February 25, 2015
Much of our differences in marriage and parenting is often owed to a misunderstanding of God’s good design for us—intrinsically as men and women created equally, but different.
My boys love their daddy. When he returns from a week of travel or a long day of work, he becomes the center of their world. He wrestles with them. He plays toddler-sized football and basketball with them. He reads to them. Because he travels a fair amount, I am alone with my twin boys a lot of the time. I feel his absence acutely as I spend my days and nights attempting to fill the role of both mommy and daddy. But when he comes home, he is everything to them. It is in these moments that I most clearly see just how different he and I are in how we parent our boys. While they love us both equally, they expect different things from us. No matter what they are doing when he comes home from work, they immediately know that daddy’s presence equals wrestling and playing in a way that only he can. When one of them is sick, he usually wants the comfort of mommy. It took me a long time to see that these differences are not a slight to either of us, but a gift.
We saw these differences most clearly when one of my sons was stung by a wasp for the first time last summer. As we spent a typical summer evening playing in the front yard, our son let out a shrill scream and ran for my arms. Because we had spent the better part of the night trying to keep the twins away from the wasps hovering around us, we knew fairly quickly he had been stung. I cried as I held our screaming son. My husband smiled knowing this was a rite of passage for all little boys (and girls). Of course, he felt bad that our son was in pain, but he knew stings were a part of life—and that our son would be fine. Truth be told, the crying only lasted a short while and then he was back his normal cheerful self.
Differences in Gender and Personality
But our differences don’t end there. Some of these differences are owing to our gender; some are simply driven by personality. I am more emotional and expressive. My husband is more logical and reserved with his thoughts. I am disorganized and pokey. My husband is organized and efficient. I hate cleaning the house. He loves cleaning the house (or at least the results of cleaning). I love words and take a long time to get to the point. My husband loves bullet points and can do math in his head. I am a big picture person. My husband sees the details that I miss. The list could go on.
In terms of gender, it’s good for our sons to have a mom whose heart breaks for them when they are hurt and who encourages them to eat their vegetables, in the same way it is good for them to have a dad who thinks giving them a little candy won’t kill them and who doesn’t overreact to every bump of the head. They need the nurture as much as they need the roughness. Both of us matter in the lives of our kids. But beyond that, we are both served by the unique ways God created us as human beings. Over time, we have come to see that God made us for each other—to sanctify us and open our eyes to things we never would have seen had we been married to someone just like us.
For the better part of our marriage I have struggled with feeling like we should be the same, not different. In the early years of our marriage, I would resent him for the way he responded to situations. I felt threatened by his personality. Fast forward to our parenting years and I find myself wondering why he can’t just be like me when it comes to taking care of our kids.
Differences of the Oldest Kind
I’ve wanted to fashion my husband in my own image, or even wanted to be more like him in some ways, thinking that one way was better than the other. Of course, part of the one flesh union is that you grow together and become more alike than dissimilar. But a lot of my discontentment with our differences is often owing to a misunderstanding of God’s good design for the genders.
My children are served by having two different parents. More importantly, they are served by having a mom and a dad. Together, my husband and I parent them with all the quirks, benefits, and uniqueness of our personalities and gender. And that is the way God designed it to be.
When God created Eve for Adam, it was after Adam had surveyed the animals and creation finding no suitable helper for himself (Gen. 2:18-20). For all the disdain over the word helper, the story is important here. Adam needed Eve. He was lacking without Eve. Both the man and the woman were created to image God in this world, and Adam felt that void acutely. My husband’s personality, and even his gender, is no threat to me. It’s an asset. The same is true for him. We mutually benefit each other when we recognize our gifts and our roles. But we also best serve our children when we see the differences not as a cause for contention, but of true human flourishing.
Courtney is a wife, mother, and writer. She is the author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design (Crossway, May 2015). She and her husband live in Little Rock, AR and are members of Midtown Baptist Church, where he serves as one of the pastors. You can follow her on Twitter @courtneyreissig.
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