Learning Marriage from Your Parents

family in park

I was raised with somewhat progressive views on marriage.  It feels strange to even be typing that, and it’s certainly nothing I ever thought growing up.  I know that on the overall spectrum of views on marriage, the ideals with which I was raised would only be in the middle, and probably closer to the conservative side of the middle.  But it’s still so surprising to me how many people aren’t even that far.

I’ve already shared my story about my college roommate.   The reason she and her boyfriend didn’t talk for years about division of labor in the household, or that she didn’t automatically assume they would split it, probably had to do with how her own parents’ marriage dynamic.  So then I consider mine.

My parents married right after my father graduated from college.  He went on to seminary, and my mother supported him working as a temp and as a secretary.  He was often responsible for dinner, because he was the one at home to make it, and mom was instead the one bringing home the metaphorical bacon.

After my dad got his first job, my mom soon went onto college.  Then I came along.  My mother loves to tell the story of how my father’s competitive streak bled into his views on child-rearing: he assured her that just because he was a man, that didn’t mean he couldn’t change diapers or care for me in any other way just as well as mom could.  She told him he was welcome to all the stinky diapers he wanted.

My parents still have equitable division of labor in the household.  In some places it falls along gender lines, but it doesn’t entirely.  Mom cooks, but my father always cleans, every single night.  He does most of the laundry.  He does the taxes, but she handles the budget.  They share the yard work.  They’ve split the major kitchen, household, and yard duties more or less down the middle.

They even did so with the question of who would stay home with their children.  When my brother and I were small, mom stayed home with us.  Even that was decided, at least in part, for practical reasons.  Our house was tied to my father’s job, so he couldn’t quit, whereas my mother could afford to take a few years off of work.

By the time we went to school, she went back to work.  Both of my parents worked full-time, but my father had a more flexible schedule.  Once we were in school, he handled many of the traditional “stay at home” responsibilities.  If one of us was sick, he stayed home with us.  If we had activities at school during the day or after school, he came to get us or participate, chaperoning field trips and picking us up from after-school clubs.

Even my grandparents raised me with some modern views.  They both worked, and considered that the norm.  It took a while for my grandmother to wrap her head around the idea of my freelance work; she was worried I was at home, not working, not making any money.  That’s not exactly a fear most would expect from their grandmother.

I’m really grateful for the views on marriage with which I was raised.  I never had to struggle to maintain that balance with Jonathan, because I was brought up to only look for a partner who would view marriage in the same way.


*(The above image by Vlado is from freedigitalphotos.net).