Father’s Day was last week, and I hope many of us took the time to show our fathers our appreciation for their contribution to our lives. One of those contributions to the family has long been a father’s expertise with common household tasks, lovingly called “Do It Yourself” (or “DIY”). You know, household tasks like unclogging a drain, changing the oil in your car, painting a room, etc. Apparently, that contribution is in decline.
According to a report by Alarm.com, millennials dads do not have the same DIY skills that their father’s generation had. In it, they report that:
Millennial Dads are less inclined than their fathers’ generation to roll up their sleeves and tackle traditional DIY tasks, preferring to call for professional help on tasks ranging from unclogging sinks to assembling furniture.
They also report that millennial dads don’t have the same tools as their fathers. Amazingly, more than 30% of millennial dads do not own a hammer!
The report gave some of the survey respondents “explanations” for the millennials diminished DIY skills, which I would like to take a quick second to debunk.
First, some respondents said that modern technology makes DIY tasks harder and in more need of support; like smart locks and doorbell cameras. While these technologies usually involve another company “hosting” certain parts of the service, like the recorded video on a camera system, they still involve technical and mechanical skills to install and operate.
Second, they say that “handiness” now includes technology, so I suppose that means that millennials really are DIYers because they can do technology. That’s all fine and good, but what about the non-tech things? Can they still swing a hammer? Install a light? Change the brakes on a car? I don’t think just because things get more digital, they excuse you from having mechanical skills. We can expand the definition of DIY, but not outright eliminate the need for certain skills.
Using technology as an excuse to say a father doesn’t need to have other mechanical skills is akin to saying a father doesn’t need to know about his car because he can put gas in it.
Lastly, the respondents said that priorities have changed in a father’s life, so that “today’s time-pressed Dads are also faster to outsource time-consuming home maintenance to professionals”. That just tells me that today’s dads are too busy, not that it is necessarily a reason to ditch “old-timer” skills. It also tells me that tomorrow’s dads are going to be worse DIYers.
Hire professionals so you can have time for “Life”
This last “explanation” also indicates that dads simply don’t value DIY skills. It speaks to what is valuable in our culture. I can see a father who hires a professional auto mechanic, let’s say, so that he can spend time with his family. But what is it he is doing with his family? Watching a movie? Going to Disneyland? Again, all fine and good, but there are plenty of fathers who spend time with their family doing DIY stuff; whether its common tasks or more complex hobbies. Contrary to contemporary thought, spending time with your family doesn’t always mean only doing things that are completely leisurely and passive. Some fathers and families actually enjoy doing things that require work. I know a father and daughter who spend time buying, restoring, and selling old furniture. So DIY activities do not always exclude family time.
This is the lie that usually gets sold with advances in technology. The argument sounds something like this: “buy this product/service/gadget so you spend less time doing task XYZ and more time enjoying life”. On the surface this sounds good, but what happens when we’ve hired out all of our chores and tasks? What is all this “life” that we are left to do? Is it all rock concerts and movies and vacations?
This is the sort of picture that gets painted in the movie WALL-E. In the movie, the humans of the future have had technology do all of their chores and tasks, so that what is left are chubby people who don’t even walk on their own two feet anymore and have screens attached to their face. I think we are slowly seeing this prophecy being fulfilled.
There was a time when life simply was menial task after menial task. This doesn’t mean that life was unfulfilled, but that every minute of life didn’t have to be filled with ultra-sensational life experiences to feel fulfilled. People understood their tasks and chores as the stuff of life and since they usually served one’s family, community, or other institution, the tasks were honorable.
I believe that part of the decline in DIY activity is due to what we value, as a culture. We usually value entertaining and sensational experiences that others have created. In an article by Dennis Prager, writing in the National Review about how millennials don’t have hobbies anymore, he quotes Dan Scotti of the Elite Daily as saying:
He (Dan Scotti) concludes: “The fact that hobbies may be a thing of the past is an eerie thought. I can’t honestly say that I see hobbies such as ‘carpentry’ making a comeback at any time in the near future. . . . As sad as it may seem to older generations, we genuinely have an interest in Instagram, Twitter and other products of the digital age.”
Dennis goes on to say:
Clearly, you don’t have to be a member of the “older generations” to think this sad. Here’s why: There is a world of difference between being active and being passive, between creating something and watching something, between doing something and being entertained.
This insight into today’s generation regarding hobbies is similar to the DIY findings. Hobbies require time, effort, patience, and persistence. They are separate from careers because they are not typically pursued for any financial gain, but often because they are worthy pursuits with little financial gain.
The addiction to passivity is a regression in humanity; its anti-life.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a good movie as much as the next guy, but we have a culture that does not value anything that involves effort, time, sacrifice, skill, and labor. How can a person and a culture pursue goodness and worthy causes if it doesn’t value the disciplines required to achieve them?
Why Christians Need “Do It Yourself” and Hobbies
The decline in DIY skills and hobbies is of particular importance for the Christian.
For one, DIY activities and hobbies, just like all other work, ties us to creation and the Christians mandate to cultivate our environment. When God put Adam in the garden, he gave him a command:
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. (Genesis 2.15)
We are given a world to transform and provide order for the sake of God’s goodness and grace to be manifested within humanity. In our work, we participate in creations service toward humanity and God; and this does not stop when we go off the clock. In this most holiest of work orders, the most simplest task takes on a sanctity that can motivate one to excellence and gift one with satisfaction of a job well done, regardless of the scope.
Second, the model of a Christian is wrapped in the image of Christ, who is described as a servant:
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45)
As such, His disciples are called themselves to be servants toward one another and indeed all humanity:
As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16 NLT)
Therefore, our view toward the “menial tasks” of DIY projects and hobbies can actually join with the call of all Christians to be servants. We serve as though serving Christ and we give of our energies and labors freely with the same grace God served us with.
Lastly, something precious is lost when we do not see DIY activities as valuable. We lose community.
In his book The Careless Society, John McKnight describes how our culture has lost its ability to hold tight communities. One of the major reasons is one he calls the “Professional Problem”. The idea is that since our culture is saturated with “professional services” for every need imaginable (and even some needs you didn’t know you had), we have stopped relying on each other and have therefore less of a reason to hold tight our community. As an example, McKnight points out that years ago, at the death of a family member, the family would console one another through closeness and the natural grieving process. Today, we have a professional “bereavement counselor” who is trained and experienced in helping others grieve. After news of this professional sinks in with all the members of the community, McKnight describes what ensues:
“Finally, one day the aged father of a local woman will die. And the next-door neighbor will not drop by because he doesn’t want to interrupt the bereavement counselor. The woman’s kin will stay home because they will have learned that only the bereavement counselor knows how to process grief in the proper way. The local clergy will seek technical assistance from the bereavement counselor to learn the correct form of service to deal with guilt and grief. And the grieving daughter will know that it is the bereavement counselor who really cares for her, because only the bereavement counselor appears when death visits this family.”
What a depressing scene!
Equally depressing is this article from The Guardian which asks if houses in the future will no longer have kitchens:
One factor driving the gradual extinction of the kitchen is the explosion of food delivery apps. According to UBS, food delivery apps are now, on average, in the top 40 most downloaded apps in major markets. They’re particularly beloved by millennials, who are three times more likely to order takeaway than their parents. “As this generation matures, home cooking could fade away,” the report suggests.
The only thing that brings family together more than death is food. So many families and cultures gravitate around the home cooked meal that facilitates family connectedness across multiple generations. And now we are losing our connection to our communities – present and past – because younger generations don’t want to cook.
Think about this. Playing music for your family or community isn’t really a thing anymore. Even in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, Pa would usually play the fiddle for the family, and they loved him for it. There was a time when song was a universally accessible skill. You only need a little bit of practice and you could lead your family or community in bringing musical cheer to any occasion. But our culture only values music when produced “professionally”. Which is why at the family barbecue, we don’t bring our instruments, we bring the Bluetooth speaker; the 21st-century ghetto blaster.
I am grateful that my wife’s family cooks tamales during Christmas as an entire family project. I see community when my neighbor spends 4 months repairing his Harley, and calls his friends to help. I am glad that I have the ability to help my neighbor fix his garage door. I am thankful that my dad has so many skills that I am still learning from him. I know that my life has been enriched by learning to “do it myself”; to realize that work and creativity and ordering the world around me is a sacred task. And I have learned to rely on good people who have much DIY skill to pass down. My daily attempts to follow the way of Christ is strengthened by my modest DIY activities.
So c’mon dads…..do it yourself!