Episode 1 / Gender Roles

Hello, and welcome to A Man’s Place. A bi-weekly dialogue about Christian fatherhood and masculinity. This is a place where we can discuss some touchy topics while allowing ourselves to grow and mature.

Thanks for tuning in to A Man’s Place. My name is Jason Gabbert and I’m your host. I’m a Christian man, I run  two businesses, and co-parent with my wife Connie.

I started this podcast to help people navigate their ideas of family and gender roles. This is a topic I have struggled with for a long time, and still do. But in the struggle, I've learned more about myself, others, and how to accept and love the differences.

This week I want to introduce you to part of my story. And through my story, I want to talk about the family roles I assumed Christian Men and Women should fulfill. We'll talk about where I may have gotten these perceptions, why these ideas can hurt those we love most, and why this discussion matters. This is an intro to the topics we will dive further into. Through my example, you will hear some perspective that you can think and and grow through. Throughout this podcast, we will spend a good deal of time on these topics, and others like them.

My fiancé at the time, and now wife, Connie, and I had recently gotten engaged. Our engagement was a lot of fun, but it also had A LOT of reality shattering conversations. When you grow up a conservative Christian, a lot of things in the real world can challenge you. Well, one day, we were shopping downtown, and Connie sprang on me the idea that she didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom. She wanted to work and have a career. Now, I’m anxiety prone, and anything that falls out of my perceived notion of right and wrong will stress me out. Well, she stressed me out. How could she turn her back on God’s structure for the family? Wasn’t she supposed to raise the kids, clean the house, and make me dinner? While I took on man’s burden of working the land and providing? Was our future marriage already at risk? How would this even work out? I’m not watching the kids? That’s not what a man does! I don’t remember much of the conversation, but I’m sure it lasted way longer than it should have. And, it was completely out of me fearing that she was making the wrong, and ungodly, decision. I had no context for a family constructed like this. I didn’t think families should be built this way.

This conversation became a pretty good baseline for our relationship. My wife is very driven, and challenges the things she doesn’t understand. While I tend to not question or challenge the things outside my understanding. Oh, and to fill you in, my wife is currently pursuing a dream career. While I stay at home with our kids a few days out of the week, work a few different self employed jobs, cook some dinners, and clean the house. We are co-parenting. What I once saw as “the wrong and unChristian way” is now my preferred way. I wouldn’t change how my life is now, but I once thought it was the wrong way to live. I wasn't going to give this beautiful life a chance.

Why did I think these things about male and female structures? How did I come to think that the man was only meant to work for money and women meant to raise the family? Not that that’s a wrong structure. In some marriages, both the man and woman prefer this structure. I’m asking why I thought a reverse of that was wrong. Maybe some of it was the church. We’ve been quoted 1 Timothy 5:8 and told about man providing for his family or "he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever". We also have several preachers telling us something along these lines all the time. We were raised by a generation that needed to assign right and wrong to everything. That’s the temptation for a lot of faiths. Nothing could be in the gray, it was black or white, right or wrong. And, family has been done this way for generations, so anything “other” is scary and sinful. This all ties in with my conservative background as well. I was raised by a traditional family and that is the only family model I knew. Oh, I also believed that arguing with someone was a sign that things were unhealthy. Perhaps I believed that only men worked and only women raised the family because of some form sexism. C’mon. You know those articles from the 50’s about women doint all the cleaning, cooking, raising of the kids, and making sure the end of the day is about man's comfort sounds pretty great! Not really, but more on that later. I’m guessing that us men rigged a lot of this to give ourselves meaning and purpose. Oh, and to ensure our wives serve us. 

How can these ideas hurt the people we love the most? Rigid ideas like this, especially if people can’t challenge them to us, turn us into rigid people. We become people who close ourselves to others, and the things that would allow us to love their differences. If we spend all our time fighting in the grays that we think are right, we won't have time to question how we can love others. I do believe there are definite right and wrongs, but we need to open ourselves to challenge a lot of what we believe. To either prove it true or not. To grow as people, we can’t be so rigid in our thinking. It’s very easy to believe something without questioning it. All you do is find what you will believe in and never think about it or anything else again. But to be human is to grow and question. We want to treat those around us fairly and lovingly.

Why does questioning all these things matter? Why challenge what we think we know and believe? Why change what has been done in the past? Well, look at the culture around us. Men and women often both have to work. Sometimes women have the better job opportunities, sometimes women WANT to work. Sometimes men WANT to be at home with their kids. My wife and I have been learning to co-habitat, to co-exist, and to live life as one. I don’t tell her what to do and she doesn’t tell me what to do. We make decisions together. Being a different gender doesn’t mean that one person has power over the other. Or that one gender is REQUIRED to watch the kids while the other makes all the money. That verse in Fist Timothy, by the way, doesn’t even talk finances. it talks about support and care.

So, where am I now? I’m now co-parenting with my wife, and I would never trade that in. I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to spend all the time in my children’s lives that I’m able to. If I stuck with my rigid views, I would miss out on the relationship I’m able to have with them, and with my wife. I still struggle with my anxiety in the right and wrong thinking, the black and white. But, I am learning there is more. We need to allow ourselves the freedom to think and question. We’re not alone as men afraid to change, or men that desire to change. The more we dialogue about these things, the better equipped we will be to change and grow. We'll be able to live into a life where providing for our families is not only about what we make, but who we are and how we love.

So, Give yourself the freedom to question what you believe. Default to love instead of "rules". Hear the perspectives of others without trying to judge or argue. Let’s have conversations that drive us to be less rigid people. Let’s try and trade in that right-and-wrong thinking for what’s loving, because that is what it means to be a man of God.

Thanks for tuning in this week. In two weeks we’ll talk more about these issues. In the future, I will have guests join us to tell us about how they have progressed, changed, and questioned. Feel free to follow me on twitter at gabbertj

or visit us online at amansplace.com.