Understanding how men and women approach parenting and work

A new study reveals many women prefer working part time

March 10, 2020

“I just really like my work, but I like being home more too,” my friend shared with me over coffee one evening. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be with her kids or that she didn’t have a love for her small business, she just didn’t know how to navigate both well. And she often found her questions unable to be answered by the Christians in her life. She wanted work flexibility, and she wanted to be invested in the lives of her kids—and she is not the only one.

A study by the Institute for Family Studies finds that given the choice, many women would work part-time. In fact, in countries with existing paid-family leave policies, that number rises even higher. This turns the common dichotomy between working moms and stay-at-home moms on its head by revealing that many moms are actually more alike than different. They value parenting, but they also value some form of a career as well. In fact, the study finds that men and women both would change how they worked if the option were there to prioritize family, while still maintaining a career.

There is a lot to dissect in the study. The amount of women who prefer work flexibility is higher than the amount of men who prefer it. This is not surprising given what we know about the biological differences between men and women, and also what we know about how cultural expectations of men and women have long-lasting effects. Women often prefer more flexibility in the early years of their children’s lives because they are the ones who give birth, feed, and physically care for the children. Not to mention the recovery time that comes with giving birth. 

Culturally, women still carry much of the parenting load in the home, which makes flexibility a more favorable option when the child rearing load is lopsided. But the study also highlights the fact that most families prefer a variety of options for dividing up childcare and household responsibilities, leading to the conclusion that what works for one family might not work for another family. 

As a Christian, there are overarching principles to takeaway that can help us in understanding our fellow brothers and sisters as they work and parent. These principles may also help us as we live in community with one another in our local churches, allowing for freedom and nuance regarding our work and family life balance.

Christians are not defined by any one part of their lives. 

The fact that most women have a desire to work outside the home to some degree shows that women (and men) are multi-faceted beings. Women can be mothers. They can be wives. They can be friends. They can be neighbors. They can be employees. Often, they fill these roles simultaneously. When we deny these roles, we impose parameters the Bible doesn’t put in place, and instead discourage women (and men) from flourishing.

Christians are created for work, and that work is done both inside and outside the home. 

The study found that men and women both prefer to have flexibility regarding their paid work and unpaid work (work outside the home and work inside the home). This is largely owing to the reality that all work is created by God, and when we engage in this work we are imaging the God who created us to work (Gen. 1:27-28, Col. 3:23). There should be no competition regarding our work. 

Work done in the home is part of what it means to image God. When you make lunches, do laundry, mow the grass, clean the toilets, attend class parties at school, or take care of a sick kid, you are imaging God. When you create spreadsheets, teach students, write articles, sell operating room equipment, or answer email, you are imaging God. The fact that our paid and unpaid work is so starkly divided in our society is not a commentary on who should be doing the work. Instead it is a revelation on what the Industrial Revolution did to our ideas of work when it took work out of the localized (homes and communities) and moved it into cities and factories.

What this study does is provide us with the freedom to divide care and work according to what works for our family, while also showing us that mothers and fathers care both about the home and the marketplace.

Work in the home and work in the marketplace isn’t necessarily gender-specific. 

The numbers of women who prefer part-time or flexible work is higher than the men. As I already said, that seems like a given since we know men and women are different. However, the number of men who prefer to be flexible or more involved at home is not zero. It’s significant. 

I used to feel guilty when my husband would clean the bathroom while I traveled for a speaking engagement. Or when he spent a Saturday with our kids so I could finish chapter edits for a book I was working on. But he has helpfully reminded me that he is a parent too. He is a member of this household too. We all have a part to play in helping each other flourish, both in our work in the home and outside of the home. So we should let the men help, and let the women work, knowing that each family’s dynamic looks different than someone else’s.

For the Christian, our policies should reflect our values. 

We value life. We value family. We value work, paid and unpaid. We value human flourishing. All of these things are helped by paid-family leave policies that enable families to work in creative ways that meet their needs, not necessarily the needs of the person next door to them. If we value life, then our policies should encompass all of life—from the womb to the tomb (and everywhere in between).

As much as we would like to find a verse in the Bible that speaks specifically to how we work inside and outside the home, it simply isn’t there. Instead, we find a lot of principles that speak to loving our neighbor, raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, working faithfully in whatever our hand finds us to do, and exercising dominion over the world God has made (Mark 12:30-31; Eph. 6:4; Eccl. 9:10). 

What this study does is provide us with the freedom to divide care and work according to what works for our family, while also showing us that mothers and fathers care both about the home and the marketplace. And we would do well to find a way to make those concerns become a reality for people in our communities. 

Courtney Reissig

Courtney is a wife, mother, writer, and speaker. Born in California, raised in Texas, all with a couple stints in Michigan before finally graduating from Northwestern College (MN). After doing some graduate study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, she met her husband Daniel and fell in love. They now … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24