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Dads: the New Moms?

November 22, 2007

What does it mean to be a man these days?  Is modern culture able to improve on Biblical masculinity?

"What does it mean to be a man these days?" ask Time authors Cullen and Grossman in an article that wonders how the modern approach to fatherhood might be redefining previous notions of masculinity. Among other things, the article reports that men are more involved with their children than ever before. But not only are dads more involved, they interact differently that previous generations of fathers. This means that, "Men hug their kids more, help with homework more, tell kids they love them more. Or, as sociologist Scott Coltrane of the University of California, Riverside, says, ‘Fathers are beginning to look more like mothers.'"

The article is illustrative and worth reading, but if you are short on time here is my perspective:

I agree that men should be hugging their kids more, helping with homework more, and telling their children they love them more. But when they do, it should not be understood as being more like a mom and less like a man. In other words, men of the past who lacked affection for their children should not be regarded as properly masculine, but instead delinquent in their responsibilities. The Bible speaks more of mothering and fathering than it does on parenting. Men and women bring masculinity and femininity to the table as opposed to generic personhood.

The teachings of the Bible on manhood and womanhood have not changed, so our understandings of masculinity and femininity should not change. The way we should define masculinity and femininity is based on the roles that the Bible clearly portrays for men and women. The characteristics and qualities needed to effectively live out these roles should be the primary content of definitions and applications of masculinity and femininity.

If this is done, then we will not be reliant upon tradition and stereotypes to provide a baseline for manhood and womanhood as the article does. Dads who are more involved are not necessarily redefining masculinity , nor are the necessarily being more womanly, they are recovering what is good and right about fatherhood.

Having said this, it is also very possible that many men in our culture are becoming more feminized in their relationships with their children. At CBMW, we encourage men to be more affectionate and involved in ways that reflect their role as leader, provider and protector. This will look very different from how a woman might express the same feelings. The new stay at home dad phenomenon (also mentioned in the article) may indicate that when men do not have clear biblical grounding for masculine behavior and expectations, then in their efforts to be more involved, will give up the very things that are at the heart of masculinity.

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