Dads Who Stay Home: Let’s Discuss

I’ve shared on this blog how I’m often embarrassed by the label I carry as a stay-at-home mom. Yes, I’ve complained about it…and worried about how I’m failing the cause of women in the workplace by my family’s conscious decision that I should stay home (work I feel happy and satisfied in) while Chris spends his day at a typical business job. I know we’re traditional. But we’re also realists.

Attention, Hohorst family: Which of the two of you can actually communicate with strangers on the telephone without breaking out in the heebiejeebies over whether or not said stranger likes you? Which of you can recruit and train sales people? Which of you has had a lifelong gift of making up songs to go with every significant moment of the day?

Perhaps the non-heebiejeebied parent should work while the “let’s sing songs about putting socks on the dinosaur” parent whose income could never have covered the cost of day care (at least in San Francisco), should stay home. We have made our decision because we used our brains. Though our lives as Stay-at-Home Mom and Business Suit Dad may look traditional, I hope we’re living out something more complex and beautiful underneath that image.

In his Easter basket, August got a set of wooden vegetables and fruits that can be cut in half with a wooden “knife” on a wooden “cutting board.” He’s been working all week cutting those veggies and sticking them back together. He dumps them in his pretend cooking pot, stirs them around and says, “Dada.”

It’s interesting to me that August thinks of Chris as being the cook. He actually sees me cooking a lot more than he sees Chris cooking. I have the time. I usually plan the meals on the weekdays. But what he sees when I cook is a harried woman stressfully following a recipe. Cooking can be nice for me, but it’s far from my passion. August’s father, on the other hand, is giddy when he cooks. Chris talks about pork the way Sarah Jessica talked about Big. My husband is passionate about food. And August gets that. If he’s going to cook like someone, he wants to cook like his dad.

Whether we fit into traditional or progressive roles: if Chris vacuums and I take out the trash, if I dress August in the morning or Chris makes his breakfast, our hope is that August will see us living joyful and fulfilled lives. If I were miserable at home, we would reconsider. If Chris felt depressed with his days in the office and longed to be home, we would reconsider. If I had gone into our pregnancy fully content with my work life (including its salary) and at peace with the time apart from August each day, I would work. If it were financially or physically necessary, we would reconsider.

I’m not a stay-at-home mom because only women can be nurturing or because I feel sorry for kids whose mothers work or because only men should provide for their families. I’m a stay-at-home mom because I am the better nurturer in our family. I love being home all day. (I’m a creative brain and structure is debilitating to me.) I’m a stay-at-home mom because my husband is gifted in ways that actually make money.

Yesterday I came across a blog response to a short video featuring Mars Hill pastor, Mark Driscoll, and his wife discussing their stance on Stay-at-Home Dads. The video is a couple of years old and it received plenty of reaction when it was first released on the web. But yesterday Nicole Wick brought it back into the realm of discussion on her blog. She is a working Christian mother whose husband stays home. There are plenty of interesting points of discussion here, including her response to the biblical claims Mark Driscoll is making, in particular his definition that a man should “provide for his family” in a strictly financial sense based on his reading of 1 Timothy 5:8.

I will simply let you read what Nicole Wick has to say and let my responses show up in the discussion I hope we’ll have today. I will say that I have great respect for any man who chooses to stay home with his children. Driscoll is far from considering that the many men who feel called for a season to care for and nurture their kids in a full time capacity face a culturally humiliating task. It cannot be easy to be a man who stays home in a society whose highest value is financial success. I am impressed by stay-at-home dads and I’m thankful we all have a choice.

I would love to hear your thoughts, especially you biblical scholars (I use the term loosely) out there who’d like to comment on 1 Timothy 5:8. I’d also love to hear from moms who’ve chosen to work or men who’ve chosen to stay home (I know you’re out there, David! Anyone else?).


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21 responses to “Dads Who Stay Home: Let’s Discuss

  1. My husband currently stays home with our 10 month daughter. While I think both my husband and I would prefer our current roles be reversed, right now what is working for our family is that he stays home while I work. He was laid off as we faced an economic down turn in November 2008. He has spent every day since then looking for employment. I, on the other hand, was able to keep my gainful employment. While there are days that are frustrating for both of us, the truth of the matter is that God has blessed us in this situation. He has allowed my husband to bond with our daughter as he spends so much time with her. I am confident she will always have a special and close relationship with her dad not only because of this time but also because it is important to him to know his daughter. One day our situation may change. We 100% believe that God is in control of all the details of our lives and right now this is the manner He has chosen to provide for us.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Mindy. I’m glad to hear that it’s been a blessed situation…even in the midst of something as frustrating as the loss of a job.

    Stories like yours are why Driscoll’s legalistic interpretation of that Timothy passage is so wearisome to me. Right now, your husband IS supporting his family by being exactly where he needs to be. In that sense he’s a hero of a father…

  3. Yeesh. This makes me ill. The whole thing hinges on his description of what it means to use context in biblical interpretation — “going to the culture to find worldly wisdom and then trying to sanctify it.” To me, that is an absolutely horrifying way to read scripture [i.e. devoid of cultural and literary context, genre, etc]. A commenter on Nicole’s site noted that Mark seems to be cutting and pasting Scripture to make it into principles for living… which it is not. It is the STORY of God and His people, it is the Living Word, it is history, commentary, metaphor, poetry, song, and yes, sometimes, instruction. It is always *instructive* because the Spirit instructs our hearts as we engage with it, but it cannot be made into “principles to live by” because that works against its very purpose — the principles too easily become a substitution for the PERSON of Jesus Christ, the work of His Spirit in us, and the communion with God the Father for which we were made to truly live.

    Sorry, I’m preaching now. Got me all fired up! And not even about the subject at hand. 🙂 For the record, I think that stay-at-home-dads are amazing and every bit as manly (arguably more so) than the 9-5 dad. We are a traditional family like you guys, and for the same reasons. It works for us and it is good for our family. It allows both of us to live out God’s calling — because that is how he has specifically called and gifted US. If God created and called my husband to be a stay-at-home-dad it would be disobedient to choose conforming to a principle over following the call of God. OK I’m good and worked up now so I better quit! 🙂

    Great topic, thanks Micha.

    • Haley, I love your preaching. And I completely agree. Thank you for your explanation of how scripture should be read and applied to our lives.

      What disturbed me most about Driscoll’s reading of 1 Timothy 5 is how it was just pulled out of the chapter as if it were a “Proverb” intended to be read on its own. The reality is that the entire passage is Paul addressing the church’s role in caring for widows in its community. Paul’s communicating that a widow who already has a family shouldn’t need special care, that her children/grandchildren should be providing for her. And that’s the point when verse 8 appears.

      Here’s the ESV version of it:
      “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for the members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

      If we really want to have a discussion based on this passage, we should discuss if our culture’s obsession with ourselves and our individual lives and immediate families has made us blind to caring for our older relatives, especially our grandmothers. How many of us are sending our paychecks toward our parents and grandparents? How many of us are even writing our grandmothers letters? I’m guilty.

      But if we want to go back to reading the passage as being a principle solely about providing for our families, then we should read it as we usually read passages of “principles” addressed to men in scripture: as if it’s addressed to women too. If we didn’t read them as if they applied to us, there’d be very few principles for women to take to heart in Paul’s writings…

      If that’s the case, then I can read the verse and say I should be providing for my family as much as my husband should be, which still leads me back to the fact that “providing” can take many forms in the family. I’m providing every time I change a diaper, every time I make a sandwich, every time I blow bubbles.

      I’m not biblical scholar, but I can smell yuck when I come across it.

      Thanks Haley!

  4. Michelle Hohorst :)

    Hi Micha!
    Andy and I, interestingly enough, might have to play the opposite way when we eventually have kids, for the same reasons you guys have taken your roles. I actually want to stay at home, but right now my job is the only stable income, with health insurance, and it would not make much sense financially to quit. Eventually, I would love to be the stay at home mom, but we’ll wait until it makes the most sense.

    P.S. – Andy totally freaked out when he heard August say hi on the phone 🙂

  5. Rob Swick

    Hi there Micah,
    I’m a pretty avid follower of your brother’s blog and when I saw his Facebook post today about being a stay at home dad, I had to read and comment. In April of this past year my family and I moved from our rural Michigan home to Sao Paulo Brazil for 3 months due to my wife’s career with Google. My employer wouldn’t allow me to take a 3 month leave of absence to take care of our then 15 month old son, so I chose to leave my job and take a short stint as a stay at home dad. Prior to the move we both had fulfilling careers in our own respective fields. our son who is now just over 2 years old has been fortunate to have been in the care of a home based caregiver while we both worked prior to the stint in Brazil. What I learned while spending time with my son daily is priceless (as I am sure you know well). Not only did that time provide us both with an amazing bonding experience, but it also allowed me to explore what it really meant to be a good father. Upon our return from Brazil, I contacted my previous employer about coming back to work and was fortunate enough to be given the same job back, and in Michigan’s current economic condition that was pretty amazing. It only took about 2 days for me to realize how special the 3 months my son and I spent together daily were, and how much I was already missing that. To make an already lengthy story short, my wife was offered a position with her company in Toronto, Ontario Canada. We knew that the role would be quite demanding of her time and energy, but she was certain that this position was her “dream job”. Knowing how well things went for Jack(my son) and I in Brazil, I didn’t hesitate to let her know I was willing to resume the role I had thrust upon me before. We have been living in the Toronto area now for 3 months, and I can not even begin to tell you how much I have appreciated being home with my son. Granted, i have received my fair share of comments from people I know about taking on this role, but I know many men who have quietly whispered what they would give to do the same. There have been times where I have wondered if this was the best decision for our son and I, but I truly believe that there couldn’t have been a better option. Soon Jack will be starting pre school (they start @ 30 months here!) and I more likely than not will be going back to some sort of part time position which leaves me feeling both excited and hesitant. Excited that I will meet new friends, and gain the experience of working in a different country and work culture. Hesitant that I wont be on the up and up within my career field, or worse yet that I’m missing something while my son is in the care of someone else. Just thought I would share my perspective on this already interesting blog post. Thanks for writing.


  6. I have been a SAHD for 10 years. When I read the Bible there are a lot of reason I think I could end up in hell, but taking care of my kids is not one of them.

    This is one of the best articles I have read on the subject of gender roles and the Bible.;workers-home%2526quot;-really-mean%3F

    Also, a note to Rob, you may consider coming to the SAHD convention:

    Thanks for hosting the discussion.

  7. I love seeing what you guys think. Rob, thanks for sharing your perspective and the situations that led you to this season home with your son. I’m sure the thought of going back to work must be intimidating. That’s another thing we didn’t talk about…Staying home is not only a sacrifice of pride, it’s a sacrifice of career. And there’s no guarantee that work will still be there or that our field will not have advanced past our own level of education while we were gone. I wish you guys the best as you head into the land of preschool!

    And Michelle, thanks for leaving your thoughts, too. I think there are a lot of people in your situation, with a husband whose job is creative and flexible (without good health care!), considering the same thing. If there is any man I know who would be a perfect stay at home dad, it’s Andy Hohorst! Perfect.

  8. joe

    I have stayed at home more-or-less constantly for most of my daughter’s 10 years. My gut feeling is that whilst children are relatively happy being cared for by non-family (after school etc) for a few years, at some point they want to do some other stuff. If I worked a conventional job, it is very unlikely my daughter would be able to do dance, ice skating, music lessons, brownies (girl scouts) etc without causing my wife and I a hernia. I also would probably not have the time to cook proper food, fresh soup etc.

    I’m not a biblical scholar, but I am more and more of the opinion that if we actually believed the New Testament, we’d be living to our needs rather than our wants – and hence it’d be far more common to put up with old sofas (say) rather than working fingers to the bone to tart up a house or pay for a big mortgage.

    I don’t give a monkeys what Driscoll says, btw. My daughter has far more sense in her little finger than that man has in his whole body.

  9. Chris

    So much of a man’s identity is built around his ability to provide for his family. That’s not to say it’s necessarily healthy. Good article at the Atlantic on what it’s like for men who are laid off: .

    Stripping away that layer of worldly identity can be catastrophic for a lot of guys, just as losing anything we use to feel valuable can be difficult. But hopefully it points us towards where our true value is, eh?

  10. Kat or "Coop"

    Well, I am finally catching up on your wonderful new blog, which of course I love!!! You know, God is just so great to us, this we know! God sent you a husband who can cook (hamburger helper is just not that great) and God sent me a wonderful husband that gets to be a stay-at-home- step-dad!

    We get asked a lot — what Troy does and telling them what he is doing always gets a great response. Maybe they wait till we are gone to say other wise, but so far he is getting a lot of support.

    As long as God leads us, he will remain the one that gets to stay home. Troy has certainly taught me that men can be more patient and fitting to stay at home in some cases. Most days I am jealous but only because there is a part of me that thinks he’s doing a better job than I would be.

    I still am the better cook and love it so he gets to handle the clean-up. It’s what works for us. When it comes to the house, we both pitch in… the remodel is done by all of us and cleaning too. Now we get to start on the yard and begin a garden as well. I can’t wait to share it when you visit next.

    Love you!

  11. I’m an Episcopalian, so Driscoll’s argument that it’s unbiblical to stay at home with kids doesn’t really matter much. Episcopalians, by and large, don’t read much of the Bible. 🙂

    Seriously, I’d put my day against Driscoll’s day any time. For instance, in addition to dealing with night wake-ups last night, by 9:30 a.m., I had cooked breakfast for both boys (eggs and oatmeal) and while my wife (oatmeal) caught a little extra sleep before hurrying to make it to work on time. We did morning story time, I cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed and put the infant down for a nap, but not before a cascade of spit up landed in my beard.

    So, the only case I can make for why a woman might should stay at home and not a man is that, by and large, women have less facial hair than men and it is less gross when spit up flies in your face.

    I had a lot of people tell me that I was revolutionary to stay home with my kids (I lived in Berkeley at the time). I shot back to ask whether they’d say the same thing about a woman who chose to stay home. I never got invited back to hang out.

    I have good days and bad days, like every at-home parent. My kids surprise me, make me cry with joy and infuriate me, all before lunch sometimes. The thing that gets me is the loneliness. I have a hard time in all moms groups, not because they don’t usually accept me, but because I get tired of being the novelty and hearing them talk about how they wish their husbands would do this or that.

    I sometimes fantasize — on those days of endless tantrums — about working a 9-5 or being able to sit at a coffee shop and read, or write on that “book” I keep telling myself I’m going to write (it keeps the in-laws thinking I’m doing something manly).

    Do I think my wife would be a better at-home parent? Absolutely. But I think she’d be better than me at pretty much everything, so that’s not really a gendered thing. We both valued an at-home parent, so when No. 1 came unexpectedly we did what we had to do.

    Staying-at-home has also completely unscrewed my theology. So that’s fun. 🙂

    This comment is already way too long, so I should probably just be quiet now.

  12. Abi

    Hey Mrs Micha!
    My husband and I have a “traditional” marriage, being that Neal works and I stay home and home school. It works well for us, but I think of my sister-in-law when this subject comes up. Tara is going to school full time to become an Rn and then hopefully a CNP. In the midst of this she has had three cancer-preventing surgeries and has a 2 year-old with Type 1 diabetes. The only reason she is able to go to school and make it through her medical situations, is because her husband has agreed to take time away from his career goals in order to take care of my niece. I think the situation is such a blessing and a gift from the Lord, that Jason is humble enough to accept not being “the breadwinner” for this time in their lives. It takes a man of great wisdom and patience to take care of a special needs 2 year-old, and he does it with excellence. I think it is wonderful that in this day and age, we can choose to live out what works best for each family. I am glad you make up silly songs about dinosaurs, all of my songs are about ducks!;)

  13. Micah,
    J. and I watched this the morning and it started a good conversation about what the Bible actually says and what our Christian culture tells us. I think that the Driscols actually had some great things to say about the scriptures and some great scriptures to break down but instead of thoughtfully breaking them down in this clip I feel that they took christian culture and mimic what they saw in that. I

  14. Sara


    Hello from the Claypools in Rhody. I hope life out in SF is treating you guys well.

    This is such an interesting post on an issue that we all have to consider as we start having children. Personally, I can relate to your statement about feeling like you would be “failing the cause” of working women if you stayed at home. While tradition may give us the picture of mom in an apron at home baking cookies while dad goes off to work in a suit, modern society certainly discourages that. We are being taught now that women can also achieve success separate from their husbands, and the way to do that is to be successful outside of the home.

    I never would have thought that I would want to be a stay-at-home-mom. As I spent 6 years working hard to put myself through college (and am still paying for it now), I did it with the idea that having a career is what I had to do to be successful. In fact, I tended to feel as though women who did quit working after having a child essentially “wasted” all those years and all that money to get their college degree.

    Having Jack has made me feel completely different. I dreaded the day that my maternity leave ended, not because I hate my job, but because I have never felt such purpose or fulfillment in anything I have done before Jack. Taking care of strangers as a nurse will never compare to being a mother and caring for my child. I am in a somewhat fortunate situation that working full time for me is only 3 days a week, but even those 3 days away from Jack are difficult. I am terrified that I am going to miss his “first” moments. Now, rather than longing for success in my chosen field, I long for success at home with my child.

    But as you said, each family has their own situation to contend with, and ours dictates that I must work. Financially, we could afford for me to work only part time, with the huge glaring exception of health insurance. I carry the health insurance for the family. John’s work offers terrible coverage at nearly triple the cost of my work. The insurance through my job is fantastic. We are acutely aware that if we had been without health insurance last year, we would have been financially ruined. Between my pregnancies and miscarriage and John’s cancer, there is no way we could have unburied ourselves from the medical bills. Knowing that, we do not feel comfortable being in jobs that leave us without the kind of coverage that my job provides…so, I work.

  15. Kim

    Hi, Micha.

    I was so happy to hear of your blog from Lia, and am loving the poetry and memorizing Pied Beauty :). Thank you!

    I have been pondering this now for a few days. And at first was disturbed by the video clip, and how it has segmented God, by His Word, into this neat little directive in which providing for needs is so narrowly defined. I know we crave directives… direction, clarity and mandates in some way shape or form in life. And we do indeed need them, too. However, that the letter is a picture of that church and their struggles is the lens through which we should see this passage. We need to take off the MACRO lens and pull back to about a 35mm. What do we learn about God here? That he provides for his people and often does it in a way that refines his people. He addresses their weaknesses, because is is personally involved. Perhaps for Driscoll’s church it is the same, but to transpose that onto the Church at large is careless. And perhaps that is the mistake we viewers can make if we embrace this as absolute truth. But we know too, from the passage that forsaking your own is abominable to the Lord. That much IS clear.

    Personally, we look fairly traditional in the American sense. Matt works very hard outside the home, and I very hard in our home. We have 5 boys, all at home for school, and in addition I have a business I love. I can honestly say that God has equipped me with the college degree and brain I have and books I love to be influential in the lives of my children. I am convinced it is not squandered here. And I don’t even make up silly songs. :\ And it is true that nowhere can I disciple anyone more intensely, share knowledge, laughter, prayer, our spiritual journeys than with these kids. I would never trade it, even though there are 1,000 things that I could find to do that I would love. And I know Matt is jealous of that influence and time. If he could, he would stay home. But his calling is not home right now. We secretly hope that our lucky leprechaun will leave a pile of gold so we can both be home with our kids, not to be idle or to forsake the provision of needs but to be WITH each other.

    I had someone say to me recently that she had too much going on in her brain to stay home all the time with her kids. At first I was a little (okay a lot) offended that she implied that I had a simple mind because I am primarily with my kids. And I was glad my 5th and 6th grader weren’t in earshot. I was tempted to say that being on the cookbook committee didn’t sound that inspiring, but I refrained. I don’t want to be that defensive person either. But the perception is out there that it is nothing but mundane. I heartily disagree, as I imagine many do. I find it dynamic, challenging, inspiring and hopeful, not to mention, difficult and bang-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating. I’ll take that job description.

    What a great tapestry there is out there. Bless you all who provide.


  16. Friends, I am loving your thoughtful replies: who (if either of you) stays home and why, what life is like for those of you who stay home, how you read that text in 1 Timothy…

    If you haven’t read the link Chad posted, please read it here.;workers-home%2526quot;-really-mean%3F

    It’s short and fantastic. And it addresses all of the questions we’ve been discussing. Keep those thoughts coming!

  17. Micha –

    I love this discussion. For lots of reasons. Probably more than I can begin to share in this small reply box. Maybe I’ve just been wrestling with a lot of Christian ideas, ideals, concepts and aspects of culture recently. But, I struggle with the idea of “roles” as “laid out” by the bible. As a college gal, with glittering eyes and a hopeful heart that God would one day bring me my dream man – who would lead me, lord over our household and spiritually guide our family, I reveled in the idea of these roles. Then I met Bill. And Bill is an amazing man – kind, gentle, relaxed. And I fell in love with him. And as we neared marriage, I realized that Bill had less of a “man as the leader” view on roles, and rather a “team, 50/50” view on roles. At first, my world fell apart. How could we be a perfect Christian couple if this was so?!?!? What about weekly devotionals? Ministry? Involvement in church? And yet…somehow, after almost 4 years, it works. And I love it. I love being on Bill’s team. We’ve challenged each other in our faiths. And even now, in this season of questions and wrestling, we struggle together. So, I apply this same newfound perspective on stay-at-homeness as well. I grew up with a mom who stayed at home. As did Bill. And it was comforting – and it’s all we knew. I stay at home, but I would say not out of it’s “truth,” but rather a conscious choice made out of necessity. Bill has truly been gifted to teach high school kids english. This is evidenced by the glowing reviews from his building administrators and the way kids love his class. Before having Lucy, I had a mishmash of jobs. I was good at those jobs, but were they my career? Had I found my calling? Was I making money or had stable income? Not really. Had I been, would things be different? Possibly. But, for the amount of money I’d make in a job I’d have now, it would break even our monthly budget once daycare was paid for. And there is a part of me that isn’t ready to surrender my beautiful daughter to strangers – I don’t want them to see her progress, her words, her new abilities before I do. So I stay at home. And I reiterate: not by principle. And had it been the other way around, Bill would make an amazing SAHD, if our situation called for it. But as you stated regarding Chris: He is talented and made to do what he is doing. And presently in my life, raising Lucy suits me. In a few years, as my kids are in school, I look forward to pursuing whatever passions or careers are placed in front of me. It’s like stepping out of college all over again: I get a mulligan on careers. The world is my oyster – and I will have a blank slate to go after new and exciting possibilities.

    The longer I am a mom, the more I realize I have NO ROOM to judge others. I have lots of friends and aquaintences (I spelled that wrong, sorry – but there is no spell check here) who feel SO STRONGLY that their parenting perspectives are RIGHT, and in most cases, BACKED BY THE BIBLE. And if it differs, you are WRONG and they will TELL YOU SO. I’d like to think that the “Christian Life” (I hate using that term, by the way) can look a lot of different ways and still be “right.” It makes life more beautiful. People need to do what works for them. If it means you co-sleep, great! If you use formula instead of breastfeeding, awesome! If you work and your husband stays at home, MORE POWER TO YOU.

    Thanks for bringing this up, M. I look forward to more posts!

  18. Bekarys

    I wonder if you are considering a similar discussion re criticism/condemnation of stay at home moms? Women who stay at home have been condemned for the past 40 years by feminists and this doesn’t seem to bother anyone. In fact we are supposed to be grateful for feminists having “liberated” us from the tragedy of staying at home. Yet when the identical criticism is leveled at men who stay at home, it’s considered outrageous. Why? Why is it perfectly acceptable, even laudatory even, to tell women they should leave the home and have a career, yet totally unacceptable to tell women the same thing?

  19. @Bekarys – Let me point out one difference in the condemnation of women and men who stay at home. I have yet to hear a pastor get up and say that women who stay at home as going to hell. That the Bible says that if women decide to raise their children and not get a job outside of the home they are worse than unbelievers. That women who do laundry, change diapers, cook and all the other things involved in running a household with kids are living outside of God’s plan for their life.

    I am not trying to minimize your experiences, but the criticism is not identical. It doesn’t mean that what you have felt is not real and not worth discussing, but it doesn’t mean you need to try to minimize my experiences either.

  20. Pingback: Gratefully | mama:monk

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