Prodigal Magazine

Being A Man: Size Matters

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.

About The Author

Sonny Lemmons (yes, that is his real name) fancies himself a writer of stuff, a receiver of grace, and a drinker of coffee. At least one of these can be quantifiably proven true. A stay at home dad for four years now, Sonny can usually be found Tweeting (@sonnylemmons), blogging (www.lookthrough.net) or doing laundry while his son Malakai (age 4) is sleeping.

  • http://kingfishercrossing.blogspot.com kingfisher

    Thank you very much for your “take” on setting an example as a godly man. In these times it seems as if many persons in leadership act as if their role is to tell others what to do, pushing a list of “musts” of what makes up the ideal and logical Christian life. As a person who often feels insecure because others, well-meaning though they might be, think I don’t fit the right mold, I appreciate your perspective of “being free to be the me that God is working me out to be.”

    • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

      Thank YOU for the category of calling this “setting an example as a Godly man.” Sadly, I honestly have lost friends due to my decision, because they have told me I am acting outside of God’s will and not serving in my role as a provider for my family. It’s heartening to know that there ARE people who see this as Biblical.

      • http://kingfishercrossing.blogspot.com kingfisher

        How very sad that you are labeled “acting out of God’s will” for wanting what you and your wife concluded was best for your family. Such an attitude must be “deadly” for the man who isn’t strong enough to work at an outside job, or just can’t find employment at all. Or what about the woman who isn’t healthy enough to look after her kids properly (or work outside, either)? What about the homeless, the poor, the marginalized, the uneducated, the mentally challenged? They mustn’t hear the “good news” about the Christ who came to set us free, because they’re doing something wrong or else God would surely provide for them?????? That seems to me like really sick legalism! No wonder people are leaving the churches, if that’s what they’re hearing. You have made a choice, and so you can stand with your head tall in spite of the criticism. But for many, there IS no choice, there is only “life happens”! How much they must hurt—-

        Many, many prayers needed in this troubled world!

      • Lucie

        You are no doubt better off without these “friends.”

  • Daniel Hedin

    I applaud your efforts, and your wisdom in realizing that just because it’s socially normal doesn’t meant that it’s okay to let others to raise your children for you.

    Don’t make the mistake of looking at public school as somehow different, when the time comes.

    • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

      Well, *I* am a product of public schools, as is my wife, so we’re inclined to want to send him on when the time comes. I mean, yeah, there have been some moments of “gee, maybe he should go to private school,” and I have a couple of friends who home school their kids (of which I can see both pros and cons). We’re still about a year and some change away from making THAT decision, and – mercifully – we’re open to again doing what is best for him and not what we “should” do.

  • Louise

    Thankyou for writing this. As someone who hasn’t in the past agreed with men staying home to look after children I found your article made some excellent points and made me reconsider my position on this topic.

    • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

      Honestly, I don’t think I have ever gotten a higher compliment than this. Thank you. Sincerely.

  • http://wzippler.wordpress.com/ Wanda Zippler

    Don’t listen to the nay sayers. A man figures out what is what is best for his family, and then does it! You have clearly done that!

    • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

      Thank you. For seeing that, and not – as some people have claimed – using this as an “excuse” to just quit my job and lounge around the house in my PJs all day. Because CLEARLY that’s what all stay at home parents do. :)

  • http://Krisirj.blogspot.com Krisi

    Sonny,

    I love, thank you so much for being bold and sharing and such an awesome perspective to fatherhood.

    • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

      Thank YOU for reading. As I recently told a friend of mine: many men aren’t made to be stay at home dads, many women aren’t cut out to be stay at home moms, and honestly, a lot of people who have kids aren’t cut out to be parents. This was the right choice for US, and despite the hiccups and headaches, I would make the absolute same choice again if given the choice. It worked for us, and it’s working still. Mercifully, so does the coffee maker. :)

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Thanks Sonny! I’ll be following in your footsteps this July! First diaper, here we come!

    • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

      Congrats, Ed! Hey – if you need parenting advice…after reading your A PATH TO PUBLISHING (yay for winning a free copy through Tamara’s blog), we can exchange advice. :)

      Seriously, though, the first few months were rough – mainly because I didn’t think I had anyone who could or would understand what the dickens it was like – as a guy – to do this. Consider this an open invitation to contact me for pointers. :)

  • http://durtonthebible.wordpress.com/ Sean Durity

    I can’t recall any place in the Bible that requires the man to be the provider. I would agree that, in general, God created men with more of the skills and qualities of what we call providers. My wife often comments that she would not handle work stress as smoothly as I do. I think I would probably not handle home issues as well as she does. But that is for our family. God gifts different parent differently. I applaud you for making sure one of you is home to parent!

    • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

      Agreed: it’s all about the strengths, and where they lie. Just this weekend, my wife remarked to me how natural and at ease I am with him, and how good I have become at dealing with other kids. Again, this is not anything EITHER of us would have EVER thought possible, she has gone on to shine phenomenally in her job and I have become far more parental, all because our natural gifts have come into play.

  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com bethany

    This is so great, Sonny! My husband and I have talked a lot about how we can be equally involved in our kids’ lives and I have loved hearing from my husband that he wants to work from home so that he can be present for our children someday. I am definitely going to let him read this!

    • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

      Thanks, Bethany! And hey – if your husband wants any pointers when the time comes, I’ll gladly help in any way I can. Hopefully this – and other articles like it – help to facilitate a great discussion between you two. In only wish that *I* could have found something like this when I was wrestling with the decision.

  • http://jcloveslynie.wordpress.com lyn

    wow..awesome indeed….how i pray that we have more men in our generation whose hearts are set on hearing the voice of the Lord and trusting His leadership..His ways arent our own, they always confound the wisdom of the wise..That’s our God and that’s our father……..that’s our God..May He continue to bless and guide you and bless you as you honor Him indeed by serving your son..his very gift to you..blessings indeed..in Jesus’ name.

    • http://www.lookthrough.net Sonny Lemmons

      Thanks Lyn – and I do see a slight (very slight) shifting among the hearts & minds of some guys that this isn’t the most insane or unBiblical idea on the planet. It’s just going to take time.

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  • Sophie

    “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.”

    It’s not just some men who feel that way. I felt like that until five months ago when I got a niece. I understand babies better now, but before then the only thing I used to think when someone handed me a baby (because ALL women want to hold babies!) was ‘Is it going to vomit on me???”. I wish more Christians would realise (as I’m sure you do) that there isn’t some magical biological understanding of babies that is inherent in women but lacking in men. You just need to spend time with a baby and get to understand it.

    In my experience, if you’re a female Christian and you don’t know what to do with a baby and aren’t particularly interested in childcare, then you’re seen as unmaternal, unfeminine, cold, and going against the created order somehow. Or at least I was.

    It’s been wonderful to see my niece develop. Every tiny new thing she does is exciting (“She said ‘oomgaga!’, ‘her eyes tracked the toy elephant!’”) and the more I experience it, the more sad it is to think that either parent has to miss out on so many of these things. You’re lucky to have had that special time with your son and he’ll be a better man for it.

    It’s patronising to men and aggravating to women when people talk about stay-at-home dads like they’re heroes. But I will say that you’re a strong man in all the right ways, and a pioneer, and I appreciate that a lot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christian.gottlieb.7 Christian Gottlieb

    In relation to this topic, I have written in my latest blog what it means to be a husband, as outlined in Ephesians 5. Here’s the link. God bless! http://theblessingsofachallengingmarriage.blogspot.ca/

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.rechul John Rechul

    Bravo to YOU, Sir! You are Truly a MAN! Your son is learning many things that other boys will Not. Although many Men will Not admit it, they are truly envious of your situation. Keep it up!