Guy at Costco: “Aw dude, got stuck with the babies today, bro?”
Me: “Naw. I intentionally procreated with my wife & then willfully assumed an active role in parenting the resulting offspring.”
Guy at Costco: (nonplused stammer, to the effect of) “Bwah, guh, hwuh.”
Lady at Sprouts: “Oh, it’s daddy day today!”
Me: “Yup, just like the other six days of the week.”
Lady at Sprouts: (stares blankly, while trying to fathom the possibility of a male primary care-giver)
Nonspecific acquaintance: “So, you’re going to be playing Mr. Mom for awhile, huh?”
Me: “Nope. Definitely being Mr. Dad for the rest of my life.”
Nonspecific acquaintance: (nervous chuckle)
Exchanges such as these have pretty much been weekly fare since I stepped down from my job at a community development non-profit almost two years ago to be a full-time stay-at-home dad (Note that I identified as a “full-time stay-at-home dad”, not simply ‘full-time dad’; the former is an accurate description of my present primary dedication, whereas the latter is a commonly used misnomer that would indicate — by extension — that my wife, as our household’s primary naan winner (1)(2), is only being a part-time mom when she wakes up at 4:45 each weekday to brave L.A. traffic en route to her 40+ hour/week job that feeds & clothes our family, & provides this dad a home to full-time stay-at). I’ve long been perplexed by the notion that the entire enterprise of direct hands-on child-rearing is reserved for women. I certainly understand that mothers can provide for children some things that fathers cannot, but with today’s breast milk pumping & storage technology, that difference largely (if not entirely) levels out at several weeks post-pardum. Many cultures throughout human history have subscribed to the long-standing myth that men are mentally/socially/physically unequipped to operate in the nurturative & empathetic competencies required for cultivating children, but this is neither scientifically nor biblically supported. As US society is presently structured, most men lack readily available opportunities to develop the capacities for essential human traits such as tenderness and personal attentiveness, thereby halting the progression of their personhood short of full bloom. In fact, I hypothesize that if more men were to intentionally undertake endeavors that would awaken within them the full facilities of gentleness & emotional sensitivity, at the level that primary care-taking of children does, we would soon find ourselves in a world full of emotionally available husbands & fathers who are eager, if not desperate, to purge their masculinity of any & all traces of toxicity. Moreover, given that the less binary postmodern mind heartily celebrates women’s increasingly galvanized centrality in the workplace, why are we still collectively reeling from the small mental leap required to begin validating men’s centrality in the home? Please do not hear me saying that any of this in any way negates or even mitigates the male privilege from which I benefit; but from the lack of male representation in baby product marketing, to the difficulty of finding a men’s restroom with a changing table or another parent who is willing to meet with a dad for a play date, our society still unapologetically regards stay-at-home parenting as a woman’s craft. Being the father of two girls & no boys only compounds the number of tone def comments one routinely receives.
Most people: “Dude, sucks you didn’t get a boy!”
Me: “No it doesn’t. I want(ed) daughters.”
Most people: “Wait, you want girls?!”
Me: “Yes. God made female humans every bit as awesome as the male variety of humans. I’m very close with my sister, have quite a few deep, meaningful, platonic relationships with women, & enjoy an actual friendship with my wife. Additionally, I believe the world would realize unprecedented levels of human flourishing (shalom) if we agreed that women should have equal influence in shaping all social systems, institutions, & values, & I’m enthusiastic about being used by God to disciple & empower these two little world-changers! Being a girl dad isn’t something I’m learning to make peace with; it’s my heart’s desire, brought to fruition through thousands of very specific prayers. Y chromosomes are overrated.”
Most people: “Sooo, you gonna try for a boy?”
Almost every person ever: “Ooooh, with those pretty girls, you’re gonna be in troublllllllle.”
Me: “Ooooh, with that super problematic worldview, you’re gonna be in troublllllllle.”
Every person ever: “Two girls!? Oh man, I hope you’ve got a shotgun!”
Me: “I do, actually. But I’ve had it since long before becoming a father, & I don’t plan on using it to murder any boys or men who attempt to pursue my daughters romantically, as you’re implying would be warranted & acceptable for me to do.”
I am perpetually perplexed by mainstream American culture’s reductive view(s) of parenting girls. We’ve adopted a posture far more focused on conserving our daughters sexual purity than cultivating their hearts/minds. We seem to conduct ourselves according to the belief that if a daughter matures into a woman who loves God with the entirety of her being & daily lives out the the contextual implications of the gospel, that’s great & all; but if she does none of the aforementioned, yet steers completely clear of men until the day she marries one, her parents have truly succeeded. Indeed purity (for both men & women) is a biblical imperative, but the amount of text devoted to it pales in comparison to the amount devoted to overall transformation of ones kardia. So, as a society, we continue to propagate an unbiblical duality in how we scrutinize male & female love life: having a son who dates a lot is not most parents’ dream come true, but having a daughter who does the same is indeed the end of the world. Unfortunately, double standards that favor males have been commonplace in most societies throughout human history, but this one in particular & the way in which parents are culturally indoctrinated to reenforce it is expressly germane to this post’s discussion. Specifically, the trite scenario of fathers intimidating our daughters’ potential suiters by way of a machismo-fueled grilling session needs to be permanently deposed.
I still fail to comprehend why we would settle for scaring off the “wrong” guys when we should be aspiring to raise daughters who will do that just fine on their own. I am fully cognizant of the nonexistence of any sort of panacea for raising daughters with solid, God-honoring judgement in who they choose as their mates, but if we began to invest more effort into discipling our own daughters than into repelling other people’s sons, I believe we would easily dispense with the possessive dad posture that normalized male chauvinism has taught us to embrace. This type of approach is not un-trekked terrain, as two of my best friends have now been married to each other for eight years because her older brother (also my friend) had the wisdom to introduce his younger sister to the most upstanding single guy he knew, as opposed to attempting to keep her indefinitely quarantined from the whole of male humanity. Fathers could take a page from my friend’s book & awake to the reality that the best defense is a good offense. Said approach largely entails raising our daughters not very dissimilar to how we should be raising our sons: praying with & for them regularly; teaching them robust theology & spiritual disciplines from a young age; immersing them in Christ-centered community; strengthening their critical thinking skills through instruction in the arts & social sciences; emphasizing the pursuit of value, virtue, & vision over comfort, consumption, & convenience; & sheltering them from harm, but not hurt, so they are not fragile & understand how to better navigate the real world & its ever-changing complexities.
Of equal — if not greater — import is modeling the character of the type of man we would prefer our daughters end up with. So if we hope for our son-in-laws to be men of active, contextual, Galatians 5 fruit-bearing, Christian faith, we need our daughters to see us walking in complete surrender to God in all facets of our lives. If we abhor the thought of our daughters loving men who treat them like a possession, we must not treat them like our possessions, for they only truly belong to God. If we insist on our daughters selecting spouses that will genuinely respect, honor, cherish, & listen to them, we need to set that standard for them by treating our wives thusly. This goes for mothers too: if your husband is not presently the type of man you would wish for your daughter(s), then, collectively with your church, push him toward becoming so. Mothers in the same situation, but with boyfriends instead of husbands: perhaps utilize the aforementioned approach, but perhaps break up with your man before you even finish reading this blog post; whichever you appraise as the more effective means by which to protect your daughter’s image of a mate-worthy man. All parents: as parenting is a group effort, if you look around the Christian community with whom you share life, & realize it is vacant of the type of man you would like your daughter(s) to marry someday, you have a weak team, & should seriously consider searching out a new squad, lest she grow up with only mediocre models of manhood before her impressionable eyes.
Summarily, our daughters need dads who will actively love & nurture them into attracting the right relationships, instead of strong-arming them out of the wrong ones. I do not claim to be perfectly implementing any/all of the prescriptions I put forth; I just believe my daughters will be better protected by the Man with the twelve disciples than the man with the twelve gauge. May we father well.
*This post is not intended to engage with the complexities of raising daughters (or any children, for that matter) in our society’s rape culture where a woman’s judgement/selection has no bearing on the male entitlement that fosters nonconsensual advances. Its focus is limited to willful pursuit of romantic relationships.
**Much of this post could be reiterated for any/all parent-child relationships, but, as a father of two daughters, a critique of the father-daughter dynamic is most salient for me to undertake.
(1) “Male headship at home and male eldership at church mean that men bear the responsibility for the overall patterns of life, even while headship does not prescribe the details of who does precisely what activity.” p.28
(2) “[T]he biblical leadership of a husband does not require him to be the primary breadwinner, but rather the ship’s captain of the home. ‘If your wife has a higher capacity, you have to act like the leader of a team, even though one of your teammates has an advantage'”.
“I think the man should be the head of the house, but a wise 21st century position would be consultative leadership,” the pastor said. He referred to I Chronicles 12, when King David consulted with the heads of tribes after becoming king. “He consulted with them because they had functional authority because of their experience, their knowledge of warfare – he was wise enough to get help.” Jackson argued that a wise man would “utilize a wife who may be a medical doctor with a multimillion earning potential.”
Quoting Ephesians 5, Jackson argued that the order for wives to “submit to your husbands and to the Lord,” is a military term, which means for a wife to align herself to the strategic goals of her husband. The husband, on the other hand, is told to love his wife as his own body. The pastor argued that this means “he’s going to have to take into account her career, her passions, her desires, and put them on at least the same level as he would put his own career and personal aspirations.”