Oprah and Steadman, Tom Brady and Giselle, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. Quick, what do these three celebrity couples have in common besides fame?
At first glance it might seem hard to pick out what couples from different age brackets, nationalities, and vocational fields share in commonality.
The answer: In all three cases, the woman SIGNIFICANTLY out-earns her male counterpart.
And it’s not like Tom Brady isn’t working.
Long regarded as an indicator of healthy marriages, male breadwinning has historically been the sign of a principled man, motivated to provide a high quality of life for his family.
But times they are a-changing Bob Dylan, and not just in the world of celebrity.
In eras prior to the 1960’s, it was difficult for a woman to out-earn a man unless he was unable to maintain even a seasonal employment.
Because work was oriented around manual labor, agricultural or industrial, men received a higher hiring priority while women were expected to “work domestically”- providing meals and childcare.
Which is interesting, because prior to microwave ovens, washing machines, and electrical appliances, a homemaker’s day was filled with manual labor similar to that of a factory worker… just without the cigarettes and scotch.
Unmarried, or childless, women might work jobs in the educational or service industries, but even 40 hour work weeks produced modest payment, since the hourly wage was poor.
The mechanization of the American war effort, combined with the inclusion of female workers during World War II, meant that post-war factory jobs became acceptable for women, especially when faced with a generational shortage of working and marrying men, many of whom were killed during the war.
While many women were allowed to continue their employment, and it was not wholly scorned by society, the daily wage disparity made it nearly impossible for a woman to achieve the same financial freedom as men:
Laverne and Shirley worked 10 hours a day at the brewery, barely squeaking by, while Lenny and Squiggy seemed to do just fine without jobs.
The societal expectation that a man be the family breadwinner also came with religious overtones that still reverberate today.
Twice in the past month I’ve heard major Christian leaders reference a very specific verse from the Bible to underscore their belief that a man should work outside the home, and that “stay at home dad” is a shameful occupation.
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” -1 Timothy 5:8
These leaders believe that it’s important that we view the role of the man and the woman as distinct within the fabric of the family.
They present the idea, biblically, that God created each gender separate and equal, for the purpose of complementing one another as they fulfill God’s purposes together, through specific roles.
The man provides, while the woman nurtures. It’s the natural complementary way of things.
While I would agree with these leaders that THERE ARE certain things that only a man or woman SHOULD do, by Sovereign design, and that a man who doesn’t provide for his family is shameful, I think it’s also important to note that “provision” for a family is not limited to financial endeavors.
Asserting that it is the man’s role to bring home the bacon, while the woman’s role is to cook it, isn’t just
unbiblical; it’s also a historical distortion of the scriptures made in an effort to preserve roles that are “traditional” only when compared with recent history.
When the Bible speaks of provision, does it refer merely to financial provision?
During the parable of the prodigal son, does the father only provide for his son’s restoration financially?
Doesn’t he also restore him emotionally?
What if the father had merely “provided” for his son’s physical needs, but never nurtured him “back into the family”?
In fact, doesn’t the father nurture each of his sons throughout the story?
Biblically and historically speaking, men used their physically superior strength to do the agricultural and military work required for survival…
Plowing a field behind two flatulent oxen, slaughtering animals, and harvesting grain took a man and his sons all day.
Doing so provided the boys with their education in math and science, while forging a powerful emotional bond.
Guess who was outside the home doing the business of selling the excess produce, purchasing the necessary goods, and closing real estate deals?
Proverbs 31 tells us that it was the wife.
The idea that men should provide for their families financially by working outside the home is actually a recent one.
Before the industrial age, most men were “stay at home” dads, working with their sons to produce food.
With the advent of mechanization and specialization, men could no longer stay at home and produce food. They had to leave their homes to earn money.
The duties of primary nurture and education fell to women; mothers and eldest daughters, or outsourced through financing to “school-marms”.
The brokenness of a family who has lost their father for 8-10 hours a day is actually a new peril, forged by processes which make work less physically labor intensive…
…and therefore easier for EVERYONE to perform.
Since we no longer need the physically superior to do the “work”, men and women now have the ability to return to roles that still complement one another “in the home” regardless of where the money comes from…
…Because biblical provision has always been about so much more than finance.
When Christians preach that children need a mother AND a father, we need to be careful that we aren’t asserting that they need a mother who does not work and a father who does, because history indicates that this often leads to men neglecting their families needs while proving their love with “bread”.
The scripture is clear that a man should work, but they are also clear that his work isn’t done for money. It’s done to raise up his family, not to merely provide for them.
Raising children through nurture and discipline is not a mother’s job, it’s a parent’s job, in the same way that it isn’t just mothers who should desire to be at home with their children.
Reducing “provision” to a modernist interpretation of “work”, and a man’s role to “outside the home provider”, burdens every other household member to “complement” him in ways that are also destructive to families.
Provision is about so much more than cash in the same way that submission is about so much more than obedience.
The measure of a principled man, motivated to provide a high quality of life for his family, isn’t proven the amount of work that he does for his family, it’s proven by the amount of work he does IN it.
Let’s be certain that we are complementary in ways that are truly biblical, not merely traditional.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” -Deuteronomy 6:6-7