That title has a negative connotation to it, doesn’t it? Does it cause flashbacks to the 1950s with a bunch of guys with cigars in their mouths telling their wives to “know their role”? Having played and coached basketball for many years, however, I know how important roles are to a team. Not everyone on the team can be the main scorer. Not everyone on the team is going to be the best defensive player, always guarding the other team’s best player. Each person is important to the team. The same is true for marriage. Unfortunately, the word “roles” in marriage has gotten a bad rap. I would argue, though, that each spouse having roles is vital to a marriage surviving.
There are many different roles to consider in marriage. What does it mean to be a husband? What does it mean to be a wife? How do we divide up the chores? Who should be the spiritual leader of the family? Each of these questions could be articles, if not books, themselves. However, I want to concentrate on two questions that are many times tied together. Who should take care of the kids? Who should earn the money? Obviously, the answer to these questions are usually not the same person. In other words, if the wife is the main caregiver for the children, the husband is usually the main breadwinner. Figuring those roles out in your marriage is huge. I believe it can make or break a marriage, so let’s look at some things to consider when addressing who will earn the money and who will take care of the kids in your marriage.
- This is something that should definitely be discussed before marriage. You and your spouse may have completely different views of this. She may have plans to have a career and continue with that career when the kids come. He may have plans of her staying home when the kids come. This could be vice versa as well. He may plan on her working after the kids come so they can continue a similar lifestyle. Either way, you need to discuss it during engagement. If you are already married and haven’t discussed it yet, you need to now! This is one area you do not want to assume things.
- Realize that things change. I will particularly address this to the husbands. Your wife may tell you (and she believes it, it’s not a trick) that she plans on going back to work after your baby is born. Once the baby comes, she may have second thoughts. Most mothers will tell you it is not easy to leave the baby and head back to work. She may change her mind and you have to be willing to accept that. Honestly, my opinion is that too many men don’t act like men these days in this regard. “I want to drive a nice car!” “I want to be able to eat out whenever I want!” “I want, I want, I want…” I can assure you, nothing is more rewarding than providing for your family and allowing your wife to be there for your kids if that is what she wants. Do not hold it against her if she changes her mind and wants to do just that. Instead, view it as an opportunity. Other things change such as sickness, disability, layoffs, etc. You have to be flexible and realize that you may have to put some plans on hold temporarily in order to get through a certain phase. Remember, once you think you have it all figured and planned out, God has a way of gently reminding you that He’s in charge.
- Decide how committed you are. What are you going to do when finances get tight? It could happen, for example, that you agree the husband is going to earn the money and for various reasons, finances start to get tight. It would not be fair for him to start complaining at his wife that she needs to start working. You have to decide to either start cutting the budget or find ways that he can bring in some extra income. The key is to stay committed to making it work. Don’t turn on each other, find a solution together.
- Appreciation is invaluable. Whatever roles you decide on, you must show appreciation for each other. Husbands need to show appreciation for their wives if they are the ones who are taking care of the kids and the home. Tell her how good of a job she is doing and how much you appreciate everything. Wives need to show appreciation for their husbands if they are the ones who are earning the income. Men, especially, need to be affirmed often and thanked for working hard. If both of you are committed to thanking each other and showing appreciation, your marriage will grow stronger and stronger.
If you take your skills and talents and combine them with your spouse’s, you will be an unstoppable force. One person’s role is not more or less important than the others. If you start feeling sorry for yourself and thinking what you do for your family is so much tougher than your spouse’s role, instead think of all the things your spouse does for you. In the proper perspective you can truly learn to appreciate everything you do for each other. That is a positive outlook on roles.