Welcome back to A Man’s Place. A bi-weekly dialogue about Christian fatherhood and masculinity. A place to discuss relevant topics that allow us to grow and mature in the relationships that matter most.
Hello, I’m your host Jason Gabbert. Thanks for joining me for episode 2 of A Man’s Place. On this episode I want to focus on perception and how it relates to privilege. I want to use some of my own experiences as a stay-at-home father and my interactions with others to set the stage. We’ll then spend some time focusing on these perceptions and how to begin to break them down. I also want to spend a bit of time on why it matters, for us and others, to deny ourselves unjustified privilege.
As a stay-at-home dad of three children, I often need to go out into the real world with my kids. I am usually on edge knowing that at any moment my children could break into choas and I would lose all control. The great thing for me, as a man, is that I feel amazing every time I heroically step into public with my children. Men and women alike form a metaphorical cheer tunnel for me, as I rush through clapping the hands of my praisers. I am Rocky and have scaled the stairs of triumph.
Some examples of things I have heard while taking my children out. Mr. Mom! As if I’m not being a dad. It must be mom’s birthday. You're buying clothes for your daughter, you win dad of the year! Wow!
But, if I look at it honestly, I see people praise my mundane accomplishment of being a father around my kids. And other people are all too eager to reinforce and encourage my bloated perception. People seem confused with the idea of a daily father. I am not saying that it isn't amazing to be out with my kids, I'm saying it is seen as an anomaly.
I recently read an article that opened my eyes to this for the first time. I apologize, but I can't remember where. The article talked about this very issue. If we are trying to get men and women on equal grounds, we need to acknowledge this unbalanced praise. We need to stake a stance. Instead of accepting mundane praise, we should create level footing. I can do this by mentioning that as a father, I am not doing anything that my wife wouldn’t do. I remember the first time I read about doing this. I was a bit taken back about the idea of diverting the praise I received. Because it feels good. But there is more at stake here than my feelings. The people praising me, my wife, and myself all had a role in this, and we could all benefit together. Proverbs 25:16 says, "If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit." Praise can be good, but let's not take more than our fair share.
This inequality is brought on by men and women alike. Most the praises I receive are from shocked women who are so proud that a man would be out in public with his children. I understand a lot of this praise comes from good intentions. It comes from calling out what we see as extraordinary. But it does sadden me to realize that being a father out with his kids stands out enough for this very praise. I’m not doing anything more praiseworthy than my wife does. In fact, I often shy away from some of the responsibilities I let my wife believe are hers as the mother. But let's move on and not talk about that.
To fight for equality between fathers and mothers, men and women, I should deny myself this praise. It should be equally bestowed on my wife and other women. When I feel like Superman because I am watching the kids, I should remember that my wife also watches the kids. She probably does it better than I do. It may seem like a downer, but if I want level footing, I should fight for this. I should fight to make my life situation “normal” to myself and others. This doesn't apply to fatherhood alone. It could applies to any situation where unbalanced perceptions exist.
There is also a great benefit in putting men and women on equal footing as it relates to roles in or outside the family. With this perspective shift, we are giving everyone more freedom and growth. Chimamanda Adichie in one of her books says “What if both boys and girls were raised not to link masculinity and money? What if their attitude was not 'the boy has to pay,' but rather, 'whoever has more should pay.'" Why do we hold onto these specific ideas of gender roles? Like I have said before, I do believe that men and women have differences. But that doesn’t mean we need to stick to what is being done just because it has been done before. Men can take some of the unbalanced responsibilities off our shoulders. We can acknowledge that the women around us can help carry those responsibilities. We should also focus on the women around us and carry some of their responsibilities. Why do something only because it has been done before? Why not work together to discover what works best for all us, regardless of gender. Let's try and find a place where we are all edified in life. Who cares who works, who pays, who cooks, who parents full time. The question is, what do we want to do, and how can we work together to get there. Yes, there will be sacrifice and struggle involved. Life is about struggling and growing together. Life is about loving others, as we love ourselves.
This sounds pretty biblical to me. Often best things for us we find in denying ourselves. Matthew 16:24 talks about us denying ourselves to follow Christ. We should deny ourselves and our privilege, our undeserved praise and use it to lift others up. And It’s not all sacrificial. Doing this, though we deny biased praise to ourselves, allows us freedom and a bit more grace to understand that we are not in this alone. it’s not us vs. them, men vs. women. There often seems like a gender war exists. But we are all people with dreams. We are partners here, working together to make this world more like it was intended. And this world was not intended for one gender to rule the other. We are coworkers in this life. If I want to stay at home and my wife wants to work, why fight that? Why get angry about someone else choosing this? How is it wrong? In what way could this be wrong?
I know a lot of these issues can create a divide, as most disagreements do. But, we should work to see and talk with the other side. Most people get angry over these issues out of fear. Change is scary, no matter who you are. Instead of attacking those who we disagree with, let's love them. Let's help them see what we see, while not yelling that they are wrong. Most of my life I believed strongly in a specific order of family and gender structure. It took other people loving me and working with me to get me to that place of growth and understanding. A space where I didn’t feel threatened by change. Reality changes are always scary. But when I make that change I find that I end up in a place much better than where I started. Find an area of your life where you have seen growth among difficult change. Look at where you were and where you are now. Everyone is capable of change, growth, and understanding. We need to get the focus off ourselves and on others. We need to feel a little better about being a little less for the sake of something larger than ourselves. And in doing that, I'm convinced from experience that we all end up in a better place.
Thanks again so much for listening. Next episode, I will be interviewing a good friend of mine Jer Swigart. Jer is a modern-day peacemaker, a faith leader, a social innovator, an author & speaker, and the Co-Founding Director of a peacemaking training organization called The Global Immersion Project. We hope to dive even further into this topic of gender and how to continue to search for a better approach.
Please jump online and subscribe. Those subscriptions keep you up to date and also help bring this podcast to others. I also realize I gave out the wrong twitter handle last episode. So I want to give you all a few differenent, and correct, avenues to reach out to me and keeping the conversation going. Perhaps you have some suggestions or would like us to spend some time on a specific topic. You can find me on twitter or instagram at gabbertj. That's G A B B E R T J. And yes, I have the same handle for both formats. Again, thanks so much for your time and for being a part of this conversation!