What was life like in your family growing up? Did you get off the school bus and walk into a home filled with delightful cooking smells, or did you come home to an empty house? Did your dad read the paper while your mom worked around the house, or did your mom tend to the kids while your dad whipped up a meal? There are hundreds of thousands of variations of how family life can play out. What is your story? Additionally, what was your boyfriend or girlfriend’s family like growing up? How do your stories compare?
Eric and I had some definite similarities in our stories and some differences as well. We both came from Christian homes for which we are deeply thankful. Neither of our sets of parents got divorced. My mom worked outside the home as a teacher and still managed to homeschool me during the last five and a half years of my schooling. Eric’s mom worked at home and was known for her tremendous cooking skills! My dad worked all day and enjoyed relaxing when he came home. Eric’s dad does not know the meaning of the word “relax” (and the apple does not fall far from the tree! ~smile~)
Talk about your Beliefs Regarding Roles within the Family
Since we all sign up for wedded bliss with a paradigm of how this “marriage thing” works, it is important to discuss in depth your beliefs about roles within the family. Some people are as traditional as you can get with dad working outside the home from 8am to 5pm and coming home to a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by his lovely wife who managed to cook, clean, and educate the entire family all while wearing a conservative skirt! (note: any woman who can clean the house in a skirt is my hero!)
Other families deem themselves progressive. Mom and Dad both work, or Mom works and Dad stays home with the kids, or perhaps even both parents work from home. They don’t take their cues from tradition. They can also make decisions about who does what within the family, but more often, progressive families equally share in all of the household tasks. Whatever route your family took, you are likely to go into marriage expecting to re-create it – at least parts of it.
Because we are our parents (at least, in part, as our caretakers often deeply affect who we become), we need to be open with each other about our childhood experiences. Trust me, conversations about how to do certain tasks, or who is in charge of what, is not fun post-marriage. There is much less drama involved when you discuss and prepare for family roles before you sign on for life. ~smile~ How annoyed would you be if you got married and then discovered that the women in his family wash all the dishes directly following each meal and he expects his wife to do the same when that was not the way it was in your house growing up! Or that all the men in her family could fix cars and she expected you to learn how to do basic car maintenance when you have no interest in learning and would rather just pay someone else to fix the automotive issues!
So, before you fall off the mountain of love into the pit of dismay, discuss the following topics together in detail: headship (men being the head of the house), submission (women submitting to their husbands and what this really means), team work, working outside the home (are you in agreement about each other’s plans to work inside or outside of the home?), parenthood (your philosophies of child rearing), chores (who will do what and when), and roles in ministry (women in leadership, ministry time expectations, sacrifices to be made, etc.).
Study what Scripture Says about Male and Female Roles
Before declaring that “this is the way we are going to do things,” spend some time studying what Scripture has to say about male and female roles. God created us to be different – for each of us to have differing strengths. God does not consider one sex more valuable than the other. Like Eric always says, “Not better or worse, just different.”
If possible, do a Bible study about the differences in men and women. We all have necessary roles and doing a Bible study with other men or women can help us learn about God’s plan for men and women – and we can glean from the insight and experience of others in the study. I am so thankful for my women’s Bible study at church because these ladies share their experiences with me which gives me access to completely different perspectives about love, marriage, child rearing, and ministry.
Talk to Those You Admire
Many times, I have encouraged you readers to seek out mentor couples you admire to help teach you the relationship ropes. This is one of those areas where a seasoned, godly couple can help “act out” Biblical concepts for you. “The Bible says to submit, but that sounds so subservient. What does Biblical submission look like?” A godly wife can show you what it means to be submissive as God intended wives to be (i.e., not a doormat with no voice). “It is clear that the Bible expects me to lead my family, but I am not sure where to start. That is such an awesome responsibility. Am I ready for this?” A man who has successfully raised a family and held onto an incredible woman for forty years can probably shed some light on this leadership role for you. Talk to him. Ask him questions. Watch how he treats his wife. Watch how she treats her husband.
So, sit down with your Bibles and start studying God’s design for the family. What roles will you have in the family? What tasks will you each own? Which tasks will you share? Discuss your talents and how you will use those talents to help the family (e.g., he can cook amazing meals and she is an amazing seamstress, etc.). Be sure you are both comfortable with your “family plan” before getting engaged. ~smile~
What are your thoughts on roles within the family? Have you and your significant other discussed your views?