our family is different
Guest post by oxymormon
In the first months of my marriage, when spouseman and I were new to our Married Student Ward, I was very aware of the assumptions people were making about us as a couple and more blatantly about me as individual. There were concerned/alarmed looks and urgent whispers as it was revealed spouseman and I had different last names. Double takes and stares as I wore dress pants to church on particularly cold days. Word spread fast that there was something different about me and about us.
Fast forward a month or so to our first visit from hometeachers. Spouseman and I were excited to begin making friends in the ward. We made some cupcakes together that morning to share with our brand new hometeachers. I began to worry as I saw them walk up the drive way to our apartment, and stop for 5 or 10 minutes discussing something serious. I saw one companion put his copy of the Ensign away and realized we were not getting the normal “First Presidency Message” that Sunday; we were getting a special message tailored for us.
The lesson taught to us was all about the approved and “divine” set up of the family–with presiding husband and nurturing wife. They made a point to explain that the “head of household” should tell the hometeachers what kind of lessons he wants for his family. They warned of the new “fad” of family where these important lines between husband and wife were being blurred. They insisted he call on people to pray, since it is his house. His household. His opinion for the lessons. His. His. His. I sat stunned and silent–conveniently fitting right into the model of perfect wife taught and praised by these two men who I had never met before.
As I was overcome with hopelessness and hurt as the well-intentioned home teachers left with their praise of patriarchy ringing in my ears and the million thoughts of what-I-should-have-said or what-I-should-have-done running through my mind, I once again found myself sobbing into spouseman’s shoulder, mentally begging my Heavenly Parents to never let this happen again.
I think the hurt is worse, when someone enters OUR home– the home spouseman and I have have built together, and tells us that only one of us is the leader. Only one of us “presides.” Only one of us can decide who should pray.
That is not what we have worked toward. That is not how our little family works.
After they left spouseman held me for a long time, apologizing for not saying anything. Thinking of a game plan of showing those hometeachers next time that “our family is different.” Seeing the defeat in my eyes and validating what I was already thinking–”We can feel the spirit much stronger here at home together than in Stake Conference. Let’s not worry about going.”
So we stayed home. We spent the day learning and caring for one another. Reminding ourselves that this is our home, we are equal presiders and equal “guardians of the hearth.” We decide how things are, and we will not let someone else tell us how things should be.
I am still wounded though. I am hurt when I see and hear this kind of thing in church, or in a devotional or read it in the Ensign or in something for a religion class. But I have never felt so stripped of my power and my equality with my husband as I did today when someone came into my safe haven, my home with my husband–and contradicted me.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to hit something. I wanted to demand they stop talking. I wanted to throw the front door open and insist they leave right this moment and never come back.
But instead I held in my tears and suppressed my anger. I shook their hands and even smiled as they left.
And then I cried, and began to nurse my spirit back to health and happiness for the hundredth time, slowly beginning to realize that 100 times is only the beginning.
5 Responses to “our family is different”
Yup. I remember having a missionary come to our house and tell us we were super unfaithful for not doing things the way they wanted us to (my husband was ward mission leader and he was not meeting their expectations for Devoting His Life 100% to Their Mission Experience because he was also being a parent at the time.)
It’s really shocking the first time somebody gives you shit in your own house for daring to attempt a close, working marriage. Unaccountably, it didn’t even occur to me to kick them out. I ran out crying– from MY OWN HOUSE!- and ran right into an inactive neighbor, who’d been there before and knew exactly what to say. “You’re absolutely right to feel this way. God gave us feelings for a reason.”
The good news is that you don’t have to let those dudes come back. You can tell them exactly why they’re not welcome in your home. They earned it honestly. And, the next time this happens– and believe me, there will probably be one– you will be oh so ready for it.
Also, in our experience married student wards suck. If you can, try one with some real adults in it. It can really help.
thank you for this post! every time i get lectured about the divine role of my husband to “preside” over me, i want to spit in someone’s eye, or scream! but instead, i sit silently, feeling like my religion/god are being co-opted by people who want me to fit into a box that i will never fit into, and one that i have finally come to accept i don’t want to fit into. it is good to be different. it is good to read that other women have the same feelings, the same jaw clenching. i love my husband more than anything, but we strive to be equal partners and best friends, and we both prefer it that way.
i have also come to the realization that this is not a conversation that will go away. one hundred, one thousand times, ten thousand times, we will hear this message. i want to find a way to respond to this message that is firm, friendly, and frank. i want everyone to know i’m not ok with it, but i don’t want to be confrontational or “difficult.” i don’t even know if that is possible.
I’ve called VTs and HTs on it a couple of times. You should see their eyes bug after they’ve delivered a smug lecture on the family structure and expect to close out with a prayer, and I say, “Thanks for the message but I disagree with every word you’ve said.” The first time it happened, the poor HTs sat there for a second before trying to explain, “No, what we mean is that a husband is to preside in *righteousness*.” “Yes, I understand what you’re saying, I just think you’re dead wrong,” I responded pleasantly. They tried a couple of other tactics, the usual attempts to say that men are in charge but I am equal (completely oblivious to the ridiculousness of that statement), mansplaining style, but I kept up. “Really, I do hear what you’re saying, I just think you’re wrong.”
It was amazing how, after a few frustrated minutes, they ran out of explanations to give or arguments to make and close sheepishly. Then they looked surprised when I said, “See you the same time next month?”
Luckily, I can drop the smile and snarl to my husband once they leave. But I like to think these small interactions are in some way opening their minds to the idea that people (especially women) don’t and won’t always agree with them, not even about the Church.
I remember our HTs once looking at my husband and asking him, “as the patriarch in your home”, to call on someone to say the prayer… Unfortunately I’m not always quick-witted enough to think of good comebacks, but after they left we joked about how next time he should turn to me and ask me, “as matriarch of our home”, if I could choose someone 😉 we never got a chance to try it out on them though..
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