I’ve written quite a bit about prioritizing family lately. I’ve argued that the Golden Rule means having kids, that most people are called to marriage & should act accordingly, advised early marriage and the deliberate pursuit thereof for those struggling with sexual immorality, and answered numerous objections about these subjects. As you might expect, most of the pushback I’ve received has been from feminists and white knights asking how I would dare to tell women that creating new human beings and raising them in a caring home is more valuable than creating Powerpoint presentations in a cubicle farm. How unfair of me to place such a disproportionate burden of home life on women and squashing their dreams of something greater while men get to revel in the workplace!
The thing is, I never addressed any of that solely at women. Marriage and family is without a doubt the highest calling for most men and most women alike. The principle reason that pointing this out feels unfair to women is that contemporary men are much more likely to already accept it than contemporary women are–even as we pursue our careers.
It may be hard to see through the foggy lenses of feminist envy, but men don’t love their careers for career’s sake. Most of us do not see our day jobs as our higher calling. After all, as the Lemke brothers recently pointed out on The Chi Files, it’s not a higher calling if they have to pay you to do it. That’s not to say that the laborer doesn’t deserve his wages; rather, it’s an observation that even if money were no object, a person would still continue to pursue a calling that he truly considered high. If, on the other hand, he’s out the door the day he wins the lottery, then he doesn’t really see it as a higher calling.
The reason most men work and devote so much time to our careers isn’t because they’re higher callings than family, but precisely for the sake of our families whom we already know to be our higher calling. Providing material support for their family is a father’s most fundamental responsibility. As the Apostle Paul explains, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” That’s why most of us invest so much time in our careers–to be able to carry out this responsibility well. And given that women almost universally prefer to pair up with men who make more money than they do and are more likely to divorce husbands who make less, it seems that women also recognize this responsibility as being more fundamental for men on some level.
To be sure, everybody needs to toil to some extent in order to support themselves. Any man who doesn’t see acquiring food and shelter as a higher calling is going to have to do something to get paid. Nevertheless, supporting half a dozen people takes considerably more toil than merely supporting oneself, and men have traditionally based a great deal of their education and career choices on that fact. We’re already seeing that when the prospect of a faithful marriage is removed from their future, the tendency is for men to disengage from all the extra work they’ve traditionally taken on.
But for men with families, if you take away the need for income, we’d still be caring for them, but our employment would look very different. I’m a software engineer by trade. It’s a good job, and I do find a measure of satisfaction in that work. But it’s ultimately for the sake of my wife and children. There are men who see programming as a higher calling–devoting their time to open source projects and the like without any compensation–but I’m not one of them. If I didn’t need to provide for my boys, I wouldn’t continue doing it. Instead, I’d be spending that free time playing with them, teaching them, and doing other things that are for them.
And yes, I do have work I value highly besides just family–and family never really takes 100% of one’s time. If I had no family, I would spend all that free time doing work I love–studying philosophy and theology, writing my reflections, analyzing life and culture in light of them, and teaching. I know that because it’s precisely what I already do in my free time–at my church, at this blog, at the Federalist, and on YouTube. I don’t have to be paid for it because I consider these things to be worthwhile for their own sake. But I do have a family, and so I spend more time writing software than I do writing social commentary. My family is unequivocally a higher calling than my writing. There would be something seriously wrong with me if I thought otherwise.
Feminists look at this ordering of priorities and decree that families are holding women back–that they are burdens rather than higher callings. They then project that judgment onto men when they see us spending more time in the office than women. But that evaluation couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, before we finally decided to have children, I had already left my tech career to go study theology. I had just finished seminary and was working to get into a philosophy PhD program when we chose to start a family. I was already pursuing my “higher” calling in that respect. But I deliberately chose to forgo that path and return to programming specifically so that I could provide a good home for our children. That is the explicit reason for my career–that I value my family more than accomplishment for accomplishment’s sake.
And I don’t regret that choice–my sons are absolute wonders to behold. To be sure, there are plenty of times when I have to clean up poop, break up a screaming match, or do other tasks for them that I don’t particularly enjoy. Some days, my career is more toilsome than others. And yes, I’ve got several unfinished books that will probably remain unfinished for a long time. There are times when all three of those intersect, and it really can be frustrating. Nevertheless, how can that frustration compare to two little boys spontaneously breaking into off-key round robin performances of “This is the day the Lord has made?” Philosophy is great, but how can it compare to helping to populate heaven with eternal joy?
So many women struggle with that blessed reality because joyless feminists have trained them to feel that families are a waste of their lives. But while there are a few men who place career accomplishment above all else, most of us already know that our careers aren’t our highest calling. Women would do well to learn that from us instead of envying toil that we have to be paid to do.