Monday, July 19, 2010

Men as Stay-at-Home-Dads

To keep up with the "intellectual" side of this blog, I've been thinking about this article for a week now. It was written by Jean Chatzky. Jean is a financial editor for NBC's Today Show. I have seen her on the show before and she typically has had sound financial advice. I've never been overly disappointed with anything that I have heard come out of her mouth before. Apparently, it was only a matter of time.

The premise of the article is that it is perfectly acceptable for men to be stay-at-home fathers while their wives go back to work. I don't disagree with the premise. The premise of the story and the one that the article was based off of was that the husband and father lost his job and the wife began going to work full time and that this was, while socially unconventional, a fine thing to do. I would agree with this with one qualifying point - it would be non-detrimental for the time being. I think that there are plenty of studies as well as real life examples of the fact that most men have the need to provide for their families. With few exceptions that I know of, marriages can suffer when the man feels like he is not fulfilling his role and responsibility of provider.

That critique of the article is only social. Chatzky made some severe errors in several arguments that she made as well. For instance, in the section she wrote to men, one of the bullet points of coping with being a stay-at-home-dad was "Maintain some financial autonomy." Her argument is that, like the advice that she has given women (which I think is faulty), men should have a separate bank account. Her reason is that it forces the individual who has the account to actively manage it. My husband and I have all joint accounts and we co-manage all of them. I think that this is the best way for us, and probably for most married couples, because it forces both of us to pay attention to our money. We have a budget and we stick to it. We both make the budget together so that one doesn't feel as though they have not been considered in the planning. One of the things that Chatzky says in this portion of the article is that "everyone needs to be able to buy a cup of coffee or a pair of shoes without asking." This is poor financial planning advice because really, people should be able to do this without asking having to grovel at their spouse's feet for money anyway. They should have talked about and planned for these expenses and should have budgeted for them.

In the section to women, one of Chatzky's bullet points was "You're not hurting the kids." She quotes Sharon Meers, an author of the book Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have it All By Sharing it All. As for the idea that when a woman works full-time outside the home, her family and children still at home suffer, Meers says, "There is zero evidence to support this." She goes on to say, "Clearly, no one should ignore their children, but employment in and of itself, and in the amounts that mothers do, leads to only positive outcomes for children." Really? Ever heard of latch-key kids? While I certainly wouldn't make the argument that all children who have mothers who work full-time outside the home have been cheated of something, I certainly wouldn't say that there are only positive outcomes. I think a woman can work outside the home full-time in a capacity that doesn't damage her family situation (i.e., teacher, works nights while the husband is home, works while the kids are in school during the day.)

Also, a person must ask themselves why they are having children. As a Christian, I believe that children are a gift and a blessing from the Lord. I can see where it would be easy though, after a couple has been married for a few years to look at each other, shrug, and say, "I guess it's time to have children now." In doing this, I think that children are done a disservice. Children need nurturing. I do believe that children need nurturing from both parents, but after what we have talked about what I believe drives most men, women are in the position to be the facilitator of a lot of the nurturing. This is what bothers me about the fact that Chatzky said, "Employment tends to raise mothers' self-esteem and lower the incidence of depression, both of which are good for children." I don't believe that you have children to have high self-esteem. I believe you have children to nurture them. Your child will not look back with pleasure on your high self-esteem when you couldn't be at any of her school plays because you didn't get off of work soon enough.

I want to create a warm and nurturing place for my children where I can teach them about loving God, loving their family, and giving of themselves to others. I want my children to rise up and call me "blessed." I want to minister to my husband and for us, right now, that means me staying at home and taking care of it so that he is mentally free to provide financially for our family. Please understand, I am not condemning anyone for the choice that they have made for their family. I also understand that many women have to work outside the home. I get it. What I am asking, though, is that we all take a look at our view of children and our family and what our goals for their futures are.

Thanks for stopping by today!

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