This week I was having a conversation with a friend who has a one year old. Her husband has to work a lot right now and is also going to school (like mine!). I asked her how it was going with him being gone so much. She said she thinks that it's harder on him than her. Her own dad worked so much that he wasn't home very much, so she's used to it. Her other comment was that she's able to take care of their child and doesn't really need his help. She can do it. So, it's frustrating to her when her husband comes home and starts telling her how to take care of their child. My response on the phone was that we need to listen. We need to think about what our husbands say and whether we should change how we're doing something. We are called to submit to our husbands and this is one of those cases when we have to figure out what that means in our marriages. Does it mean following their instructions even if we disagree? Does it mean discussing it and figuring out what works for both of you? Does it mean listening and genuinely trying it out and then coming back to your husband explaining why his instructions are difficult for you and/or your child(ren)?
Asking these questions and following through on the answers can be difficult though. There are a few things that I've seen in my own heart that are stumbling blocks to me. I have a strong personality and I'm strong willed! This is often tempered by the people pleasing side of my personality. So, outwardly I am a people pleaser, the "goody two shoes". But, inside I have a rebellious spirit. Though I disagree with her conclusions, I agree with some of author Cynthia Tobias' observations. One is that strong willed children and adults consider rules not to be rules, but rather guidelines. They will push and push, actively or passively, by doing things their own way even when told not to if they think their way is better than the instructions (rules). Do I do this? Yes! My husband confronted me about my rebellious spirit 9 years ago on the way home from the post office as he was getting ready to deploy overseas while I was pregnant with our first child. I remember my inward shock and recoiling inside. I was so mad at his accusation! But, then as the dust settled, I realized that I had to admit that he was right. I struggle to respect authority and not simply question it--all or most of the time. I was raised to do so.
God began planting seeds in my heart shortly after I got married with a book called Feminism: Mystique or Mistake by Diane Passno. I began to see all of the things I had believed all of my life about women's and men's roles in a marriage and family. I had to sort out what God desired for submission to look like in my marriage. That conversation with my husband was one of those pieces God put in the puzzle. I've tried harder to listen and follow through since then. I've looked a lot at my own heart and seen where my heart and mind struggle with my will.
Our hearts and wills shape how parent our own children and what we want for them. For me, that has meant God teaching me to listen and ponder. My husband and I back each other up when it comes to our children. I won't question him in front of them. I will talk to him afterwards, though, if I have concerns. So, in the case of my friend, it was a question of what does submission look like for her in her marriage? How can she love her husband and child well in this situation?
But, to my husband, it was a different question entirely. I mentioned to my husband that night after dinner that I had spoken to this friend and I gave him the basics of the situation that we discussed. I wanted to know what he thought. He shared with me some insight that I hadn't considered.
He explained to me that the husband likely was trying to assert that he mattered in his family--that he had something contribute. In coming off as telling his wife how to do things, that was what he was doing. I can understand this and see it in our lives. My husband works a lot and then studies the rest of the time. He also eats meals with us and spends what time he can with me and our kids. But, several times recently as we've had friends over they've commented about our house and the work it's taken. My husband has made comments about how it's all me--my doing. He hasn't done anything. The truth is that I do a lot around our home--the housework, teaching our kids, cooking, yardwork, home repair projects, errands... My day yesterday included getting up early to make homemade pretzels, taking my husband's car to get an oil change, running to Target, taking the kids on a fall hike to enjoy the leaves (pe), homeschooling, fixing breakfast/lunch/dinner, cutting up an enormous pile of branches and bundling them for pick up Friday morning, babysitting for a friend for 1 1/2 hours, and... breathing. So, it would be easy to think that my husband says it like it is--except that it's not. He works hard so that I can stay home with our kids and not have to work outside our home. We feel that he is called to attend seminary, so he is going to graduate school on top of his full time job. And this weekend when he came home after taking a mid-term exam and having lunch with a mentor/colleague of his, he arrived home to hear that the sink in our bathroom simply wouldn't drain. So began the several hour project to replace the sink in the bathroom which needed four trips to Home Depot. I do all the little (and many medium) projects and he does all of the big ones. I don't do electricity and plumbing. But, I do lay floors, paint, and even put doors back on their hinges. So, does my husband contribute to our home? Definitely. But, his view of the situation helped me understand that he, too, will tell me how to do things at times because he wants to know that his opinion matters--that he matters in our family.
Understanding the other person's motives can change how we see them and how we react. It happened again yesterday, twice. I came to my husband with a plan for something I wanted to do. He suggested not making such a big plan. Later that evening, I explained to him my response to a request for my help (and others). I explained that I just couldn't. My husband agreed. I think it was good for him to know that I can say no. I also needed him to know that I was listening to his counsel.