Discover more from mostlyDad
Man on the Modern Homestead: A Vision
The thrilling conclusion of my review of The Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell
This is the second part of my review of The Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell. The first part examines why boys and men are struggling, from Farrell’s perspective and my own, while this second part describes my vision for one possible solution to it. If you haven’t read the previous post, I strongly recommend you do so first. You can find it HERE.
Return of the Hero
When we think of heroes, we tend to think of the larger world, of grand battles and daring stunts and apocalyptic threats. We think of physical violence and external threats. You can thank movies for that. But heroism is not a matter of muscle. Courage is not the exclusive province of the battlefield. Before a man can battle the enemy out there, he must first learn to conquer his own heart. Courage is exercised at home. So until the next World War starts, most of us face a much more personal struggle. Which is good, because that’s where heroism begins.
The role of sole financial provider is one way for men to exercise their capacity for sacrifice, to develop discipline in their desires, to channel their aggression into productive competition, and to use their creative capacity for the good of the community. Women value these qualities for the safety and security they provide. Financial or social success is a (sometimes poor) indicator for these qualities, but it’s the underlying ability that they are after. It’s just that a man’s ability to provide financially was both necessary to survival and often the easiest way to judge his potential. Having money is always nice, but few women are happy with a rich jerk. What they want is a hero. A hero will protect them through tough times. A hero will do whatever is needed, financially or otherwise. A hero will provide whatever is missing. As women begin to make their own money, they may no longer need a man as the sole financial provider, but they will still want a hero. So they will continue to seek after men with wealth and careers as the only sign they have until men learn to prove themselves some other way.
The Modern Homestead
Let me suggest one possible alternative. As a man’s role as provider decreases, let his role as protector increase. Man not as earner, not as laborer or worker sacrificing his body in the mines or the fields or the office, but as guardian of the home, as leader of the family, as father and teacher of the children, and as craftsman of goods, of people, of households, sacrificing his time, his attention, perhaps his ambitions, to build and maintain a modern homestead. A lot of work goes into managing a home, which is why the old model of one spouse earning while the other managed was so effective. For all the economic and biological reasons we’ve discussed, women had previously been in a better position to do that work, but men are also suited to the task, though in a different way, and if the work of the office is becoming more feminine, the work at home can become more masculine. It is not a simple switch. It is not merely a change in attitudes or acceptance. It is a different conception of the home. Just as women are different in the office, so men would have to be different in the house.
If I told you my friend is a housewife or a stay-at-home mom, what would be your first impression of her? Do you imagine her chasing the kids around, running errands, doing housework, making dinner, staying busy? Or do you think she mostly sits around watching soap operas and shopping and meeting friends for lunch or tennis? Now If I told you a guy I know is unemployed and at home all day, what’s the image of him that comes to mind? Do you see him working hard around the house, getting things done, making sure the kids are where they need to be and doing what they need to do? Or do you see a loner in his mom’s basement playing video games and chugging Red Bull? Be honest, it’s okay. That latter kind of person does exist, unfortunately, in our broken society, for all the reasons discussed above. And if unemployed men too often find themselves in that self-indulgent trap, it’s not because the impressions of them or expectations on them are unfair, it may be due to a lack of vision for and examples of what else they could be doing and why.
The King of the House
Managing a home is not exactly like running a business, though it’s easy to see the comparisons. You have budgets to make and expenses to pay and tasks to get done to keep everything going. You may have to hire and direct some outside help, or you may have a few tiny, unpaid interns. You have to establish some long-term goals and lay out a path to get there, planning for and investing in the future, but mostly you are just trying to get through the days. But the relationships are all different. The incentives aren’t the same. You can’t just leave everything behind at the end of the day or find a new company when this one is struggling. The head of a family isn’t a CEO. He’s a king. The home is a castle.
It’s a small kingdom, true—and you are not an absolute monarch; you still answer to the higher authorities and share power with a queen—but within that space, whether a mansion or a ranch or a single-room apartment, it’s yours to build and to shape and to serve according to your own designs, to see it flourish and prosper or whither and fall. You alone determine what it will look like. You can decide how the rooms will be arranged, what furniture you need, what art is on the walls, what feeling you want your spaces to evoke. It is up to you whether it is clean and tidy, cluttered and crowded, or some of each, and how it gets that way. You are responsible for how the yard is cut, how each bush is trimmed, how each tree is kept and leaf is blown. And you decide the rhythms of life within the space, when the family wakes and when they go to bed, when it is time for homework or for play, when dinner will be served, when devices are allowed and when it is family movie night, taking into account all the various activities and demands of life. You also have control, with your wife, over the treasury, how it will be spent and how it will be saved, determining the kind of goods and services you need and want in your kingdom, which is to say, you create the hierarchy of value in your family. You set the expectation of behavior. Your words and deeds define the laws of your house.
Developing Your Dad Skills
That kind of authority comes with a lot of responsibility. There is much to do. You will need to develop a wide range of skills. The house must be maintained physically, all of its pieces working as they should, so you had better learn to fix a few things. What’s the point of having a man at home if they are just going to call the plumber over every little leak? And if you do need a specialist, you will need to manage the whole process like a general contractor. Coordinating people and tasks and events will be a big part of your role. Get comfortable cleaning, as well, since you will need to keep the space tidy according to some standard, and everyone will be better off if it’s a high one. Then there are the dishes and the laundry and the carpets, not to mention the garage and the yard (if you have one). You don’t have to be an expert landscaper, but you will add a lot of value by being willing and able to mow your own lawn, lay your own pine straw, and trim your own bushes.
The home must also be maintained financially. Even if you aren’t earning the money, you can be a good manager of it and take a big concern off your wife’s mind. You can set and track a budget, pay the bills on time, and make good decisions about how much and where you spend your money. Maybe you could do some investing, if you have the means and are so inclined. Whatever you do, you must be a judicious and faithful steward. Few things break apart a marriage like financial troubles, but a husband and wife who share a financial vision and work toward it together will be secure no matter which one earns the money or what setbacks befall them.
Of all the things in your house, food may be the most important and time-consuming. Learn to cook. There is no easier way to daily serve your wife and family, especially if they are busy all day, than to make them a good meal. The dinner table brings the family together like few other places. With school and sports and work and chores and everything else, it can sometimes feel like you never get a moment to talk to everyone in the same place at the same time, except at dinner, if you make the commitment to do so. Being together, even for a few moments over a meal, reminds everyone that all those loose threads are part of a greater whole. To make it possible, someone needs to plan, buy, and cook the food, and if you’re expecting it to be your wife who works all day and comes home exhausted, it will probably never work (your marriage, that is). Yes, housewives have often done a lot of the cooking, but that’s because they were at the house to do it. There’s nothing inherently feminine about cooking. Quite the opposite, most professional chefs are men. Cooking is creative and physical, a way to build something with your hands, the results immediate and rewarding. Mastering some basic cooking enable you to please your wife, delight your kids, and impress your guests.
Cooking is a necessity, but it’s not the only creative and productive outlet for those masculine drive that will make you useful as caretaker of the new homestead. And don’t fool yourself; every man needs this outlet to ward off depression and malaise, to respect himself and earn the respect of his wife. It’s nice to have a hobby, but men need a craft. The possibilities are endless and unique to the man. For some it might be home improvement, adding literal value to the house and utility to the family through your labor and skill. Or it might be woodworking, building furniture or other items for the house or for sale. It may be mechanical skill, the ability to fix the car or appliances or whatever else is needed. It could be something less tangible, like trading stocks or selling products on Amazon or freelance coding, writing, or design. It doesn’t matter what. Something, anything, to give purpose and direction to your days and allow you to materially contribute to the family. It will make you feel like a man, even if you aren’t following the traditional masculine path, and help your wife do the same.
For many, this may include working part-time from home or outside it. Why not, if you have the extra time? Regardless, having a marketable skill and the ability to work is vital to protecting your family. There may come a time when you need to earn an income for a time. Your wife could lose her job or suffer an debilitating injury or sickness. In such a crisis, are you going to let your family fall apart, or will you do whatever you must to preserve it?
More likely, your wife and family may require your help when you have a child. Even apart from postpartum stress and maternity leave (if she has any), she may find it very difficult to suppress her millions of years of motherly instincts and millennia of societal tradition that call her to take care of her child. She may want to take time off or reduce her hours, rethinking her career priorities in the face of something more important. It’s good that she feels this way, and you will need to support her, whether temporary or not, in finding the right balance going forward. That may mean returning to work, and given the difficulties of the current situation for men discussed in the previous essay, it may not be easy. But can you not bear to return to the career you left behind for marriage? Or can you not hold a job, however menial or unsatisfying it may be? Do you think yourself above working in retail, or driving an Uber, or tending a bar, or sitting in a cubicle, if that’s what it takes to pay the bills for a year? If so, family life is not for you. Be prepared. What’s more, be willing.
The Greatest Skill, Being a Dad
But the greatest skill you’ll need is being a dad. Regardless of whether they spend their days in the office or at home, moms and dads interact with their children in different ways. A dad at home is not a replacement mom any more than a women becomes like a father when she goes to work. If the greater share of caring for the kids falls on you, you need to develop your unique skills as a dad for their benefit.
Of course, there are plenty of jobs—making lunches, getting the kids to school, taking them to practice, organizing playdates, etc—that will have to done, and it won’t make a big difference who does them. But the true work of raising the kids may look very different for a dad.
Whereas the typical mother uses her natural empathy and cooperativeness to be a helper and teacher and advocate for her children, the standard role of the male is something like a coach, using play and competition and discipline in a controlled environment to train their children in what is right. Kids need both roles in their lives, but if you, as a dad, are spending the majority of the time with the kids, your style will set the tone. Don’t try to be a mother. Play to your strengths. Learn to set reasonable boundaries—around bedtime, schoolwork, playtime, screens, exercise—and the courage to hold them to it. Practice allowing them to take risks and experience the consequences, using your strength and attention to create places of both freedom and security. Play with them, teaching them to follow the rules, recognize their limits, and respect their opponents. Become the expert, someone they go to for answers and advice, but insist they discover some things on their own and guide them in doing so. Most of all, lead by example, work on improving yourself, value learning new things, respect everyone around you, serve without demanding anything in return, share all that you have, follow the rules you set, don’t succumb to selfish anger. Those are good rules for any parent.
The Importance and Difficulty of Marriage
I don’t know whether this sounds like a great life to you, whether you think it would be boring or a whether it sounds like a nice vacation from the corporate grind. But don’t imagine it will be easy. It won’t be. It’s hard for a normal housewife, and it will be even harder for you, going against all the norms and expectations. It will require discipline. It will demand sacrifice. You could get away with a lot when you made the money. Your wife might excuse some emotional distance after a stressful day. She might not expect you to do your full share of the housework if you’re late at the office. She might overlook your deteriorating body and health if you are sacrificing it for financial security. But you won’t have that excuse, and it will be easy, unfortunately, for your wife to see you as just another child she is taking care of. You will have to justify yourself everyday, by being hardworking and industrious, supportive and understanding, sacrificial and undemanding. You won’t have the traditional avenues of money and the status to make you more attractive, so you will need to work on being attractive in every other way. Be an assertive and confident leader. Be healthy and fit. Be a good listener. Do everything you can to relieve her pressure and make her stressful work easier when she gets home. You need to fill in all the roles she is giving up by going to work, so that you combine to create a complete and thriving family. That’s what marriage is.
Guys, don’t neglect this. Think about what you can offer a financially independent woman. Cultivate the skills you need to be a good husband, a good dad. How can you add value in a supportive role? How can you be attractive to a women who doesn’t need your money or labor? Work on those things early and diligently. It’s vitally important, even if you have a decent job, but especially if you don’t, because marriage is the key to this entire vision, to your entire future.
Restoring the Balance of Sex and Marriage
A single guy with diminishing career prospects and no hope of marriage is in a trap he can never escape. If he can’t have one, he needs the other. Without either, he can’t support himself, has no one else to support him, and has no reason for or path toward improvement. Where else can he go except back to his parents’ house or into drugs or gangs or prison or homelessness or suicide or virtual reality, where he can actually accomplish something, however ephemeral? But at a time when women are rising in the workforce and men are declining, especially at the bottom, we’ve devalued marriage and made it harder, not easier, to pair up men and women into family and economic units. We’ve done so by elevating the value and importance of sex over everything else.
Modern promiscuity has been a disaster for both men and women. It’s that common kind of mistake that may feel good and seem consequence-free at first, especially when you are young, but has dreadful repercussions once you come down off that high. The troubles are many, but I want to focus on how the idea that the purpose of a relationship lies in the personal pleasure and happiness of the individuals rather than family formation and long-term companionship has created a mismatch in the way men and women pair, as it concerns our present topic.
The benefits of the arrangement accrue primarily to the most attractive men, physically or financially or socially, who can date or sleep with any number of women, fulfilling their personal desires as they please without social approbation, and to that small percentage of both sexes who truly want nothing more out of relationships than sex and nothing more out of life than hedonic pleasure.
Women, who now have increased economic power and status, and who want to be with higher class men, lest they consider themselves “settling” and sacrifice some of their pleasure or happiness, must compete for this smaller set of men. While many women may be able to secure dates or sex with an attractive man, a single, high-status man could satisfy this desire in multiple women at once (or at least give them the hope) without any incentive to commit to any one of them. Even if he did eventually commit, that only makes the pool of acceptable men smaller, increasing the competition, further stripping the power of women to compel commitment from any given man. Many women are denied the deep, emotional relationships they often desire, settling instead for an endless set of flings that never seem to work out.
Meanwhile, the “lower” strata of men (and some online dating data suggest that women find 80% of men below average in attractiveness, though that’s just one point) have a harder time finding a date at all, much less a stable relationship. This is the phenomenon behind the rise of “incels,” the lowest group of men in the dating hierarchy, deeply unattractive for one reason or another, with no hope of even a casual sexual encounter, and little reason to improve their attractiveness, because they are so far below their female peers, who are only looking up anyway. It’s a recipe for isolation and resentment and violence.
A general expectation of monogamous relationships, and their reorientation toward family and mutual support (otherwise known as love), would radically change this dynamic. If men, even at the top, are expected to have one partner, then the elite men will pair with elite women, relieving some of the pressure pushing the average woman higher up the dating hierarchy. The shift will filter down the entire ladder, aligning it so that the men at every level will have a better chance with the women of a similar percentile. This may sound like settling to women in the current situation, as some will end up with a lower status partner than they might have (though there is still plenty of room for mobility in either direction), but in return they receive the greater possibility of a genuinely fulfilling relationship, an opportunity to start a family, and the support needed to simultaneously continue a career if desired.
What’s more, it will improve the men, lifting both partners up the ladder. At every level they will have something to strive for and live up to, a reason to make themselves more attractive and the space to do it, whether at work or at home. Both will be better, happier, more fulfilled, more productive, able to adapt to whatever new realities our economic and cultural changes bring.
If you made it this far, you probably liked it enough to subscribe for more. Get weekly content for free, no hassle, no spam.