My interest in writing about what is clumsily called “men’s issues” happened accidentally.  I started working for Fraternus almost a decade ago and we started publishing newsletters for volunteers.  Fraternus trains men to mentor boys, but it became obvious early on that the harder issue was not “reaching boys”, but in having mentors worthy of them.   We were short-staffed, so I started writing and just kind of never stopped.

This led inevitably to the issue of fatherhood.  Men cannot understand masculinity apart from a domestic understanding – life rooted in the union of marriage, the fecundity of the marriage, and the care for children.  Fatherhood is the natural end of masculinity, so true mentorship is necessarily fatherly, even if the mentor is biologically childless.  The sacrificial and life-giving vocation of fatherhood is still the defining characteristic of true masculinity.

Domesticity Is for Men and Women

In other words, the challenge is to re-domesticate­ men.  I don’t mean that in the negative, as if domesticating equals taming.  May the Lord save us from nice and tame men. If bovines are “domesticated” for use as a family milk cow, we can understand that as a higher dignity than the former state, because a wild creature has become part of the family unit, the cosmic focus of all of creation. Regarding masculinity, domesticity means harnessing the strength and created nature of men and directing it toward family – or we should say we are redirecting men to what they were made for, and where they find true happiness.  “Fatherhood itself is the Lord’s gift, the fruitful womb is a reward that comes from him” (Psalm 127:3, Knox).

But a question is commonly asked of me: why not write about women as well?

I don’t write about women because the answer is the same for men – to re-domesticate them.  But you can see already that I cannot say that.  And why is that?  Why can I say quite calmly and without controversy that men need to re-focus their energy, heart, and identity toward the home, but not say the same to women? Am I really saying “a woman’s place is in the home”?  Well, I just said the same about men…  What’s going on here?  Let’s make a few statements and see if my point isn’t made by proposing the same ideas to men and women:

Men should focus less on career and more on their family.

Women should focus less on career and more on their family.

Men forsake their core identity when they forsake children.

Women forsake their core identity when they forsake children.

Men need to return their identity to the home.

Women need to return their identity to the home.

A man’s true worth is in his care for his family.

A woman’s true worth is in the care of her family.

I have a theory on why the statements about men are met with nods and nudges while the ones about women are met with gasps and harrumphs.

Violence Against Nature

If we believe that the family is the natural vocation of humanity, and there is a different yet complementary role for both women and men in the home – that this is their nature – then anything that takes the heart and person (man or woman) away from that vocation is an act of violence.   “Violence” in philosophical terms is to act against the nature of the thing.  It is the nature of man to live toward natural death, so to murder him is against his nature – it is an act of violence.  So, modern society is “violent” toward both men and women because it pulls them away from their natural vocations as mothers and fathers.  Society is more and more against who we are as God’s sons and daughters.

The natural roles of men and women are different but complementary.  Men traditionally have naturally outward duties – growing, hunting, gathering and all of that.  So, they naturally “go forth” from the family, though real men always return.  They go out as an act of sacrifice, not as a “leaving” of the family.  The family is the place of the highest dignity, so leaving it is not the greater honor – it is an act of sacrifice.  So, we can note that the separation of men from the home is sort of the exaggeration of the reality that men do leave the home naturally to cultivate, hunt, gather and all that.

Women are much more bound by the home by the fact of children, they do not “go forth” in the same way as men because their strength is literally depleted by children.  A man’s labors can be employed at greater levels and without the interruptions of childbearing, childbirth, and even childrearing.   In societies not “liberated” from the necessities of physical labor, this is more obvious and less controversial.  A man on a hunt does not effect an infant that needs to nurse every few hours.  This is why the advocacy of women finding equal footing in the workplace with men will always be related to the advocacy of sterilizing sex and making abortion plentiful.  You simply cannot “go forth” constantly if your body is capable of maternity.  You have to remove the “barrier” of the latter in order to do the former.

Just look at the “curses” of Adam and Eve after the fall.  Adam’s work in the field becomes harder (“All the days of thy life thou shalt win food from [the land] with toil”) and Eve’s childbearing becomes harder (“…with pangs thou shalt give birth to children”).  Both things – work and childbearing – were part of life before the fall, but afterwards they become exaggerated and harder as sin distorts nature’s order.  The fact as that the outward life of work for the man and the inward life of work for the woman are part of who they are, so these “curses” speak to who they are at their core as provider (Adam) and nurturer (Eve).   I would point out, however, that this does not mean that the domesticity of woman means she stays inside and cooks all day.  Proverbs 31 is a long and beautiful description of a woman that works diligently with her hands and in the cultivation of the homestead.  I am merely pointing out that childbearing is a greater dignity than physical labor, so it takes precedence..

(I am well aware that the technological age flattens out these distinctions – a cubicle and a computer can be “manned” by either sex – but I am working within the approach that nature has meaning and the differences that accompany us still reveal something true.)

Bringing it Home

The pull on women to go into the world and leave family behind is a serious issue because they carry within themselves – inside their womb and heart – the fact of children and the capacity for maternity.  To draw women away from the home is more violent against their nature than for men, because it is more against their nature for a women’s heart and body to be disconnected from their domestic lives than it is for men, who must “go forth” on a temporary basis because of the needs of the body that require uninterrupted attention to food and shelter.

And because the removal of women from their domestic nature is more violent the reaction against questioning this tendency (like I’m doing here) is more violent.  The more absurd or unreasonable the assertion, the more unreasonable (loud) the response.   But it can hurt as well.  Society is removing children from their mothers at younger and younger ages, and the “nanny state” is exercising more maternity and authority with children than their real mothers.  To bring this up causes a great pain in women, who often feel in their bones this tension.  For some it is a stark economic reality that they cannot be free from, and they deserve sympathy, and this might come across to them as condemning.  And, it’s worth mentioning, mothers already have a tendency to feel inadequate and blame themselves for everything.  (Stop doing that!)  We don’t want to place the blame on them for an economic order generations in the making.  So, the flip side is that because the de-domestication of men was less violent against their nature, it is easier for them to adjust and reorient toward the home.  Women feel “stuck” in their situation, because they are.  Pointing it out constantly might not help, because it is a systemic and societal sickness.

Again, I understand this sounds controversial, and because of the reactions I tend not to swim in these waters.  I’m not sure I can really do any good here anyway. But the point for men or for women is simple: blessedness is found in our vocation, which touches upon eternity much more closely than the active life in the world.  The family needs us.  And we need the family.   Perhaps if we can get past the violence of the reaction against domesticity, we can start talking about the home and children as a blessing again and not a curse.

  • A lot written here so the TL/DR:
    According to the catechism, Employment must be open to all, and a just wage must be paid.

    There is so much that is good to talk about and debate, but then there is this “This is why the advocacy of women finding equal footing in the workplace with men will always be related to the advocacy of sterilizing sex and making abortion plentiful.”
    No, it won’t. And such a simplistic statement with no backing (and what seems against the Catechism) is not just controversial, but actually damaging. Equal footing = sin (look at your sentence, that is what you simply state). To do one, you must do the other (sterilizing/abortion are sins and you state necessary for equal footing). What about natural family planning? If one is able to plan their family accordingly, why could they not do both (succeed in the workplace and with their family?). And if men are able to succeed at both, then why can women not? You state:

    Men should focus less on career and more on their family.

    Well if men can do that and succeed in the workplace, again why can women not? And what about success from working at home? I am not talking MLM stuff, but attorneys, accountants, etc that are able to do a decent amount of work from home? I think you know your article has good points, and I agree. But then to make such broad stroke statements (which you often do) that seem to place women/men on uneven ground seem to be used at will with little evidence.

    In the Bible there is evidence of women working in and out of the home, often doing “men’s work” (as you state/imply). The Bible contains many examples that demonstrate that work is honorable for wives and mothers. There is Rebekah drawing water (Gen. 24:16); Rachel watering and feeding sheep (Gen. 29:6-9); Ruth gleaning in the field (Ruth 2:17); the Samaritan woman drawing water (John 4:17); Martha fixing a meal for guests (Luke 10:40); and the virtuous wife performing a number of different tasks (Prov. 31:10-31).

    Scripture also has examples of women working at jobs other than domestic duties at home. Lydia was a business woman and possibly a traveling saleswoman (Acts 16:14). Priscilla, who is always portrayed as a woman who was spiritually-minded,had, as did her husband, a tent-making business (Acts 18:1-3). We are not told whether this was done at home, whether she had children or whether she and her husband worked together, all of which are important in the statement of when a woman can work (with kids/no kids, etc)

    The virtuous woman (Pro. 31:10-31) is an example of the ideal wife-a woman who certainly had a husband and children. She speculated in real estate and operated her own linen garment business. Though she is found in the Old Testament, her example shows she was able to do these things without neglecting the responsibilities of her home.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church


    2433 Access to employment and to professions must be open to all without unjust discrimination: men and women, healthy and disabled, natives and immigrants. 219 For its part society should, according to circumstances, help citizens find work and employment. 220

    2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice.

    Employment must be open to all, and a just wage must be paid.

    Again, I found much of the article well done, but even as you state I cringed at times.

    • Elizabeth

      I think you missed the main point which seems to be “The family is the place of the highest dignity, so leaving it is not the greater honor – it is an act of sacrifice. ”

      You asked “What about natural family planning? If one is able to plan their family
      accordingly, why could they not do both (succeed in the workplace and
      with their family?).

      NFP was never meant to be used as a tool to reach the goal of “success in the workplace.” It is meant for couples to discern whether they can be open to the possibility of another child right now taking into account ability to provide for the child, psychological health of the parents, among other factors. There’s nothing wrong with success in the workplace if the goal of that success is to be able to provide well for your family but to make it an end in itself seems to be more of a worldly value than a Catholic/Christian one.

      “And if men are able to succeed at both, then why
      can women not?””

      Men who are highly successful in their careers, (those at the top such as CEO’s of mid to large companies) usually are less successful when it comes to parenting and family relationships. Because of the single-minded focus and the practically around the clock dedication it takes to reach that level of success, their private lives usually suffer. The majority of men, however, probably define success differently in that as long as they make enough money to pay the bills, take a vacation here and there, provide for their family’s needs and some of their wants, have something put away in savings and for retirement, then they are content and can enjoy more of a balanced life between family and work.

      The facts of biology are why women are not able to climb as high in their careers and aren’t as interested in achieving workplace success. Sure, a woman who is very dedicated to her paid work and striving to advance as far as possible can work up to the day she gives birth and jump right back in at six weeks if she and her husband find adequate child care but the parents will have to decide if that’s what’s best for their children. To be in an institutional environment from six weeks old for the majority of the day, is not exactly the ideal environment for raising children. It may be a necessity and a safe option if both parents have to work to make ends meet, (a humane safety net, if you will) but is it something a parent should choose for the sake of career success as an end? I would estimate that most women would choose to stay home and raise their children themselves if their husband was able to find adequate work to provide reasonably well for them. I think the author of the article hit the nail on the head that “the family is the place of the highest dignity” and most mothers instinctively intuit this even if they can’t articulate it very well. Mothers KNOW what they know but because the world measures success by money and status, they feel that to not strive for those worldly measures will somehow make them less than.

      The question that needs asking is “What about the children?” It’s all good for adults to go after workplace success but how do the needs of the children, especially very young children, get met and what is the best way to do that?

      The FACT of children means that SOMEONE is going to have to spend the majority of their time caring for and loving them. The person who does this is not going to be able to be as focused with time and effort on paid work. Fathers are able to succeed at work/family balance BECAUSE mothers are putting in the necessary majority time and effort towards the children. Can this be reversed with the mom working and the dad being with the children? Yes. That’s for each couple to decide. Can a third party put in the majority of the time with child care? Yes, but that isn’t always the ideal option for the children and does the money it takes to pay for it make it worth mom or dad to be taking their time away from the them? If you are going to have a family then that comes with a whole load of care, time and effort that parents are responsible for putting in. Either you choose a division of labor where one spends the majority of time working with the children and home while the other works away (even if away is a home office), or it has to be divided three ways between two jobs/careers and someone to do the childcare and maybe even housekeeping. There’s no getting away from the huge job it is to care for multiple children and the home. SOMEONE has to see it as important and decide to do it or pay someone else to do it. The question of paying someone else is whether that is what’s best for the child.

      Lastly, just because the Catechism says that it’s just for people to have access to employment and a fair wage doesn’t mean that every person should work in a career. It means that every person who needs employment in order to meet their basic needs, should be able to find work without being unjustly discriminated against and that their labor shouldn’t be exploited with inadequate pay for the sake of profits.

      John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio “[Therefore] the Church can and should help modern society by tirelessly
      insisting that the work of women in the home be recognized and respected
      by all in its irreplaceable value.… While it must be recognized that
      women have the same right as men to perform various public functions,
      society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not
      in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families
      can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote
      their full time to their own family. Furthermore, the mentality which
      honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work
      within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly
      esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and
      that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the
      home. “

    • Mr. Adams

      I don’t feel you understood the article.

      • Like I said the article has good points, but making some statements (like the one quoted) that are so broad defeat the purpose of the article.

      • PJ

        “This is why the advocacy of women finding equal footing in the workplace with men will always be related to the advocacy of sterilizing sex and making abortion plentiful.”

        Its because true equal footing cannot be had without removing the additional responsibility of having children. Many of the inequaties in the work place can be attributed to the time taken by women to birth and raise families.

        “Well if men can do that and succeed in the workplace, again why can women not?”

        I really don’t think you understand the article. I think you read in the beginning or saw the title and had your guard up and had an idea presupposed in your head about what this article is about. Many of your points argue against points that the author never made. For example:

        “The Bible contains many examples that demonstrate that work is honorable for wives and mothers.”

        He never makes the point that women cannot have successful carriers and families. Though he does state, that by nature, it is easier for men to adjust to the role away from the home, and thus is in more danger of neglecting his fatherly duties. Hence why he states “Men should focus less on career and more on their family.”

        Try reading it again with a more open heart.

      • Actually I came in hoping to like it, and like I said there are many valid points made. The beginning points of the article, the statements about men should focus less on career, and the other statements he makes that are applied equally to both sexes. The equality quickly deteriorates from there, and becomes unequal (suddenly the man’s place becomes primarily outside the home, though he states that they have a responsibility at home as well).

        “additional responsibility of having children”, well as the author states men need to realize their responsibility in raising children equally. He states:
        Men should focus less on career and more on their family.
        Women should focus less on career and more on their family.
        Simply put they can both do that, and they both can succeed at the two. Saying it is more difficult for the other (violent is his statement), evokes inequality and can quickly be used to state why one sex should have that less equal footing, that each has a state that God determines they should be in. I have a few friends that are stay at home dads who love that duty, and feel they are doing God’s work. God doesn’t say “hey, go out and do work away from the home, that is your place”. As I pointed out, there are many women in the Bible who are shown to succeed doing “men’s work”, so again stating/insinuating each has a specific job in regards to raising a child and cannot do the other equally as well, is disheartening.

      • PJ

        I could argue many of your individual points, but it seems (I may be misreading it, as I did before) that an underlying premise to your arguments is that you believe men and women are infact the same. That there are no differences between the sexes. Is that the case? Because men and women are different physically, mentally, socially. And many of those differences do make the sexes, as a whole, more apt at certain tasks than others. Now there are exceptions. Just because there are tendencies across a whole gender does not mean there are not men and women in various levels of abilities for certain tasks. As you stated, some fathers are excellent stay at home parents, and some mothers that excel in the work place. True equality will not leave a world where every role is shared 50/50. That is denying nature. Access to roles, for the most part, shouldn’t be restricted. But that doesn’t mean that men and women will ever take up the same roles in the same numbers.

        “so again stating/insinuating each has a specific job in regards to raising a child and cannot do the other equally as well, is disheartening”

        I am sorry it is disheartening. It shouldn’t be. I would love to be a professional football player. being 5’10” and 160lbs would make me a poor candidate. There is little I can change about that. I could strive and succeed at being a decent back yard player. But never on the pro level. That isn’t disheartening for me to know I could never fulfill that role as well as a 6’4″ 220 lbs guy. But I can’t deny nature. To do so is dangerous. We should never ignore who we are at our core for the sake of equality. This shouldnt be disheartening. I know I can never be a pro player, but I can do my best to be a good engineer, a good father, a good friend. We all have our gifts. Is it really so wrong to accept that the sexes are infact different? What is so wrong with that? One gender is not greater or lesser. But they are different. And have different gifts.

      • I agree they are not equal, just like you said I am not equal to an NFL offensive lineman. But we deserve equal chance to do what one wishes (I hope you know I don’t mean extremes like I can do whatever I want to my body, etc. Just equal chances in workplace). Of course if I choose to try out to be a NFL lineman that won’t turn out well. We are talking about sexes, but this same thing has been applied when it comes to races. Saying a certain race/religion/nationality is better suited to do something becomes a slippery slope (I usually hate that term), because it can quickly become not only are they better suited but that is what they are ‘supposed’ to do. One should not be looked down upon because we choose a certain vocation. There is nothing wrong with differences, but there is something wrong with deciding what someone else should do with their life based upon what you see as “different”. I like sane debates like these 🙂

      • PJ

        Ok, I see a bit better where you are coming from. I am sorry if I misjudged you a bit earlier.

        “There is nothing wrong with differences, but there is something wrong with deciding what someone else should do with their life based upon what you see as “different”.”

        I totally agree in most cases. But I would add, just to clarify that an equal world would not look like a 50/50 split in every field because of the inherent differences between the sexes.

      • … I would have to agree. Like many uber-liberals like myself I hate to admit it, but it is a truth that must be accepted to understand how to “overcome” those differences. This is important in regards to knowing what one must work on to be able to do what one wants to do. If I want to be a NFL lineman I have to realize I come from a tiny family and would need to eat a lot of red meat and work out 24/7 🙂

      • PJ

        I would also add, that there is a danger, in not recognizing that our nature does not make us more suited towards something else. And instead of desperately striving for an unreality, we should accept it, and value ourselves for the gifts we have. I am not a mother. I could never be a mother. I think being a mother is a beautiful thing. I could make myself absolutely miserable over never being able to have that beautiful example, or I could accept and understand nature and be the best being that my nature suits me for.

        Now, I accept the fine line this walks. I know, like you said, that this line of thought is easily used and abused. The same logic has been used to promote racism and sexism in the past. And for most roles, particularly in the corporate and government spheres, sex should never be a limiting factor in what an individual can achieve. But it is dangerous to ignore nature and pursue the unnatural at all costs. I think that is partially where the author was going. Ignoring the value womanhood and motherhood is definitely a factor in our abortion culture.

      • PJ

        Lol, True, But sometimes, all the red meat and effort in the world would still not make up the difference.

      • 🙁 It can’t make me grow like 6 inches and put on 80+ pounds. I hate the Rock

      • PJ

        If you dont mind me asking where does you user name come from? Sorry, it just rings very close to my last name, wondering if you are a distant relation.

      • Long story, but originally based off of Paradise Lost, one of my favorite books of all time.

      • PJ

        Ah, never mind then. But cool name.

      • Kind of dumb mix between that and Paradiso from Dante

      • PJ

        Oh, thats pretty cool.

      • PJ