Okay, so now that I'm completely paranoid about post length, here's a long one for you. I've had this one perking for a while. Hope you don't mind if I go back to the "story" of setting my course....
When Allie (now 13) was three and Neal (now 12) was two, we started attending a new church and signed up for a Sunday school class that focused on parenting. I thought, “Finally! I’m going to get some help here!”
When the teachers, a godly couple whose children were grown, began to teach, the first thing they talked about was marriage and God’s design for the family.
I felt my eyes glaze over. Yeah, I know, Adam and Eve in the garden, yada, yada, yada. We’ve been married eleven years, people. Can we skip this part and get on to dealing with temper tantrums?
But being the good sport I am, I listened. I didn’t want to embarrass the teachers, and hey, I can always learn something new. Perhaps there’s a neighbor who needs this information. I’ll take good notes.
The more we talked and studied scripture, though, the more I was convicted. I began to realize that much of what I attributed to adjusting to motherhood was, in reality, adjusting to the change in the way Dennis and I related as a husband and wife. It impacted everything.
Even though I believed in Biblical marriage, and had seen it in action with my own parents, I seriously thought men and women were pretty much alike, all the way up to my own marriage at the tender age of 19. Yeah, there was that whole bodily function thing, but, generally, things hummed along nicely during the first eight years of our marriage. We were both working and both going to school. We both shared in housework, we consulted on major decisions, and deferred to each other the way good Christian marriages should. It was a pretty equal deal.
After eight years of living side by side, working together on many of the same goals for education and career, for the first time, the birth of our first child forced us to take diverging paths: He was now a primary provider (even though I continued to work part time), and I was now a primary care giver and keeper of the home.
It was something we BOTH wanted, in theory, but in practice, we tugged against each other constantly. I had my agenda, my goals, my schedule, and he had his. He was suddenly all about work, providing, protecting - all that manly stuff. I needed him to do that. But when he worked late or seemed more interested in work than what was happening at home, I felt neglected. I was suddenly all about the kids - their schedule, their needs. And he needed me to do that. But when I couldn't come up with dinner because I was chasing kids all day, he felt neglected. Our second child coming so close after the first one only compounded our pitiful communication skills, but even more than that, we never had a vision for complementing each other‘s differences. Instead, we were competing with each other.
That class was only the beginning. I wish I could say everything suddenly changed, I embraced my newfound knowledge, and became Mrs. Proverbs 31. No, I’m still learning. But even as I realized how strong my grip was on my old expectations of myself and of him, I could hear the creaking as the mast shifted directions. Our family ship cut choppily out of its comfortable course, and struck out on an unfamiliar one.
We started the process of putting our marriage back where it belonged - at the center of the family. I had been so overwhelmed by motherhood that I’d forgotten that we were a family - a covenant relationship - even before we had kids. With God’s help, I began to understand the beauty of God’s plan for marriage, and how that laid a strong foundation for our parenting: we were both equal in value but different in function.
Over the next few years, I began to see my husband and treat him as the servant-leader he would become, even though it was uncomfortable for my strong personality and defied my "need" for control. In time, he felt my confidence in him, and he began to lead - and to serve. And I - albeit reluctantly - began to lean in to what it meant to have a homeward focus, even though I did not particularly enjoy housework. I began embrace the counter-culture idea of being the helper-homemaker my husband and family needed.
Through this process, by God's grace, we are able to give our children a gift more valuable than any parenting technique we could have ever learned: the security of parents who are committed to God and to each other - for life.
Updated to add these resources from Family Life:
Simple version of a wife's job description
Husband's job description