"The most important...work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes."
-Harold B. Lee
OverviewFathering is not just a social role; it is the work fathers do every day. This work is different from a job or career in that it comes from a moral obligation to meet children's needs and actively build a caring and supportive father-child relationship. In order to do these important things, fathers should focus on seven specific categories of work: ethical work, stewardship work, development work, recreation work, spiritual work, relationship work, and mentoring work (Dollahite, Hawkins, & Brotherson, 1997). This part of our home page is related to stewardship work.
Stewardship work consists of the father's ability and responsibility to consecrate (to dedicate material resources to the child) and to create (to provide possibilities for the child to achieve). The desired result of stewardship work is responsible fathers and confident children who assume they will continue to have sufficient resources to meet their needs and opportunities to achieve their aspirations. If fathers do not adequately provide for the needs and wants of their children over the life span, the result is often poverty and discouragement for the child.
StoriesThe first two stories illustrate how two different fathers created an environment in which their families could grow and enjoy life despite financial struggles.
"When I was in secondary school or junior high, we owed the local [Chinese] government a lot of money because we had many children in our home. We had expenses more than what was allocated to us. They came to take away the roof of one portion of our house in order to make that a payment. That was about a day before New Year's and it was a very sad experience for the whole family. My father, realizing that New Year's was coming, still did everything that he could to make sure the family got to enjoy the New Year as much as we used to. I was the oldest child in the family, and as a junior high school child, I was able to understand. I knew how much pressure was on his shoulders, as well as on his heart, yet he tried to make the best out of the worst. I think at that time that my heart reached out. I wished that I could share his work load and pressure. We had three portions of the house and they took away the roof from one of the three portions. . . . That was a bad experience. If you ask me what meaning it has for me, it just tells me how much my father loves his family.
"Because we had a large family, our family was never that comfortable, economically speaking. However my father, together with my mother, tried their best to make sure I went through every stage of school. Now I am trying to do the same for my children because of the love of my parents for me. I know it is important."
Biller (1993, p. 248) found that being committed to, and developing deep feelings of responsibility for one's children did much to energize the fathers's capacity for effective nurturance. Sacrifice is a necessary element in stewardship work and is a way to reflect one's commitment to the responsibility of caring for the next generation. The fathers in the following stories demonstrated their meaningful relationships with their children by sacrificing their own comfort and resources.
"In an earlier semester, I had to walk to the school every morning. . . It was usually about a forty-five minute walk. . . . In the wintertime [in China], very early in the morning, my father would always walk me to school and make sure that I was okay on the road . . . Usually we left before it was light in order to arrive on time. We had to carry a lot of our rice and other things to the school so that we had something to eat. My father would never let me carry those things; he would always carry them for me. It was very cold and there was usually a strong wind. We didn't have money to buy a new hat for me, so he would put his hat, which he had from years ago, on my head. It was too big for my head, but it kept my head warm. He would use a cold towel--the towel he'd washed his face with the previous night. There was no heat in the house, of course, unlike America, and so in the morning that towel was frozen solid. But he would wrap that towel around his ears because of the wind in the winter. I will never forget that. . . . When you are nurtured and cared for as a child, you are the one to transfer that love to the next generation."
"They give it back. As much as you give your parents, they find ways to give it back. Seven years ago I was in a partnership in construction and it went sour. The company got into a bad situation and, without going into a lot of detail, the bottom line was that I left. All I had known was construction for five or six years, since I'd been home from my mission [for his church]. I didn't know anything else, and construction was gone. There were no homes being built, no job opportunities, and I'd soured on it from what had happened. Basically, I ended up losing a home and becoming unemployed with no money. I'd learned from my family how to survive tough times: You face situations, nothing is ever critical, there's always a tomorrow, you're not going to die, etc. Yes, it might be important or a sticky situation, but you'll face it and tomorrow you'll go on. However, for the first time in my life, I didn't feel like there was a tomorrow. I had no money. I had bill collectors coming to the door. It really got to me when I realized that I didn't have enough money to buy a loaf of bread to feed my wife and my one child. When you are put into situations like that, you lose all self-confidence and all feelings of self-worth. I was devastated. My father could sense that something was wrong. My parents didn't know what the situation was or how bad it was, but they just showed up with some groceries. It was as if they were saying, "We don't know what you need, but we have some extra and here it is." It's probably one of the few times that I've cried in front of my father."
"When I was a young girl my family did not have much money. My father worked hard to get us what we needed, but with four small children and a small income, we did not have many extras. One Christmas when I was about eight or nine I really wanted a play stove. My parents told me that Santa tried hard to get every little girl all that she wanted but it didn't always work out. I remember thinking I really wanted that stove, but even if Santa could bring me some dishes or play food it would be all right. On Christmas morning there was a big white stove under the tree for me, and some dishes! I was so excited. It had turning dials and everything. I'd never seen a stove so neat--I was so lucky! In later years I came to know that my Dad had built the stove, using a piece of plywood and bottle caps for dials. He had painted four black burners on top and even made an oven with two shelves inside. He spent very little money and probably not much time, but to me it meant more that he'll know. My stove was the best and most original on the block, and the one made with the most love. "More metaphors about fathering
Learning and Application ActivitiesPlease complete one of the following: