Sunday, October 20, 2013

We're Not Confused, We're Married

My husband and I have sort of a strange relationship. I happen to earn our main income and produce all the babies, but he's not one of those lazy-a** husbands who make their wives do all the big jobs while they sit on the couch watching porn or Simpsons reruns. I'm also not the career woman who spends 80 hours a week in the office while her kids languish with a nanny. We're both sort of a weird mixture of the other, unlike both the traditional and sensible husband-wife relationship where the man is the hunter-gatherer and the woman the homemaker, and the modern relationship where everyone works while outsourcing the kids to strangers.

My husband is not androgynous or effeminate. He's spent the past two weeks jackhammering and digging out our hideous concrete patio to make way for what I hope will be a nice new brick one. He handles all the home repairs, car maintenance, and financial matters (thank goodness). I'm also not very manly. I'm not the Cinderalla-Barbie-princess sort of girl, but I crochet, and bake bread, and squee at mice. He's also more stern with the children, and I'm a mushball. 

But my husband also does almost all of our grocery shopping and meal creation. I used to, but I got busy and tired being pregnant all the time, so he took it over.
In short, our relationship with each other has a lot fewer boundaries than many couples need to succeed. We are fluid and interdependent to a degree that would make many couples frustrated. Sometimes he needs to take a work phone call during the day, when it's typically my work time. Or he needs to jackhammer before the rental runs out and has to have me keep the kids inside and safe, not at my computer working. He spends all day Tuesday running elementary school classes, so those days I revert to being a full-time mommy. Same when he has several days of out-of-town training. And when I leave, he's on. 

I realize that well-defined responsibilities and roles are a big help for many couples, and despite our weird lifestyle think a more traditional family style is generally preferable and more logical. Many women don't like the biological reality that we are the ones who bear and nurture the children, but that's the way the world is and children live best when they get loads of attention from mother when they are small. It makes me shudder to hear about women going back to full-time work two weeks after they've given birth to a new baby.

What I think makes this work for us is my husband's attitude. He leads by serving. I consider it a bigger sacrifice for him to be with the kids rather than work, as that job is the more tiring and annoying of our two, by far, and he gets social disapproval for having to say "I say home with the kids," worse than the similar disapproval that statement gets coming from a mother. If something needs to be done, even if small or "demeaning" like diaper changing, he does it, without complaining. His example helps me do the same. It's far harder to insist on my own comfort or preferences when my husband doesn't. It looks way more obviously selfish. So we both do what we need to do to keep our family well.

When they talk about "the two shall become one flesh," I think this is part of what that means.

Image by lmnop88a.


  1. "It's far harder to insist on my own comfort or preferences when my husband doesn't. It looks way more obviously selfish."

    YES. It is the same with us.

  2. The thought of Nathaniel being labeled "effeminate" makes me laugh.

    The roles God has given to husband and wife... they are great and they are true... but I think they can be carried out with a lot more FREEDOM than most conservative Christians would admit!

  3. I would only point out that "traditional" families were not husband at work and woman at home until industrialization and even then not in the way we think of the 50's American housewife. Child care has always been a class issue, and a cultural issue.

    You don't have a strange relationship--- you have a healthy one. Give and take is normal; flexibility is normal, and I think God knowingly gave us enough variation to be able to handle it when we just go with it. It would be silly for you to try to stop working just because you're not supposed to be (?) or to give up being a stay-at-home mom because you're working. It would be silly for Nathaniel to be more traditionally employed right now just as it would be silly for him to make you do the financial matters. When God gives gifts he doesn't expect us to refuse to use them because of our genders or our marriages.

    1. I think about the pre-industrialization family occasionally, too. That's a great comparison point. Then men and women were also less segmented--the family had kids and a business and everyone did whatever they needed to keep both going. But I don't think a good answer to the problems of 1950s-forward-style out-of-home work for men is to have both moms AND dads out of the home all the time.

      To be honest, I really love having us all mostly home. I just know lots of people can't do that. In that case, I do think it is generally better for mom to choose to be with the kids, since they biologically and emotionally need her when quite young. If I had to work in an office right now or not work at all, I would quit.


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