Is there anything wrong with men being stay-at-home dads? My husband is currently out of work, and since I earn a good salary we decided that he should simply take care of the kids for a while. It seemed like a good idea in the beginning, but lately I've been having some doubts.
We understand and appreciate the challenges you and your family are facing. But before attempting to address your concerns we feel it's important to make one thing clear. Focus on the Family is committed to the biblical principle expressed in Matthew 19:4 and Genesis 1:27: "From the beginning, He made them male and female" (Matthew 19:4; Genesis 1:27).
This simple distinction between the sexes implies a number of important things. For instance, it's not just a biological accident that women are the ones physically equipped with the means of conceiving, developing, and sustaining new life. And this distinction between male and female functions doesn't end with conception, birth, and infancy. It's a thread that runs through the entire parenting journey.
To put it more simply, we believe that in an ideal world, men are meant to be dads and women are meant to be moms. But we're also aware that there may be seasons in the lives of many couples when it becomes necessary, for all kinds of reasons, for the husband to stay home and care for the children while the wife pursues an outside career. It's not our place to pass judgment on these couples in any way. Nevertheless, we think it's worth mentioning the biblical principle before going any further.
That said, the first question that comes to mind is, "What are the reasons for your doubts?" Is it a question of personal dissatisfaction, or are you just worried about what family, friends, and neighbors are going to say? If it's the latter, we'd encourage you to relax. You can't order your lives around other people's biases and opinions. That's not to mention that, given current economic challenges and changes in cultural perceptions, it's pretty unlikely that your husband will be subject to any kind of social stigma. Marital breadwinning roles are in flux. Increasing numbers of women feel that they need to work outside the home in order for their family to meet its financial obligations. Statistics would probably show that arrangements like yours are becoming more common every day.
If, on the other hand, either you or your husband are genuinely unhappy with your situation, then you need to find the courage to face the facts. This probably won't happen unless you're intentional about expressing your feelings. So set aside some time to sit down together and talk things out. It's your marriage and your relationship. You need to do whatever is required to make it work. The issue is not, "What will other people think?" It's "What's best for us and our family?"
In cases like this, everything depends upon the two people involved. Each individual is different. Some women flourish in the workplace. By the same token, there are some men who like being "Mr. Mom." They're good at it, too. Not only do they love their kids, they actually enjoy being with them 24 hours a day. They've been blessed with a nurturing temperament. They have a rare (at least among males) ability to find meaning and fulfillment in a domestic setting. If this sounds like a description of your husband, then there's no reason why he shouldn't keep on doing what he's doing, at least for the time being. If it works, don't fix it. If your family relationships are thriving under the present system, there's no need to change.
There are, of course, some dads who don't function well as full-time parents and homemakers. Like most members of their sex, they have an inborn desire to protect and provide for their wives and children. They love their families, but they also feel the need to go out and "make something of themselves" in the wider world. They have a sense that their personal worth and identity are wrapped up in their work. If this is your husband's situation – if he's managing on the home front, but would really rather be doing something else – then you should probably make a change. If you don't, he may become dissatisfied and depressed, and this could take a serious toll on your marriage.
We realize that this may be easier said than done. After all, your husband didn't choose to become "Mr. Mom." He was forced into it by the loss of his job. We're aware that unemployment is a huge problem in this economy. It may take some time for your husband to locate a new position suited to his skills and interests.
Meanwhile, you'll both have to make do as best you can. You can help by affirming him in his masculinity and reassuring him of your faith in his abilities. As he steps out into the world and tries to find employment, he's going to be looking to you to act as his cheerleader. So do your best to keep his spirits up. As part of the process, it might be a good idea to set aside regular times for periodic check-ups. Sit down together once a week or so and sound each other out. Keep tabs on "Mr. Mom's" present status. Explore possible ways of improving the arrangement for all concerned.
If either you or your husband feel the need of some encouraging words from an outside party, feel free to contact Focus on the Family's Counseling department. We have a staff of trained Christian therapists here who would be more than happy to discuss your concerns with you over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to professional counselors practicing in your local area.
When Your Husband is "Mr. Mom": Elisa Morgan discusses the growing trend of "Mr. Mom" couples and examines some of the common challenges these arrangements can present.