Last month my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. My parents watched our kids so we could have a weekend away. What a treat! We drove up the “lost coast” of California and spent two luxurious nights in a Bed and Breakfast near the sea. We went hiking on the surf-beaten bluffs of Mendocino, felt the sun beat down through the sky-scraping canopy of the redwood forest and ordered dessert after fancy meals. I was in heaven.
But it wasn’t the time we spent taking long walks on the beach that made me think, “I’m one lucky girl.” Nope, it was a singular conversation my husband and I had over soup, salad and bread sticks at the Olive Garden on the way to our destination that made our tenth anniversary trip one to remember.
Our travel conversation had been light, flirtatious and fun. We tried to talk about news and our interests instead of the kids and work. But even before our first basket of warm Olive Garden bread sticks appeared, I could tell my husband had an agenda for our dinner conversation.
“Do you remember when we went to tithing settlement and the Bishop asked us if we were having family prayer regularly?”
“Well, it’s not often that a Bishop has the chance to give a family advice on how best to improve their spirituality. We need to try harder to have morning and evening family prayer. I think that following his advice will make a big difference in our family in the long run.”
After making plans on how we could better implement family prayer my husband went through an inventory of the social, emotional and physical needs of each of our daughters and we made decisions together about how to meet the needs of each of our children. We also assessed my current health conditions and found ways to lighten my load.
We talked about how to save more money at home, and at the business, to assure that we were living within our means, paying our tithing and if possible, saving for our future.
My husband was particularly concerned for the safety of the girls and me. We talked about putting better Internet safeguards on our computers and decided that living without TV hadn’t been so tough. We discussed drop-off and pick-up procedures at school and how a tire on my van needed to be fixed.
This was one of many a great conversations we’ve had over the last ten years. But, I would have never known my husband to be such a leadership dynamo if I had continued on the initial path I took as a young newlywed. During the first year of our marriage we had power struggles over money, fights over decision making autonomy and gender role discrepancies. We were both working, I was making more money, and I looked to have a greater income potential. My husband resented the fact that I held money decisions over his head and forced an unbalance of power in our relationship. It took a lot of late night “discussions” and prayer for my heart to soften toward the principles taught in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Here is a paragraph from that inspired document that is particularly poignant to me now.
“Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to providethe necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”
Because I believe in modern day prophets and apostles, I was willing to try to implement these principles in my marriage before fully understanding them. At first glance, it felt counter-intuitive to let my husband preside when I was the natural leader in our family. But giving my husband the space to lead our family has improved my character, given him a huge boost of confidence, and has given me the space to focus on motherhood and my other talents. Through his loving example, my husband has shown me that leadership is more than just being organized and vocal. Service, patience and love are just as effective as check lists and budgeting spreadsheets when rearing a family. Together, we make a really balanced partnership.
I want to note that I feel that the final line of the paragraph I quoted above is of great import, “Disability, death or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” There are many situations where women share or are solely responsible for the roles of provider, presider or protector in their homes because their husbands are unable or unwilling to do so, or are absent for one reason or another. In my own family’s narrative my grandfather died in his 40’s leaving my grandma and her daughter (my mother) to fend for themselves. My grandmother felt overwhelmed and terrified in her new role as provider, presider and protector. But did she ever overcome! Financial dynamo, budgeting wizard, hard working, and computer savvy are just a few of the descriptions that come to mind when I think of Grandma.
In my own life, the opposite happened when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and my husband had to take on the roles of mother and father as I battled immobility and pain until we found a medication that helped ease my symptoms. From my own life and the life experiences of those around me, I have learned that ideals and reality sometimes have a large gap between them and can “necessitate individual adaptation.” Prayers, friends and family helped make that gap more navigable for me.
I found that by following the prophetic counsel found in the Proclamation on the Family, even before gaining a testimony of it, yielded surprisingly pleasant results. My husband was willing and prepared to preside, provide and protect in our home. I liked not feeling responsible for EVERYTHING. Making the decision to change my ways prepared my heart for the time when my health would fail and I would need help from my husband more than ever. I hope that by continuing to strive to live by the precepts taught in the Proclamation, my husband and I will to grow together in love and respect and our union will continue to yield surprisingly pleasant results.