In the last post on Life's Chief Labor, I ended with the following claim:
“Every wife and every child can tell the difference between the father-and-husband’s genuine sacrificial work on behalf of the family that takes him out of their presence, and the sort of activity that the father-and-husband chooses for himself that takes him away with no perceivable benefit.”
When Dad has a job that requires him to work eight-t0-twelve-hour days to earn income, his family can see that the income he draws provides tremendous stability in the present and, if Dad is wise, into the future. The tangible goods Dad provides by his outside labor—clothes, food, shelter, recreation, etc.—Mom and the kids enjoy. However, Dad also brings significant good, or harm, through his labors in the home. When Dad gets home, are his choices bringing him into the lives of his wife and children, or escaping from them?
Is Dad’s choice to “unwind” a respite that allows him to jump into the home with energy and joy, or is he only avoiding the responsibilities and opportunities to benefit his family by his active, loving presence? A Dad who examines his motives and observes the life of his wife and children both in his presence and in his absence can find answers to these questions.
What are some of the ways Dad labors in the home? Mom is Dad’s representative authority in the home when he is not present, so Mom and Dad need to be on the same page on how Mom executes the responsibilities of the home, especially parenting. Dad listening to Mom and offering encouragement and guidance in her labors benefits the entire home. Other times Dad just needs to jump in with both hands (and the kids!) to help accomplish the tasks of the home (Dinner? Laundry? Cleaning? Shopping? Etc.). Dad also holds great power to shape his children’s love for the labors of life by helping them finish their homework the right way, or prepare for their exams the right way, or cleaning their room the right way. Humans learn best by imitation, so Dads wield the power of modeling for Mom and the kids what loving and laboring together looks like.
Unfortunately many Dads have never had a model of this kind of fatherly engagement in the life of the home. Whatever skills have allowed Dad to flourish in his profession may not translate into the home. The glory of man comes in discovering the unknown and solving the unsolved (Prov. 25:2). Just as Dad’s humble diligence to improve his skills at work drives him to seek out new knowledge and abilities, so Dad’s humble diligence in the home can lead him to similar improvement. But where to begin?
Thesis: A man’s improvement in the home comes through reorientation of his heart and habits.
We’ll take a closer look at this thesis in the next post.