A comparison of dual-earner couples from 1970 to 2001 indicates that the proportion of income contributed by wives relative to husbands has steadily increased (Raley, Mattingly, and Bianchi 2006). It is a legitimate question whether a husband’s contribution to housework and parenting tasks has correspondingly increased. Some research notes a startling imbalance in dual-earner marriages, as wives continue to do the majority of housework. Those husbands who do contribute describe themselves as “helping out.” It appears there is a dire need for dual-earning husbands to not only increase their contribution to home and parenting tasks but also to change their idea of being a helper to taking an active leadership role in parenting.
There are major benefits for both men and women in a dual-earner marriage in which responsibilities are equally shared. The incorporation of relational skills with household tasks further endears men to their families. An important aspect for the man is the knowledge that his intentional choice to be involved as a father leads to validation and appreciation. Also, when the wife relaxes her household standards and parenting expectations, it is much more inviting for the husband to willingly join in. Through the sharing of roles, the wife is not only validated in her work role but more fulfilled in her marriage and her parenting role.
A hard lesson for all dual-earner couples to learn is that they can’t do everything! In prioritizing, they must learn to do a “good enough” job. Given the economics of living in the United States, more and more couples are the dual-career type. One reason is that marriage is increasingly delayed due to educational demands and work. Each spouse then maintains their previous commitments, including work, after marrying. Research suggests that work- family conflict is more impactful for single-earner families than dual-career families (Fellows et al. 2016). One important factor for dual-career couples
is having social support and a sense of community. They need all the support they can get as they work toward a satisfying and meaningful family life.
A significant part of those family-friendly environments involves the provision of high-quality childcare centers. Many churches are offering such services to their community, meeting a need for many dual-earner parents. An increasing number of young children spend some of their time in day care. We would recommend that parents who send their children to childcare ensure a high degree of values alignment between the parents and the day- care provider. Parents must make every effort to secure high-quality day care as well as be alert to the unique needs of the child in choosing a facility. The relationship established between the parent and the day-care staff is crucial. Children tend to thrive when they have a secure attachment to their parents and their parents appreciate the special bond between their child and the day-care worker. Parents and caregivers who are dedicated to staying highly involved in their children’s lives will establish mutual trust and work toward the best interest of each child. An important benefit is the perspective that well-trained and experienced teachers have to offer when it comes to developmental issues, routines, discipline, and care.
The Mindset at the Center of Christian Marriage At the very heart of marriage is the willingness of spouses to let go of their personal agendas so that they can truly listen to what their partners are saying. Philippians 2 describes Christ as emptying himself and taking the form of a servant. Kenosis, or emptying, as described in this passage is key to our view of marriage.
It is really a matter of the attitude or mindset of grace and empowerment (Phil. 2:5); this humble posture is characterized by servanthood and keeps relationships and the best interest of others as a precious priority. When both spouses willingly lay down their own interests for the sake of the other, it will organically be a mutual and reciprocal process. The meaning of marriage as mutual edification and ultimately a crucible for sanctification means that each partner is continually challenged to develop the mindset of Christ described in Philippians 2. One’s covenant-keeping entails (1) the expression of grace as both partners need forgiveness; (2) mutual empowerment as each partner bears one another’s burdens; and (3) deepening intimacy throughout the process.
We should not overlook the Jewish and Eastern traditions that see marriage as a gift for the community as well as for the couple. The family is the foundation of strong societies, and supportive communities beget strong families. It is wise to move beyond our individualistic bias and affirm that the bond of marriage is strengthened when a couple invites a supportive group of people to share in their commitment to their marriage and family life.
In this chapter we have sought to apply biblical principles of relationality to marriage. A three-year longitudinal study of a community sample of 354 married couples by Day and Acock (2013) indicates that marital well-being and religiousness (church attendance, religious practices, belief in God) is mediated by relational virtue and equality. Specifically, not only do religious activities contribute to marital well-being, but religiousness also heightens the relational virtues of forgiveness, commitment, and sacrifice. These relationship virtues in turn contribute to marital well-being.
The Expansion of Family Life
Parenting and Beyond
In this section we move beyond the marriage relationship to parent-child relationships. A strong marital relationship serves as the secure foundation, while children are the building blocks through which the family structure changes during each life stage. It is a universal truth that the couple experiences a dramatic change when children enter—as well as when they exit—the family. In fact, marital adjustment has been found to be at its highest just before the birth of the first child and continues to decline until the last child leaves home (Twenge, Campbell, and Foster 2003). Making the necessary adjustments from the dyad to the triad can be relatively smooth for some couples, whereas the transition to parenthood is a trying time for others.
Summarizing twenty-first-century research, Smock (2010) notes that the “decoupling of marriage and childbearing” draws attention to the fact that there are many pathways to parenthood. Remarking on these demographic changes, Cherlin (2010) found that in 1950 only 4 percent of all children were born outside of marriage, but by 2007, nearly 40 percent of all children were born outside of marriage. Special consideration needs to be given to each unique situation when responding to the particular needs of that family.
Parenting is more difficult than most ever imagine it to be! Building relationships with our children continues to be one of the most rewarding and
challenging experiences of a lifetime. It brings both harmony and disharmony to the marriage relationship. Children are also experiencing greater levels of stress and access to information and situations that were unthinkable in previous generations. Parents are facing these pressures external to the family while they try to support the positive development of their offspring.
A major adjustment also occurs during the later stages of family life when adult children leave home (or boomerang back) or when the care of elderly parents brings other kinds of stressors to the couple. Like any sound group, the family must have not only a well-organized structure to function effectively but also one flexible enough to survive the twists and turns of life. The following chapters present some blueprints for successful family living.
Chapter 6 introduces a model of Christian parenting that empowers children to become competent, mature, responsible adults. We look at the pros and cons of some common parenting styles and then offer a biblical model that we believe incorporates the best of these styles. We propose that as children mature, parents must also grow so that there is mutual empowerment and transformation.
In chapter 7, we examine the life of the child from the perspective of several developmental theories. We evaluate how these theories comport with the Christian view of human personhood and indicate important aspects in parenting young children. A primary concern in this discussion is the matter of empowerment.
The topic of chapter 8 is family spirituality. We use this umbrella term to represent the role of the family in inculcating values, morals, beliefs, and religious faith within children.
Chapter 9 deals with the stresses and strains that can develop when adolescence and midlife occur simultaneously. Important to this discussion is the origin and impact of adolescence in modern/postmodern society. Crisis often accompanies these life stages of adolescence and midlife, resulting in a serious clash between the generations.
Finally, in chapter 10 we discuss the dynamics of the family in later life. This begins with the launching of adolescent children, an ambivalent time of life for both parents and children. Parents struggle to let go, while children seek freedom and yet fear leaving the security of their homes. Following this is the postlaunching stage, when parents move into the so-called sandwich generation. At this time, parents feel the squeeze of dealing with both adult children and elderly family members who are physically, emotionally, and/or
financially dependent on them. This period of family life involves losses of many kinds, as well as gains reaped from meeting the challenges of changing relationships.
Parenting The Process of Relationship
A metaphor of what it means to be a child in contemporary society will help us understand how parents provide empowerment to their offspring. Hyde, Yust, and Ota (2010) offer the metaphor of children as active agents. From birth, children are actively engaging and learning from their parents and their environments. Further, children as agents illuminates how children, in limited yet emerging ways, are developing shared meaning-making systems with their parents. Childhood agency develops as children’s bodies and brains grow and they attain more and more competencies.
In most societies, parents simply expect their children to grow up to be normal, healthy adults—no special techniques are deemed necessary. In our modern/postmodern society, however, parents are conditioned to believe just the opposite—we presume we need the help of experts to tell us how to be successful. Reliance on education and experts in diverse fields has subverted the premodern view of parenting. Parents look to websites, pediatricians, and other mental health professionals to identify the optimal path for parenting. This sometimes reduces parents to a state of fear—afraid that they may do something that will have a lasting harmful effect on their children. In this psychologically sophisticated world, we have developed a cult of the expert, keeping our eyes set for authoritative opinion and our ears attuned to the latest wisdom on parenting. Living as we do in a child-oriented society, we are extremely concerned about the parenting role.