Editor’s Note: Today we are starting a series that is asking the question: What does it mean to be a man? Our first post is from Sonny Lemmons who is a stay at home dad in South Carolina. He has a unique perspective on this issue.
Guys – let’s be honest. Sometimes it IS about size of a “p” word.
Three years ago, right around the birth of my son Malakai, my wife Ashley and I were presented with the choice that many parents have to face: namely, do we put the little bundle of joy into daycare, or does one of us stay home to raise the man-cub?
After a lengthy time management analysis of what our schedules looked like on a “normal” week (we were both employed by the same university, so “normal” was a subjective term), we realized that if we put him in daycare, we would effectively be paying someone to raise our child for us. Since my wife’s job provided us with a place to live as part of her salary package, me leaving my job to face a mountain of diapers, burp cloths, and onesies seemed the more logical decision.
To us. Once we began telling family and friends of our choice, many of them looked at me like I had grown tentacles out of my nose and had begun speaking in the tone of a Klingon opera or something.
Because, as I was told both to my face and in inference from attitude, that’s just not what men do.
“As the head of your house, you are supposed to provide.” Oh, I Timothy 5:8, how you have provided stones to the hands of those who love to throw them first. Yet the size of these stones do not match the size of the ones it takes to realize that providing does not exclusively – nor Biblically – mean it is to come from a monetary standpoint.
There are plenty of husbands and fathers who contribute to the checking account and the offering plate, yet give nothing of themselves emotionally or to support their spouses or children. I have been AMAZINGLY blessed in that in the past three years God has given me the chance to get paid for some of the words I slam down, but the size of whatever dollars I have contributed pales in comparison to how I have provided my wife with comfort of mind in knowing that our son is safe, secure, and happy.
After his first birthday, Malakai was diagnosed with chronic benign neutropenia
–a condition which leaves him with a weakened immune system. Add into that his early onset asthma and allergy to peanuts, and tossing him into the biological cesspool that is daycare would have caused one of us to continually have to miss work due to his being ill more often than not.
As a stay-at-home dad, I can monitor his activities and the environment he is exposed to, as well as provide him with the example of showing him a man is as capable of loving, playing, cleaning, cooking, and disciplining as well as a woman is. Take THAT, gender stereotypes.
“If you quit your job, you’re committing professional suicide.”
This is an actual quote, taken from one of my (now former) mentors, who expressed the belief that no university would ever hire me once I decided to return to the workforce if I willingly left my job at the time to be a stay-at-home dad. It not only flew in the face of social convention, but it came at a time when my career trajectory was on the rise.
Men more often than women tend to define ourselves through our professions; after all, in a social setting, what’s one of the initial questions we ask one another once we meet for the first time?”What do you do for a living?”
If the size of my resume had to decrease so that he – my son – might increase as a healthy, well-rounded person, so be it. To be fair, many people still do not know how to interact with me on a social level when they learn what it is that I do full-time. I have become somewhat of a pariah to colleagues I have known for decades. But I have also found more meaning and fulfillment in this job than in any other position I have held before.
“Men are not prepared to be full-time caregivers.”
I actually somewhat agree with this statement. The first diaper I ever changed was Malakai’s, and that was on the day he was born. I long presumed I might have a strange, allergic reaction to being left alone with an infant, and God help both the child and me were I to have to – you know – hold it or something.
This was due in part to the time, place, and location of where I was raised; the South (specifically Mississippi) is not exactly known for producing sensitive, caring, emotionally-open men. But given that the first time I held him, it felt so natural and so normal – just like how the first time I told Ashley I loved her was as easy and natural as ordering a latte comes to me – it was proof that the promise of Ephesians 2:10 exists. Because what is possibly a better work than being the husband and father I am called to be?
Had I chosen to let other people – society, certain preachers, or anyone – dictate to me what it means “to be a man”
–my life and the life of my family would look radically different than it does now. I opted to look instead at the size of other non-p-word ideas: trusting in faith that what we were doing was for the best; following the dictates of my heart as He guided me on this journey; and giving myself the grace to just be me. Free to make mistakes and missteps as I learned as I went along.
Because as a man/husband/father, I’ve learned that the size of my “p” word is very important to me.
My passion, not my paycheck, is what I am to follow.