Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kicked Out of the Feminist Camp: Defining 'Head of Household'

"We'll have to see what your father says."

It's a great line for all mothers, one I rely on quite a lot when I don't want to commit to something before asking husband's opinion, when I want to pass the buck and have husband make the decision instead of me, or when I want a get-out-of-jail-free card to not ever give an answer, hedging my bets my children will just forget about it before husband comes through the door at day's end.

Lately, though, my six-year-old has been questioning the statement.  Why should we ask daddy.  Can't I just make a decision on my own?  I am the mommy, you know.  A grown up who is no longer told what to do (in his eyes, anyway).

"Well, he's the boss," I say, struggling to put my anti-feminist convictions in a kindergartner's vocabulary.  "The Bible says he's the head of our household."

Wyatt's face lights up.  "Oh.  Cool!  I want to be the boss, too." 

That look on my son's face makes it obvious he equates being the boss with stomping around with his plastic sword like an arrogant tyrant whom everyone obeys without question.  For a split second, I catch a glimpse of my future daughter in law hating me.  (Sigh.)

"Being a boss isn't all that fun," I begin, deepening my voice in an attempt to sound somber, serious."  To be the head of his household, a man has to do certain things.  The Bible says that a man must be willing to give his life for his family.  That means daddy must be willing to die for you and me.  He must provide for his family, which is why daddy works so hard.  He also has the job of leading his family to know about God.  That's why daddy takes us to church."

The face that has been listening so seriously to my soliloquy suddenly brightens again.  "Oh!  That's why daddy prays with us every night and not you!"

I smile.  He and I go back and forth for a few minutes, discussing the role he will play one day as head of his own house. 

Across the table, Emerson pipes up, "Me, too!  I'll have a house."  Yes.  Two future heads of their families.

I tell them when there's a hard decision to make, if mommy and daddy don't know what to do, daddy ultimately has to make the decision.

"And what if he doesn't know the answer?"  Wyatt asks.

"He asks God," Emerson responds matter-of-factly.

Through a too-large bite of spaghetti, Wyatt finally concludes, "Wow.  Being a boss is hard work."

And with that, the conversation turns to how hot the spaghetti is, what's for dessert, and how much water we need to drink to get rid of any "bugs" in us.

I know well this is not the popular way to raise boys.  Some might even say I'm turning back time and creating two little cavemen who think women are worthless.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

At four and six, my boys already know to open/hold the door for a lady (although they haven't learned not to knock said lady down in an attempt to get there first).  They know to offer a lady help if she is carrying a heavy load.  They are learning mommy needs help picking up the house, setting the table, and separating the lights and darks before helping me shove heaping loads into the washer and dryer.

Women are to be respected, loved, treated more delicately with kindness.

What many people don't understand is there is a difference between submitting to one's husband as the head of your family and being a wall flower.

I grew up in a family of strong women.  I still live in a family of strong women.  There are definitely no shrinking (or quiet) violets here.  We study our Bibles and have lively, educated discussions about Scripture with our men.  We actively pursue our individual ministries within our churches and within our communities.  Many of us work both within and outside of the home.

When I was in high school, I clearly remember my father's family labeling my mother a feminist.  At the time, she and I didn't think that was such a bad thing.  Of course I was a feminist.  I equated the term with women's basic human rights, equal treatment, and equal opportunities.  Honestly?  When I consider how women are severely abused by their husbands in parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, how many rights these non-American women don't have around the world, that's still the kind of feminism I want to be a part of.

Granted, ours was a family where women were expected to be educated, where women were encouraged to speak up and participate in the dialogue of a family, where gender roles were undefined when it came to things like washing clothes, cooking supper, or mowing the lawn.  Yet, there was still the knowledge that the buck stopped with my daddy.  He was the spiritual head of our home.

When my children were born, I sadly came to the realization that feminism had changed from what I once believed it to be.  Overnight, I found myself booted out of the feminist camp because I believed in a baby's right to life over a woman's right to her body, because I believed the Bible when it said my husband should be the head of our household as Christ is the head of the church.

Submissiveness is not on the feminist agenda, nor is it popular.  But it is part of what the modern family needs.  Families need women who not doormats but who are submissive to their husbands.  Families also need men who love their wives so completely that they are willing to daily give their very lives for them.

Whichever role you play in your family, as my son said, "It's hard work."

Image: My son, Wyatt, helps refill the cat food container, his contribution to "housework."


  1. Amen, Wyatt (and Jennifer). Hard work, indeed. But, like much hard work - totally fulfilling and worth the sweat. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. I NEVER thought I'd be having these conversations with a six year old! I figured surely I had a few more years till we hit the hard topics. Nope. Thankfully, they're just pockets of seriousness surrounded by discussions of bugs, snot, and tickles. :-)

  2. this is so intriguing. wow. Your a great writer. Praise God.