My father left town when I was very young.
I remember thinking about being a father when I was a child, saying to myself that I would make sure I was there for my kids and that I would play with them so much and make sure they knew how special and valuable they were. Now I have two small boys, ages 3 and a half and 16 months. For most of their lives Karen and I have played the traditional gender roles. She stays at home with the boys and I work or do ministry or whatever it was we were doing to support ourselves at the time.
However, things changed recently. My unbelievably talented, intelligent and educated wife is now a high school teacher and I am going back to school to get my degree. At night, I am taking courses. During the day, I am a stay at home dad. I can feel the judgement from my former mentors–their voices ringing in my ear that man makes the money and the woman stays home with the kids.
I confess I have had to deal with my own pride, specifically when I am out and about with my boys during normal business hours. When my older son makes a friend at the park I don’t feel comfortable setting up another play date with the child’s mother because I don’t want to appear to be coming on to her. I deal with constant “oh you have the kids today, huh” comments as if it’s obvious that a father out with his boys in the middle of the day must be doing his wife some sort of favor.
All of these things drive me nuts and seem to back me into a corner. I can either become a shell of myself and walk in shame, or I can push back with everything I have against the patriarchy that I believe Jesus started tearing down some two thousand years ago. Patriarchy is not just oppressive to women, though oppression of women is how it fleshes itself out. Patriarchy is oppressive to men because when we do not honor one another’s gifts and talents and abilities equally, we all lose. When a woman is not allowed to do everything a man is allowed to, everyone loses.
These ideas of specific gender roles in relationships must change if our children are to be truly free. All boundaries must go. All limits to what our children can do and who they can be must be erased. As long as patriarchy is alive and well, we cannot truly tell our children that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up.
Patriarchy must die…for the good of my sons. Patriarchy must die…for the good of your daughters. We all need women to be honored as equals. We all need men to be able to stay at home with their kids without being shamed or look down on. Patriarchy must die…for the good of us all.
A society which is not egalitarian is an unjust society. We must do all we can to fight for a just society on every level we can.
Patriarchy must die. Men must rise up to play a role in putting it to death.
Andrew is a stay at home dad, author, activist and recovering pastor in Dallas, Tx. Andrew blogs regularly at thenewreformers.com and peacefulbama.com . When he is not at home with his two sons, Joshua and Zayne, and his wife Karen, he can be found in the classroom at the University of Texas at Dallas working on his undergrad, in a coffee shop reading and writing, or on the streets fighting for equality. Follow him on Facebook.