This month I'm pleased to share this blogspace with the thoughtful and talented Victoria Monet Aguas. Victoria is from Georgetown, Texas. She loves her husband, son, dog, and impacting others' everyday theology through creative writing and teaching. She writes poetry and topical articles on her blog "Theology Reflected" https://victoriamonet.wixsite.com/theologyreflected.
Conservative evangelical culture tends to teach and encourage certain Christian ideals for moms and dads. Moms are encouraged to stay at home full time with the kids and take care of household chores. Dads are commissioned to work full time outside of the home and solely provide for their families’ financial needs. As a result of families following these ideals, taking care of the children has become more of “mom’s thing” and dads struggle to even “babysit” their own kids. The Bible, however, has little to say about parenting that is gender specific:
- Parents discipline their children out of love (Prov. 13:24; 29:15, 17).
- Children obey and honor their parents (Eph. 6:1–2; Ex. 20:12).
- Dads don’t embitter or provoke their children (Col. 3:21; Eph. 6:4).
- Parents shepherd their children (Prov. 22:6; 1 Pet. 5:2–3).
- Moms and dads teach truth to their children (Deut. 6:6–9; Prov. 3:1–12).
- Older women teach and disciple younger women, and older men teach and disciple younger men (Titus 2:2–8).
- Children listen to their parents’ instructions and teachings (Prov. 1:8–9; 2 Tim. 3:14–15).
- Dads and moms pass on stories and legacies of God’s faithfulness, power, and promises to the next generation (Josh. 4:20–24; Ps. 78:4; Acts 2:38–39).
The Bible calls both moms and dads to teach, shepherd, love, and discipline. If the idea that moms take care of the home and dads make the money didn’t come from the Bible, where did it come from? Enter—the Industrial Revolution.
Nancy Pearcey in her book, Total Truth, discusses the effect on the family unit caused by the shift from farm life to factory work. Before the American Industrial Revolution took place from 1780 to 1830, productive work was carried out inside the home and within the family. Women managed servants and co-ran family businesses with their husbands. They spun wool and cloth, sewed clothes and linens, gardened, preserved and prepared food, made soaps, candles, and other household necessities. We see this in the woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31 who works long and hard hours to support her household. She gathers and prepares food, purchases and farms land, gives to the needy, makes clothes and linens, sells items in the marketplace, and teaches with wisdom and kindness. In addition, the male elders of the church were required to manage their households and expected to take responsibility for their children (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
When work was in the home, both parents stayed involved in their children’s upbringing because they could conduct profitable and productive work alongside raising their kids. The technology advances and uprising of factories took the location of men’s work from the home to a separate workplace—eliminating the private sphere in favor of the public sphere. Work and home life were severed from one another, leaving dads less involved in raising their children and moms less involved in economic work.
Pearcey also remarks that household industries created products and services that replaced most of the skills and work done by women in the home. As a result, the wife and mom’s role was reduced to taking care of children and having little interaction with the public sphere. Men’s roles were reduced to providing for their families and working outside of the home, creating a lack of time and connection with their families.
Even though the Industrial Revolution and the separation of the public and private spheres caused fragmentation in the family unit, the church neglected to push back on this shift in popular culture. Church leaders and members went along with the crippling change in family and work culture just like everyone else.
The private-public dichotomy has left moms with too many family responsibilities and not enough time and energy to practice their God-given gifts and feel useful in other areas beyond the home. Dads feel pressured to provide a certain standard of living and lack time to fully invest in their wives and kids. The Bible teaches that both moms and dads ought to guide and teach their children, but this takes time and intentionality. Families within the church need to find a way to have healthier boundaries around work and practice more integration with work and family life. As Christians, we ought to rethink and challenge the private-public dichotomy and corporate America’s “ideal-worker” standards. We need to come up with creative solutions for how parents can provide income while staying intentionally involved in their kids’ lives.
The online marketplace has opened up a lot of opportunities for working from home. My husband and I run small businesses online from our home, so we can both spend a lot of time with our four-month-old son. Patagonia offers employees on-site childcare, so parents can visit their children on breaks and breastfeeding moms can nurse their babies, if they choose, rather than pump. Some parents work in the office part-time and at home part-time. Many families have one or both parents working outside of the home full-time (which is especially necessary for single parents), but they make the most of time with their kids and keep reasonable boundaries on work.
My challenge to myself, my husband, and families in the church is to be intentional moms and dads who are creative with our time and resources, so we can make our spouses and children a priority in our lives.