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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest Post: What is the Role of a Man in the Family?

One of our readers, Spencer, sent in the following guest post. It raises a question we'd  never heard asked before - are men the new ball and chain? Happy commenting.

A national columnist recently suggested that "men are the new ball and chain." As our society moves further away from an agrarian and manufacturing lifestyle, she suggests that the stereotypical "tough" and "rugged" masculine attributes are no longer dominant. In our information, service, and creative economy, it is the traditional feminine skills of listening carefully and communicating openly that shine through more. Is she right? Are men "the new ball and chain", being couch potatoes and perpetual adolescents?

What does it mean to be a man, a REAL man? You don't have to be able to hit 10 free throws in a row to be a real man. You don't have to be a great hunter to be a real man, although many men are good hunters. You don't have to be able to rebuild a catalytic carburetor on the front side manifold to improve the fuel injection combustion. I don't even think those words make sense, to be honest.

A real man will love and respect his wife, being sincere, but also be liberal and copious with the positive words he says publicly about his wife.

A real man will actively participate in the affairs of the family. This is more than just mowing the lawn and changing the oil on the cars and perfecting the use of the remote control. To be clear, this means helping with meals and housework, assisting with preparations to go to church, and giving input on homework. It should not be a surprise to everyone or a special occasion when you are helping with the material needs of the family by changing a dirty diaper or emptying the dishwasher or putting away some laundry.

A real man will not sit back when there are behavior and discipline challenges with children that need to be addressed. Kids benefit most when they are reared by both a mother and a father, working together as a team. Women and men both bring different aspects of parenthood that are complementary. Obviously it's not a man's job to yell and stomp around and become authoritative; men should not be so constrictive as to suffocate or deteriorate their family relationships. On the contrary, a real man will use characteristics such as "persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, and love unfeigned; kindness, and pure knowledge," none of which is traditionally related to being a "rough and tough man."

Popular media and culture is full of examples of bad fathers. Unfortunately, entertainment and product marketing both find value in making parodies of what should be a good man in the home. It's accepted and fun to laugh at dads who don't discipline their children correctly or who are oblivious to the right way to help children progress.

But fatherhood isn't always very fun. In fact, it might be kind of boring sometimes.

I remember a specific time I was playing house with one of my sons. He had spread out a bunch of blankets on the landing where the stairs turn halfway up. We had a toy kitchen set and some plastic food and pillows to serve as our bed. At one point, my wife saw us playing and said to me, "Are you bored?" Yes, I actually was pretty bored. On a personal level, it honestly wasn't all that fun. But it wasn't about being boring or superficially fun. I knew it was something that was important to my son, so on a deeper level, it was enjoyable.

Fathers don't have to lose everything in their life that they enjoy in order to be a good husband and priesthood holder. Much of the on-demand media and entertainment we currently enjoy has a fantastic feature called a "pause" button. The enemy soldiers in the video game have patience and will wait for you if you pause it. The latest action movie isn't going to self-destruct if you need to pause it and focus on the family for a little while. Even live-sporting events can be set aside in order to meet more important needs.

It's an honor to be a father, a husband, and a priesthood holder. It's a special opportunity that Heavenly Father has given the responsibility over these spirits that he has sent here into your homes, to watch over them, to nurture them, to give them blessings. We can avoid being a ball and chain to our families. Instead, we should rise up and be good strong men that our wives and our children can be proud of.

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