three to four children and homeschools them until the last one gets pushed out of the nest at age eighteen.

These are the two gold standards by which Evangelical families are judged for their conformity to a Scriptural mandate for the home. Any variance from this and the wrath of God is incurred.

I know this is the case because I read. Plus, any casual glance at the bestselling books on How to Have the Perfect Christian Family will tell us that this is the measure by which Christ judges us from His Bema Seat. Never have I seen an Evangelical Christian book or magazine that ascribes to this model even once consider stay-at-home dads except to brand them a breech of the natural order and anathema in the Church. As Mr. Yglesias points out (whether intended or not), a family with a stay-at-home dad can easily be equated to a household with two same-sex parents.

I also know the trouble caused by the existence of stay-at-home dads because I’ve been a Christian for almost thirty years. I’ve seen how families are treated when they don’t perfectly hew to the Evangelical family model. The judgment is passed (“As a family, you get an ‘F'”) and the arms come out to keep your perverted family at a safe distance.

This plays out in many ways. My son cannot come over to another house for playtime if the other child’s at-home parent is a woman. Wouldn’t be seemly for her to be seen with an “unknown man” coming into her home while her husband is away. I can understand that to a point, though it paints the at-home dad as a sex machine that will seduce any female he manages to get alone.

As an at-home dad, I’m not welcome into “parenting group” activities with at-home moms. In one such group that I was investigating, it was made all too clear that by my presence I was ruining the moms’ chance to catch up on daily gossip. How clear? One of the moms came up to me and told me that right to my face. Now she didn’t call it gossip (gossip is a sin, you know), but I’m not stupid. I recognized what I was hearing.

Whenever the Church devises mid-week events for parents, the at-home dad gets a sinking feeling because “parent” is not really the word they intend, unless the sole definition of “parent” is “mother of the children.” Simply showing up for such an event throws the organizers into chaos.

Now you would think that Evangelicals would be overjoyed that a family chooses to have one parent at home raising the children. You would think that they would celebrate the fact that some families have chosen to abandon the dual-income rat race that is afflicting so many families. You would think. But you would be wrong, dead wrong, if you think that the Church would be happy if the parent staying at home happens to have a penis.

One of my favorite foils here at Cerulean Sanctum is Focus on the Family. Seeing that I am a conservative Christian would make you think I hold Focus on the Family in high regard. Yet one of the reasons I find the whole organization to be less than stellar is their unwillingness to admit that the cultural forces that are tearing the family apart are not necessarily the ones they think are causing the problems. FotF’s blindered look at Christianity and culture finds them upholding many of the cultural anomalies that are responsible for the outcomes they decry.

Case in point: feminism is an easy target. A much harder target is the Industrial Revolution. In Stephen Prothero’s American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon, he discusses how prior to the industrial revolution, almost EVERY dad was a stay-at-home dad. But then so was every mom. In fact, the economy revolved around the home. FotF, on the other hand, seems to lean to dad being locked up in a cubicle all day at Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe. Likewise, almost every book I’ve read about being a perfect Christian dad makes dad out to not only be the captain of his household, but a captain of industry as well—even if this means the family never sees dad because he’s slaving away for fifty hours a week or out being Steve, the Road Warrior. I’ve never heard an Evangelical organization similar to Focus on the Family question whether the work world we have created as a result of the Industrial Revolution is hurting our families.

Many men are stay-at-home dads because of mitigating business factors that Evangelicals refuse to address or address in totally anti-Christian ways. For instance, I was recently given some links to Christian businessmen networks. On one of the online forums I read a message by a Christian business leader talking about how “Christian excellence” requires him to fire all his IT people and move his IT operations offshore. He believed such a move was God’s will. However, nothing seemed to register in him that perhaps a little less profit could be had and that he could keep the employees he already has in an action that is far closer to the heart of the Gospel than what he’s claiming as God’s will. His downsizing move creates a hardship for the fired male employee who must come to grips that his career is drying up and that his family might be more stable if mom became the breadwinner (because she’s less likely to be fired in a downsizing move by her company in her field of college study.) The fallout of this is that the Christian business owner just created the very Evangelical headache—a stay-at-home dad— that every Christian family bestseller on the shelf of the local Christian bookstore insists must not exist lest the sky fall and dogs and cats start living together in violation of the created order.

In other words, if Evangelicals don’t like stay-at-home dads, then just what are they doing to ensure that work world issues are addressed that prevent families from having to consider that option? Truthfully, the answer is that they simply don’t care about preventing the “problem” of stay-at-home dads at all, preferring to attribute their blighted existence to evils of feminism rather than the natural fallout of the Industrial Revolution and the very worst aspects of capitalism gone to greedy selfishness. It is far easier to point a finger toward the at-home dad than to do something about ensuring work for all men who truly want to be the breadwinners in their family (even if that is not necessarily God’s perfect design.) Nor is anything being done to restore the work of fathers and mothers back to the home, just like in the days when this country was founded. As much as parachurch Christian organizations like Focus on the Family idolize America of that day, they make no mad rush to take on that particular aspect of the economy of that day and bring it into today’s homes.

So yes, I am a stay-at-home dad. To all the Christians out there who express concern about the fact that I exist in that role, I say, put your money where your mouth is and stop crucifying me on the cross of your righteous indignation.

Or is that a little too harsh?

33 thoughts on “Stay-at-Home Dads (or “Guys the Church Would Like to Forget Exist”)

  1. More power to you.

    But why not exhort us to use some of that empathy for the gay community? Or pro-choice folks?

    One issue at a time, I suppose. 🙂

  2. Masaki, I guess my point in writing this piece is that I hate it when we consume our own, particularly our own who do not appear to be in willfull sin. Does the fact that I am now a stay-at-home dad mean that I am in willfull sin by taking that role? I don’t believe I am, though I guess some others would disagree.

    I know that Evangelicals like to stick a needle in folks who don’t look like them, but please, let’s consider first whether or not the pincushion needs some correction.

  3. Dan,

    Thanks for reminding me why I read your blog! I like the way you question and cut through the garbage that can exist in well-meaning evangelical dogma in order to get to the heart of the matter.

    Can you imagine asking most dads one hundred years ago (I don’t know a good percentage, but it would have been a lot) about stay-at-home dads. The whole family was home, farming, doing various trades run out of the home/farm, etc. Sure there were men that were in business, but even lots of them came home for lunch (along with the school kids). The point of biblical fatherhood is for the father to be the head of the family. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a biblical mandate for the mom to be the only one at home with the kids.

  4. Bravo. Excellent read.

    I, too, get annoyed (very annoyed) when Christians lampoon other Christians for not being “Christian enough”. Which, if you think about it, isn’t a very Christian thing to do.

    I guess I’m old fashioned, then, in that I think the Body of Christ should work as one.

  5. I too have considered that we lost the cultural aspect of WWII, and can see the points you make here. I don’t know any voluntary stay at home dads, but will remember this post when I encounter one. Thanks!

  6. I see your point… I haven’t really thought about it much – I don’t know any stay-at-home dads. But I have to say that, especially as a Marine spouse whose husband is deployed – No I most certainly would not hang out with a stay-at-home dad so the kids could have a playdate. It most absolutely would be inappropriate – and the shoe could just as easily be on the other foot with someone considering ME a desperate housewife instead of just thinking the man was a sex fiend.

  7. Dan,

    This post is so needed..thanks.

    By the way, I really wish you would submit this one to this week’s Christian Carnival. The deadline is 12 midnight (EST) today, so you have to hustle. Details are at the Wittenburg Gate blog.

  8. Diane,

    Believe it or not I sent it in about an hour and a half before your comment.

    However, I must say that I have struggled with Carnival submissions of late. I could do one every week, and I can put something out there that is plenty snarky and would attract a lot of readers, but when I was deciding to send one in I almost sent “The Beauty of Unity” instead.

    Truthfully, I enjoy what Bob has done over at Mr. Standfast, using his blog for encouragement rather than discouragement. When I started Cerulean Sanctum I knew it was going to be a critical blog, but I was going to try to provide solutions rather than always carping on failures and then having no answers myself. Still, I am wrestling with what I wrote a while back in “Is Christianity Broken?”, especially in light of all the finger pointing going on in the Christian blogging scene. I read James White’s blog and I always leave depressed. Is that the way it should be?

    Still trying to walk the narrow….

  9. Folks,

    Wanted to clear something up. Elsewhere, someone has pointed out that Matt Yglesias is not arguing for the points he wrote about in the quote. I did understand this. However, that quote has been picked up by several Christian blogs and used as gospel truth. My major objection to Mr. Yglesias is that he provided the fuel for that fire.

    Yes, he was arguing the opposite point, but in framing things the way he did, he made it possible for others to run with his counter-assertion.

    Hope that clears things up.

  10. David Scott

    Yaay, stay at home dads are cool. ACtually, my parents and wife and I run a business together, leaving my daughter with stay at home dad, mom, grandma, grandpa, and aunt. I guezss I miss most of the static abotu it because my wife is home too, and thus certain buttons are not pushed…

  11. quote: �natural fallout of the Industrial Revolution�

    Fascinating post, Dan.

    On a related note�and I think it is related if you give it some thought�have you asked yourself why neither party, Republicans nor Democrats, will do anything about the flood of illegal immigration coming over our borders?

  12. Oengus,

    When you have the Federal Reserve Chairman advocating for open borders, all doubt is erased as to the intention. From a Christian perspective, illegal immigration is a difficult issue. If a Christian family of illegals knocked on your door, how fast would you turn them in? How fast would they turn us in if the tables were turned and persecution came down against American Christians?

    What I want to know is how Orrin Hatch could possibly argue for more H-1b visas for foreign tech workers in the middle of the last tech bust? Thousands and thousands of American citizens in tech could not find work, yet still Hatch was advocating for more visas.

    It is sad to realize that so very few people actually care about the people who live right next door to them. As long as they themselves are fat and happy, it is easy to turn a blind eye to opression. I just watched a Frontline covering the concentration camps of Germany. Who knows how many of those people in the camps were turned in by their neighbors and ignored by the government officials they elected. What fallen men can do to each other in the name of “the cause” is sickening.

  13. John D

    There’s nothing wrong with stay-at-home dads. You are caring for your children and for your family, it should only be commended.

    But you need not be so naive. The people who react like that with fire and brimstone are different people than you think.

    They are sexists to the core. Men that don’t bring in all the bread, and have their woman make them supper, it’s just against the natural order of things to them. They also hate gay people to the core. These are the people that never avoid a derogatory comment about a gay person, and are the most likely people to cause harm or violence. And most are racists too. “*****” and “*****” and “Welfare moms” probably get their blood going and invoke rage in their souls.

    Just meet some of these people. Tell me if you disagree.


  14. John D,

    I edited your comment because I felt the language was inappropriate for my blog, though I reposted the rest of the comments. All kinds of people visit here and I didn’t want your language choices to be an issue.

    I get the gist of your message, though.

  15. John D

    There’s no need to overreact. I can understand editing the comment if it was meant to be racist. But I think a black person or a Spanish person would see what I meant was the opposite, and would probably appreciate the comment.

    Welfare mom – would also fall under the same derogatory category.

  16. candleman

    Hi Dan,

    Well, looks like I found another addition to my blog roll. While I do believe in our capitalist free enterprise economic system, I find little sermons or concerns raised about its underbelly. When one man in a business enterprise can make hundreds of millions of dollars in a year and then turn around the next year and fires tens of thousands of people who have toiled most of their life to get a job in the 40K to 60K range. The most rage I have seen in the Christian community is when the unfortunate firee was granted an extra 13 weeks of unemployment. No mention of the nasty open sewer of greed that has always been apart of this business model.

    As I surf around to other Christian blog sites, it seems in addition to stay at home dads, the other issues of the moment where fellow believers in Christ get crucified on their cross of righteous indignation:

    1) Having your children attend public school instead of home schooling.

    2) Compassion for people who have fallen into (insert any form of sex besides missionary position).

    3) Choosing to disciple your children without resorting to striking them.

    4) Rick Warren and “The Purpose Driven Life”.

    4) … Insert whatever super spiritual endeavor you do that you think everyone else must do in order to be a “real” Christian.


  17. I agree with you that Focus on the Family usually focuses on the wrong issues. I think your charge in this case is a little unfair, and I think it’s unfair to evangelicals as a whole too. I never listen to Focus on the Family now, but I used to hear them all the time in the late 80s because my dad would have them on in the car whenever driving us anywhere at that time of day. One thing they made a big deal about was the fact that fathers were too often absent because of working too many hours. This was taken up by Promise Keepers and made one of their key themes. On that count, anyway, I think you’re just not right. Evangelicals have emphasized that issue enough for me to hear them doing it, and I don’t pay much attention to people who talk and write about that sort of thing. I’m much more into hardcore theology and apologetics.

  18. Jeremy,

    Focus on the Family is to be lauded for asking men to consider spending less time at work for the sake of their families.

    However, there are two problems with their overall message.

    1. They ask dads to spend less time at work, but they have done nothing to either assist men in achieving this or in confronting the business world by asking companies to start cutting back on employee hours. Jesus did not like it when religious authorities hung heavy burdens around a man’s neck with no means of escape. Focus is telling men they must work less, but doing nothing to make that possible in the lives of the vast majority of men. If they can’t provide a viable solution, then they shouldn’t be telling men they have to do this to be a good father.

    2. While FotF may be trying to free up more time for men at home, they are also including a rather long list of Christian activities that men should be doing in order to be considered not only a good dad, but a good Christian as well. If dad works one hour less a day, but then is asked to participate in even more Christian activities instead, the basic idea of freeing up that hour is lost. In my original post of “The Church’s Missing Men,” I gave a list of what organizations like FotF expect from Christian men. It’s a really big list given today’s hectic pace. Again, if FotF is simply adding another millstone around a man’s neck, how helpful are they?

  19. One last thing.

    If Focus on the Family were truly concerned about families, then they would be on the bleeding edge of business practices, both hiring and firing. Focus should have options in place to help every man who loses a job in a corporate downsizing. But they don’t, even though men spend more time at work than anything else they do. I hear FotF asking for donations, but what is a man to do if he’s been downsized or forced to take a lesser-paying job? What is FotF doing to combat this? Not a single thing. Nor have they ever. I can’t see how they can be truly family-oriented if they never speak to this issue, one that tears families apart faster than just about any issue out there. Nothing places more stress on a family than a job loss, especially in down economic times, yet I’ve never heard or seen FotF say or do anything about that.

  20. Dan, Although we didn’t have anything like an ideal family or a happy childhood, I’ve thought that the age-old motif of the family business/farm/trade has the smell of a God thing. It is the parents that God charged in Deuteronomy 6.

    I recognize that this is a complex world and there are no easy answers that fit all situations. I’m not suggesting that everyone conform to an Old Testament model of living. I know I’d last about a nano-second if that was the command. Maybe I can be more open and supportive to dads that fit this model.

    I think it’s a good thing.

  21. I know this is an older post, but I’ve been leisurely browsing my way through your archives. I think this subject hits home for me as my husband and I are outside what is considered “normal” for the Christian family today. It saddens me that too many times Christians get caught up in these pseudo issues that have no real bearing on eternity. Growing up on the mission field, my parents were a combination of stay-at-home and at the office. Thanks for sharing this!

  22. I think it’s wonderful that at least one parent is staying home with the kid(s), who cares if it’s the Dad.

    My cousin is a chemical engineer and her husband stayed home with the kids. He is a great Mr. Mom, they have a happy marriage and two wonderful boys.

    BTW PEAK welcomes both Mom’s and Dad’s to join our homeschool group. Alas we have more Mom’s then Dad’s, but it’s great to have the few guys we do have around.

  23. Janel831

    Amen. I am sick and tired of being villianized because I have more education than my husband and it makes more sense economically, and for our survival as a family unit, for him to stay home.

  24. JAR

    Seems like you skated around the true meat of this topic. If the husband/father is capable of working then he should, even if the job is less than favorable. If his wife makes $80,000 and he makes half that, they can learn to live on his salary. The husband is to be the leader of the Christian household. If he is temporarily out of work, then yes the wife can work if needed. But as son as possible, the husband is to pull his bootstraps, suck it up and do whatever it take to earn the income. Please quit blaming who ever on what ever. That is all you seem to do on your blogs. The faith is about action, not whining. God commands us men to work for the provision of family. He is head of the household. So…..get to work on your farm and allow your wife to be a wife and mother.

  25. Christina

    It is one thing if jobs are hard to find. It is another thing if you define yourself as stay at home Dad and try to change the culture? Not being accepted into Mom groups is practical given the protective nature of Motherhood in today’s culture. The Bible says a man should provide for his family or he is worse than an unbeliever. Why call yourself conservative if you really aren’t? Yes, it isn’t sodomy but to desire attending groups for women is questionable for a reason.

    • Christina,

      Most of our views on work today are not biblical. They are the outgrowth of the industrial revolution, a revolution in many ways that is at odds with God’s intentions for the family. It used to be that there wasn’t this case of one adult leaving the other one to stay at home. Fact is, that’s not biblical when you look at it, yet we call it such. If we Christians were honest with ourselves, we would see that most of what we do workwise in no way resembles a truly Christian work ethic and is simply not “biblical.”

    • Randa

      “providing for the household” does not necessarily mean you have to financially provide for the family. As a parent, you can provide by:
      – Providing a cooked meal.
      – Providing care.
      – Provide a clean home to live in.
      – Providing wisdom and instruction to your family.

      “Provision” doesn’t need to mean financial provision at all (unless you can ‘provide’ some proof that that is the case).

      Definitions and family talk aside, you are also taking scripture out of context. Let’s take a look at the other verses its nested in:

      ” The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

      9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty..”
      1 Timothy 5: 5-9a(NIV)

      In the context given, it seems apparent to me that the real topic here is in regards to “widows”.
      Why is it that we take one peace of scripture, twist it, and just ignore the things it’s really saying? The chapter’s clearly talking about supporting widows(read the whole thing), which is sadly a neglect I see in the modern Church that favors counseling to those whose significant other is still alive.( especially using verses not explicitly intended to counsel such things.) I’d go so far as to say that removing and declining the needs of widows from the Church, in favor of using the same scripture for other, more convenient, favored, and preferred ministries, is ‘stealing’ from them.

      It neither states (unless you’re reading KJV here and take the literal meaning of ‘man’. Personally, I think it speaks about all believers, and most translations seem to agree) that it’s a male duty (even though men in those times had more resources). It also doesn’t state that this is about the nuclear family (an Israeli household was much bigger at the time). I wish more people would actually pay attention to the big issue here, and not cherry-pick a verse that could be twisted to some popular individual’s ideologies.

      • Randa

        I’ll fix the last sentence:
        “I wish more people would actually pay attention to the big issue here, and not cherry-pick a verse that could be twisted to some popular ideology.”
        (don’t want to mistakenly communicate an attack).

  26. Randa

    With all the criticism I have for “FOCUS ON THE FAMILY”, I would also have to highlight the amazing family-friendly, healthy, audio adventures they present:
    “Adventures in Odyssy”.


  27. dave

    I appreciate your post regarding stay at home dads. I have been at home four years now and I have a much closer relationship with my kids than before. It has really opened new opportunities for our family.

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