Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Setting my course: that man

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

26 comments:

Jailynn said...

AMEN! I so agree with you! All of it. I have young children and I do feel like I have placed them BEFORE my wonderful husband. Not on purpose .. the day just gets away from me and I get VERY overwhelmed in the last hour BEFORE he gets home. Please don't mention after the kids go to bed. (SMILE) I am getting better as the days go along, but I am glad to know I am and have never been alone. Thanks for sharing your story.

Rhen said...

I enjoyed reading your post. It is easy to lapse into a "role" mentality and forget that you are not playing a "role" you are a wife, mom and so much more. God has such great ways of helping us to refocus when we need to. Our marriage is always stronger because of it.

Julie@HighFive! said...

Ah yes, thank you....these things I've got to remember. When I figure out how, maybe I'll link my friends to this post. Awesome points and wonderful reminders. I can't wait to check out the Family Life Resources. I've been thinking about this very thing. I just started making dinner in the morning and cleaning up in the evening. I used to clean in the morning, the house would be destroyed by the afternoon and I'd be too tired to make dinner in the evening. My poor husband came home to a messy house and no dinner and grumpy me, while I enjoyed a nice, neat house at least in the morning. I'm so thankful to be reminded that he comes before the kids. That was a big, big reminder.

Jen said...

Very well written. God has brought you to us so we can all learn from you. You are a true blessing tome.

Munchkin Land said...

Oh wow! Thank YOU! What with moving into a new house and all, I am definitely going to take your words to heart. Thank you Katherine!

Midsummer Night said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. For some reason whatever it seems that you write is exactly what I know I really needed to hear. The dinner thing has been fading lately, and while my husband has been so sweet about it... well I know it is not what should happen.

- Julie@highfive I wanted to say thank you for that idea! I am going to try and switch my days. I do the exact same thing!

Kiana said...

I wanted to let you know how you have been a blessing to me! I didn't know these things when I started my marriage or when I had my first child either. It would have been a lot easier if I did! It is my prayer that young women take your words to heart. Thank you for so gently sharing your heart and humbly encouraging us all.

Karen said...

4 kids and 21 years into our marriage, I am still struggling with all those issues. You give me hope.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

This is so true and a great reminder. We had so many of the same issues after baby #1 came along and have had to continually work through them. It is hard to remember not to "compete" to have my needs met, especially after a long day with the children. We have our annual weekend away this weekend and I now have so many great topics for he and I to discuss. We have to keep our partnership in marriage the center!

Margo said...

This is exactly what I needed to hear. Your blog has been such a blessing. Seriously. Thanks for your words!

Sherri said...

Katherine, you're going to have to write a book! You wrote what my heart has experienced. I'm so thankful that you came into my life and mentored me toward the path of embracing God's plan for me. The Lord used you in a mighty way in my life. All that I despised before, I now love: being a wife, mommy, and manager!!!

Elise said...

Katherine, there are tears as I read this. You touched on something that has brought heartache to so many - and I have seen it tear many people apart in the process.

Over the last couple of years, my husband and I discovered this very problem in our own relationship, and have taken steps to settling into our roles, and drawing closer together. It is a beautiful process.

I know this post is going to touch so many - thank you!

My Pink Boutique said...

Great post. Thank you! :)

Hugs,
Kimberly

julie said...

Great post!

Mommy-fied said...

What a wonderful post! I'm learning to let hubby be leader and learning to submit. Yes, it's a struggle for me to be stay home mom as I'm just not into housework and cooking everyday. But I know it's what I'm suppose to do. Thanks for sharing.

Beck said...

It is SO hard to keep a good marriage going AND parent small children at the same time.
My husband and I had absolutely no time to get used to being a married couple before we became parents - I feel very blessed that we have the relationship we do now because it certainly could have gone the other way, you know?

Amy Jane said...

I really enjoyed your line, "I began to see my husband and treat him as the servant-leader he would become," becase God's been reminding me how *everyone* (including me and those I admire) is still growing into who we will be.

He's teaching me grace for that "silly" young wife, reminding me I was very similar when I was her age.

You are so right that people grow into our expectations of them!

Blessings on your day!

the wifey said...

thank you! what a blessing to read this from another "strong" woman. i am still a newlywed and learning, and love reading your blog for advice.

Christine said...

Wonderful post, Katherine. I noticed your links to Family Life. Our marriage took a whole new direction after we went to their weekend marriage conference.

Thanks for bringing the family focus to where it should be!

SAHMmy Says said...

I'm trying to shift the focus back to my marriage after two babies--for so long we just declined offers to watch the kiddos so we could have a date, saying, "We kinda like them!" Well, we kinda like US too! So we're making an effort to go out more often. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

Mindy said...

thank you! again.

Sarah said...

Such a good foundational reminder. It's so easy to get sucked into our diverging roles and forget that we are, first and foremost, husband and wife, companions. Thanks, as always for this, "big sis"!
Love, Sarah

Barbie@ Mamaology said...

Amen! I just finished reading Created to be his help meet. And even though I don't agree with all of it, it was sooooo challenging to see where I fall very short as a wife (and that's not just because I'm only 5'3":)

Thanks for sharing your story and for your encouragement!

Laura said...

I need to read this post about fourteen times. I'm slowly coming to agree with you, although I've mostly been in the former mode. These truths, though, have been knocking at my heart, especially now that I can see how (sometimes) it is much easier to be parents primarily, rather than be husband and wife.

Thank you Katherine.

emily said...

Dear Katherine, you are so freaking wonderful! Love, Emily :-)

LaDonna said...

Just wanted to say that I love your blog. I'm new to reading it. And that the links on this post don't work anymore. I've searched the site (family life) to find them. I think I have.