The Third Wave

Financial consultant Michael Fey was fed up with having too little time with his kids. So fed up that he decided to do something drastic: He set up an office in his home. Immediately his relationship with his children began to improve. "Helping the kids get off to school, being involved in their squabbles.... I'm being a real parent," Fey says. "It's changing their image of what a father is." Michael Fey is on the cutting edge of a new trend-men who want to be real fathers and not just a meal ticket. And he's had the courage to challenge an industrial work structure that requires fathers to be absent from their children most of the day. What Fey is doing is recreating an older, more humane work structure. In colonial days, most men worked in the home and its outbuildings in family industries or on family farms. They trained their children in the diverse skills needed in a pre-industrial society, from tracking game to planting crops. In this setting, fathers—not mothers—were considered the primary parent. They were held responsible for their children's spiritual and intellectual education. But with the Industrial Revolution, fathers' role changed dramatically. When productive work was removed from the home, fathers began going out to work in factories and offices. No longer did they spend the day supervising their own children. In fact, today it's not unusual to hear of fathers who leave the house before their children are awake and come home after they're in bed. The good news is that many men are rebelling against a work structure that doesn't allow them to be real fathers. James Levine, director of the Fatherhood Project, reports that the number of men who complain that work conflicts with their family responsibilities rose from 12 percent in 1977 to a staggering 72 percent in 1989. Another survey found that 74 percent of men prefer a "daddy track" job to a "fast track" job. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that nearly half of fathers have cut back on their work hours for more time with their children. Some fathers are even experimenting with flexible work schedules, telecommuting, and home-based work. According to a study by Ameritech, the number of workers working at least partly at home is growing nearly five times as fast as the overall work force. Alvin Toffler, in his book The Third Wave, predicted the coming of the "electronic cottage"—the use of telecommunications technology to bring work back into the home. Toffler hoped that home-based family businesses could recreate the strong family bonds of pre-industrial times, as whole families once again work together in a common economic enterprise. That day may be in the future, but Christians ought to be pressing toward it today. We worship a God who is our heavenly Father—and who commands fathers to be the leader and head of their families. Christian fathers ought to be living demonstrations that real success cannot be reduced to being a meal ticket. Real success, like charity, begins right at home.


Chuck Colson


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