What Women Believe about Stay-At-Home Dads–Despite What the Church Teaches

by | Jul 12, 2021 | gsr | 20 comments

What Women Believe about Stay at Home Dads--Despite What the church Teaches

On the whole, women who attend church tend to believe, or are even more likely to believe, several key evangelical teachings about sex.

It makes sense. If you invest in your church culture, your beliefs tend to line up with the church culture.

And as we found in The Great Sex Rescue, in many cases women believe things about sex that are common in evangelical culture–such as “all men struggle with lust, it’s every man’s battle”–in larger numbers than say that their church teaches it. How could this be? Because they’re getting the message from Christian books and media rather than their actual church, which may not teach about it at all.

There is, however, one big belief that we measured where beliefs converge–and one with an effect, albeit a smaller one.

Before I tell you about that, though, I want to reiterate how we found this out.

This week I’m going to have something big to share about our data set that we used for The Great Sex Rescue (be sure you’re following my Facebook and Instagram to hear first!), and I want everyone to understand the significance of this.

We conducted the largest survey of women ever done in the Christian world up until now about marriage and sex.

We surveyed 22,000 women, of which 20,000 were eligible for our survey, and over 18,000 self-identified as Christian. They came from a wide variety of denominations and beliefs, as the chart below will show. They were across the ideological spectrum, and across the world. While our survey respondents were primarily American, we had a large contingent from Canada, Australia/New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, Africa–basically any English speaking country–with a good dose of Europe thrown in, too.

We then asked at least 130 questions (depending on answers, some women received more), first covering marital and sexual satisfaction, and then, after that, covering typical evangelical beliefs. When we could, we used previously validated questions for marital and sexual satisfaction, so that we weren’t reinventing the wheel and we were using questions that the academic community had already found correctly measured these constructs. Then we asked if they had ever believed certain teachings, and if they had been taught certain teachings, at two points  in time.

We chose several big outcome variables, which basically means we chose several of those marital & sexual satisfaction questions to measure the teachings against. The most important of those were:

  • Orgasm rates
  • Rates of sexual pain
  • Being in the top quintile of marital satisfaction
  • Feeling emotionally close to your spouse during sex

Joanna Sawatsky, my amazing stats person and co-author, then went to town. She was able to run cool statistical analyses to see if any evangelical beliefs were correlated with worse marital and sexual outcomes. And we found that many were! The results, of course, are in The Great Sex Rescue.

But I’m hoping today that you’ll understand how big a study this was, and how big an undertaking it was, and that we did this as scientifically as possible.

We did NOT:

  • Ask people how beliefs affected them
  • Ask people how certain books affected them
  • Ask people if the liked certain beliefs (only if they believed them)

Again, we simply compared those who did believe certain things with those who didn’t believe certain things. (That’s why the criticism that we often get that we simply surveyed 20,000 people who believed just like me is so laughable. It wouldn’t have been possible to do the analysis we did without wide ideological variance!).

We have way more data than we included in The Great Sex Rescue.

It’s honestly a treasure trove of information! And I thought today I’d share just one tidbit that I found interesting.

Here’s the chart from chapter 1 of the beliefs that we found to be statistically significant when it came to marital and sexual outcomes. I know it’s hard to read–sorry about that–but I’ll print the important stuff below too!

 

Beliefs on Marriage and Sex from Great Sex Rescue

Chart taken from The Great Sex Rescue, Baker Books, 2021

Take a look at the question on stay-at-home dads.

It reads:

 

In a family with children, a working mom and a stay at home dad is as good as a stay at home mom and a working dad.

That question had the most divergence between what women said they believed and what they said they were taught, or had been taught, at church. 

47% of women said they believed this before they were married, and 62% believe it now, but only 13% say they were ever taught this at church.

In other words, churches are not addressing stay-at-home dads.

They are either explicitly teaching that it should be women home with kids always, or else they’re not teaching it at all. And  yet, even so, huge numbers of women believe that a stay-at-home dad is just as good as a stay-at-home mom.

We found the divergence in that one really interesting.

The other one with a divergence of 10% is whether or not you can divorce for abuse.

This is also the belief with the most movement between what women were taught and believed before they were married versus today! Before marriage, 56% of women and 63% of churches taught that the only biblical reason to divorce was an affair. Those numbers have come down significantly as we have come to recognize the reality and severity of abuse, and now 25% of women believe it, versus 35% of churches. Most churches, and most women, believe that you can divorce for abuse, though women believe it in larger numbers.

So in this area, too, churches are teaching something that women are less likely to believe.

Again, we didn’t go into these things really in The Great Sex Rescue, because they didn’t really affect our research question that much. But I did think those findings were interesting! And I’m hoping a few more news organizations will pick this up and ask us some questions, because we have so much data it’s falling out of trees!

I want to share a few more interesting nuggets with you soon, but I wanted to set the stage today, and I hope we can talk about the stay-at-home dad issue, because that one did give us pause.


Want to read more about our methodology?

Check out our methodology page here.

Want to see our rubric of healthy sexuality teaching, and our scorecard of how books fared?

Download it here!

The Great Sex Rescue

Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

Study Shows What Christian Women Believe about Stay at Home Dads

Why do you think women and the evangelical church believe so differently about the stay-at-home dads question? Why don’t churches address this more? Should they? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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20 Comments

  1. Kristen

    I think it’s interesting and encouraging that the church is starting to recognize that abuse is moral grounds for a divorce. My dad, a pastor, once talked about this from the pulpit, and while he did indeed admit that the Bible doesn’t explicitly address abuse as a reason for divorce, he said he would never want one of his daughters to stay in an abusive marriage and be harmed, and so he couldn’t imagine that God would want his children to remain in that type of situation, either.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s really good of your dad. And I think that’s so important–if we wouldn’t want this for our own kids, why would we think God wants less for us? Especially with this: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

      Reply
  2. Amy

    By way of example, I once worked for a lady who’s husband intentionally was a stay-at-home-dad. She was very career driven and they had five sons, so this arrangement just worked for them. She said that her husband loved staying home with their boys because he had the freedom to do things like coach their sports teams without having to juggle that interest around a job.By all appearances had a happy, healthy marriage (they were Catholic if that’s relevant). Their sons were in the middle school to college age range when I worked for her and they appeared to be intelligent, well-mannered, successful young men.

    After watching this real-life example, yes, I think stay-at-home-dads can be successful husbands and fathers.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! I think kids need parents as much as possible, but sometimes it makes more sense for the guy to stay at home (though that’s challenging of course in the first year with breastfeeding!)

      Reply
  3. WC

    The reason I walked away from my old evangelical church was because my husband ended up being a stay-at-home dad. When we got engaged, my pastor called us into to talk to him and said he had concerns, one of which was that my husband didn’t seem career oriented and wasn’t in a place to provide for a family, in his opinion. He said that while there’s “nothing wrong” with a man staying home with children, it’s not truly God’s path.

    Fast forward 3 years later when we had our first child, and both were sort of in between careers. It was terrifying, but I started praying. I used to pray specifically for my husband to find a job, but then I switch to praying that God would provide for us. When my son was 6 weeks old my old boss called me and offered me one of two full-time positions available in that workplace.

    I don’t need a paradigm of conformity to tell me I’m doing God’s will. My husband has been an amazing father, has contributed to the home in more ways than being solely a homemaker, and we’ve been able to make a true partnership. It just irks me that some would see that as a sin.

    Side rant; we need to get changing tables in all men’s bathrooms!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      TOTALLY AGREE about the men’s bathrooms! Yes!

      And I’m glad you found what works for you. That’s what matters–what works best for the couple.

      Reply
  4. Laura

    My female cousin, who is an engineer for a large corporation, works full-time while her husband is home caring for their small sons (2 1/2 years and 3 months old). Before their boys were born, they decided that since she made a lot more money than he did, that he would stay home with the kids. Besides, day care in the US is very expensive. It is much cheaper when one parent stays home especially when monthly day care costs are almost equivalent to one paycheck.

    On another note, I often heard that divorce should never be an option. That was before I faced an abusive marriage and realized that for my safety I needed to leave. Sadly, I hear of many women in local church circles who insist on staying in their abusive marriages because they believe if they pray enough and put their trust in God that God will deliver their abusive husbands causing them to repent. If they experience nonphysical violence, they are told to stay and submit to their husbands. Pastors and pastors’ wives think that if there’s no physical abuse that is not reason enough to leave the situation.

    The safety of the victim and her children should take priority over preserving the marriage. I almost did not leave my marriage because my now ex-husband would say, “At least I never hit you.” He was abusive in other ways, but when sexual abuse entered into our marriage, I no longer felt safe so I left.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Laura, I’m so glad you had the strength to get your kids (and yourself) to safety. The church is not doing a good job on this as a whole (though it’s getting better), and I think it’s people speaking up that is helping.

      Reply
  5. Rebecca

    We have no living children, but if we ever get to have and keep a baby, my husband will be staying home. This was never our plan, but due to his chronic back problems it makes way more sense for me to work and him to stay home. It kills him that he can’t work, but I’m not about to sacrifice his health just so we can fit into the “normal” mold.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, it really is about what works for you as a couple. And I’m so sorry about the children you’ve lost, Rebecca.

      Reply
  6. Charlene

    I have considered that the abuse issue could be referred to by the bible specifically with 1 Cor. 7:13 because it says that if your unbelieving spouse is not pleased to dwell with you or unwilling to live with you to let him/her go. Someone can say they are willing to live with you but show by their actions (such as abuse) that they don’t actually have that attitude.
    They can also say they are a believer but not live like one.
    I also found a great article on gotquestions.org called What Does the Bible Say About Abuse? which is very compassionate and understanding and takes the big picture of the bible into account. It also points out that anger itself is not abuse, but is an emotion we all have to deal with and that there are different types of abuse, not just physical.

    Reply
  7. Lisa

    I love all the data nuggets! Please keep them coming!

    I know of one family where the husband and wife were able to job share for a number of years. They were in the same field and worked for an amazing company. So both husband and wife worked part-time, filling the same position. They got the salary and benefits equivalent of a single income household but both were able to stay current in their careers, and both were able to spend large amounts of time with their child.

    This is an extremely rare occurrence, obviously, but worth sharing.

    I think stay-at-home dads need more support. I hope they feel welcome to attend any of the “mom” groups I’m in.

    Reply
  8. Cynthia

    I wonder how having respondents outside the US affected the stay-at-home dad responses? I’m also Canadian, and when our oldest was born I was self-employed and had no paid mat leave benefits, but my husband was a resident who was able to take 12 weeks paid leave quite easily. He loved taking that time and showed he was more than capable.

    Reply
  9. Jennifer

    My husband has been the one cooking, cleaning, and doing the majority of care for our toddler since he lost his job shortly after she was born. And I am the breadwinner with the career job for now. He’s not felt that he fits in at churches, since stay at home dad issues are never addressed and few other men are in that position. He’s been wanting stay at home dads to be acknowledged & affirmed at our church for a long time.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Well, at least you can let him know that the majority of Christian women totally affirm him! I’m sorry that he does feel left out, though.

      Reply
  10. Anon

    Many (not all) pastors seem to be living in the past – perhaps that is why stay-at-home fathers tend to either be ignored or treated as ‘not quite right’. For one thing, in many countries, even just a generation back, women were obliged to leave work on marrying – it wasn’t even a choice. Jobs were for single women or for men. So not surprising that it was the women who became the chief caregivers at home – because they weren’t ALLOWED to work outside the home!

    Whereas the parents are living in the real, current world. And if the father working from home (or being full time parent at home) and the mother going out to work is going to work out best for their family, that’s what they will be doing – because they are having to make real choices that affect their kids, not just talking about imaginary ‘ideal’ family situations that existed 50-60 years ago.

    Reply
  11. Daniel

    I’ve struggled all my adult life with trying to find a satisfying career, even after getting married, while my wife was a stay-at-home mom. Finally, we both felt prompted that we should change roles, though it took us six months to admit it to each other, because it was so far out of the norm. One thing that helped was a line in the “Proclamation on Family” published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which says:

    “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”

    Basically, that the default is for dad to provide, but there’s room for alternatives when so inspired.

    Being a stay-at-home dad with 5 little ones is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it sure can be rewarding, and with my wife’s income, we’re finally starting to take in more than we’re spending, even with a little extra sometimes! We’ve also gained a very strong appreciation for what the other did and is going through, since we’ve both been there, now!

    Reply
  12. Kayla

    I’m a stay at home mom and my husband works, but his work schedule is light, so he can be at home a lot. He is faster with dishes, so he gets more done, lol. Plus we homeschool, and he does 90% of the teaching… he is just naturally better at it. While he is with the kids, I share the gospel at an online ministry. It works for us. 🙂

    Reply

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