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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

Man of the House

I’ve been thinking of the man’s role in the home lately.

Yesterday, for example, I looked back and realized I was tired because I woke up the kids, got them in clothes, fed them breakfast, drove them to school, shopped for dinner, picked them up from school, did the laundry, cooked dinner, washed the dishes, played with and read to kids before bathing them and putting them to bed.

For what it is worth on the man-o-meter, on the next day, I smoked a salmon and mowed the lawn.

I enjoy working around the house—I do some of my best thinking mopping floors or doing dishes—and having a tidy home makes it easy to welcome and host friends. The kids pitch in with their own chores, which gives us opportunities to teach them a work ethic and not complaining. Being rooted in home life, rather than a daycare or after school program, will help the kids grow up to be rooted in their identities as a Noem.

Still, I have some lingering curiosity about how my day compares to the days of a lot of husbands and fathers. Then I recall that I’ve given up on tracking what society might expect of me as a father. When I let go of worrying about the “right” way to do things or how I “should” be acting, I became more free to respond to the needs of the people God has put in front of me—Stacey, Oscar, Simon and Lucy.

So, for me, my role in the home comes down to seizing the opportunity to love the people in my family. I try to do that in direct ways, with caressing and caring words, and indirectly, with scrubbing toilets and washing dishes. I know that this is not in the job description that society would write for fatherhood or being a husband, and I’m not always successful, but it is good work that demands everything of me.

Often, Stacey and I plop into the couch after the house has gone quiet at the end of the night and acknowledge that the day has asked everything of us—all of our patience or strength or discipline or generosity—but we have the feeling that we are giving our all to an important work. It is a good tired, which is a form of joy, I think.

As a man who has one foot in the office and one foot in the home, I find this work to be more compelling and challenging than whatever society might say about the man as breadwinner. So what if Stacey handles the finances in the house? So what if I do my share of house cleaning and laundry? I find nothing in these duties that is inherently male or female.

I can be a “man’s man”—I’ve fought forest fires and worked on construction crews. I box with a sparring partner and can open jars that stymie my wife. The thing is that these pursuits have not led me to be a more complete person. I take steps in my journey towards holiness when I’ve been able to love my wife and family with the self-sacrificial love that Jesus showed us.

It is a demanding calling, and comes at a cost, and asks everything of me, and I don’t always give it my all, but I know I’m moving in the right direction because it brings me joy.