Author’s Note: Every author has a set of assumptions, and a set of lenses through which he views the world. My particular viewpoint is one of traditional biblical gender roles, and that the man should be the head of the household. If you don’t believe in leadership in relationships, then stop reading. You’re not going to agree with anything else in this article anyway.
In traditional marriage and gender roles, the concept of being the “head of the household” has been (in my opinion) altered from its original intent. First off, let me clarify what I believe leadership is not. Leadership, particularly in a marriage, is not simply a sum of the perks. One who is effective in leadership does not only use that position to get what he wants, whether it’s making your subordinates carry out personal errands for you, or getting the wifey to make you a dadgum sammich. If you view yourself as the head of the household, and your only “duty” is to get your family to cater to your desires and needs, then you’re doing it wrong. That’s not leadership, that’s you telling servants what to do. Let’s not replace “capable leader” with “controlling and overbearing douche-knuckle.”
Leadership is rather the bearing of responsibility. It should become apparent in this article that this responsibility is more of a burden and an honor than some golden ticket to easy street. The leader is responsible for the development of the children into decent, productive human beings. If the leader desires to raise them with a particular worldview, then it is his job to see that it is carried out, and that a clear direction is given.
I understand that one of the reasons women in our country today often reject even the mention of masculine leadership is because many men have either abused it, or have been portrayed as abusing it. The more I study masculinity and the concept of being the head of the household, the more I realize that it is, in the end, a lot tougher and more exhausting of a job than any other adjective. It also seems that it would be much more rewarding to be the kind of man my wife and children look up to, and become the man God made me to be.
I’ll give a couple of examples of this responsibility.
The leader is (in my opinion) responsible for the safety of the household. If there is a noise in the night, he should be the one checking it out. If the family is often in the home without him, it is his responsibility to ensure that his wife is sufficiently trained and equipped to protect the children.
The leader is responsible for the happiness of the family. If the children are moping around depressed, he needs to take initiative to see what the problem is. This isn’t to say that the mother has no responsibility, but if the father notices the problem, he needs to take initiative rather than wait for someone else to work the problem.
A good leader finds a way to make those in his charge thrive and prosper.
A good leader also know that, while any bad actions done by his family may not be his fault, they are his responsibility. If my daughter grows up to work in sleazy porno movies, or if my son ends up as a drug dealer or a hipster, I realize that they make their own decisions. However, I also know that I am ultimately responsible for the way in which they were brought up. I find it very ironic that those complaining the most about this generation of “entitled kids” are either those who raised them this way, or don’t have children at all. If my children or my wife or any other member of my family is living in such a way as to bring harm to themselves or those around them, I should take action instead of complain about “this generation of kids,” or “women these days.”
Let’s bring it back to a veteran’s perspective. Why? Because that’s how I view the world, and I tend to relate everything to that worldview. While I would never recommend treating one’s family as if they are his squad, I also know that certain aspects of small unit leadership apply in both cases.
Consider that perfect squad leader;
– He is the hardest working man in his squad. He is the first one up, and the last one to sleep. Should the leader of a family do anything less? Should I laze about the house all day while my wife cleans and does the laundry, or should I rather set the example for hard work for my wife and children?
Disclaimer: Obviously my wife, and most wives I’ve come to know, are at least as hard working as their husbands, if not more. I am merely suggesting that the husbands should set the example, not diminishing the efforts of the wife.
– The good squad leader is proficient. If my only claim to fame as a husband and father is my latest Call of Duty score or a good PR on bench press, but I don’t know how to pay bills or maintain the family vehicle, how can I lead the family?
– The good squad leader puts his soldiers and Marines first. He sacrifices for them, and becomes a buffer between them and many problems rolling down from higher. How can I lead a family if they know I’m not making decisions with their best interests in mind? Should I expect my family to look to me as a leader if my number one concern is myself?
– The good squad leader sets the example. He knows that those in his charge are watching him to learn leadership, and so he shows it to them rather than talks about it. I need to be the example of the kind of man I want my son to be. He will treat his wife the way I treated his mother, and he will work at his job the way he sees me work at mine. I need to show my daughters a picture of a man of strength mixed with love and kindness. They will pick a husband based on what they see from me, so they need to get that image of a good man who will treat them well, while being strong enough to provide for and protect them.
Is the father’s role more important than the mother’s? Obviously not. There is a reason that the father and mother model for the nuclear family has been the pillar of every successful society in history. I could not imagine raising my children without their mother, but I am saying that their actions ultimately fall upon our shoulders as parents, and then on mine if I continue to call myself “head of the household.” Attempts to blame society as the only reason for my child’s poor behavior seem to me to be futile attempts at blame-shifting.
– The good squad leader sees the problems in his squad, and takes the initiative to deal with them. He doesn’t wait for another squad leader or platoon sergeant to tell him to deal with it. He knows they happened under his watch, so he needs to start efforts to fix them. As a husband, if I see a problem in my marriage, I need to be the first to address it. Does my wife feel unloved? Instead of waiting for her to fulfil my needs first, or waiting for another family member to tell me that she’s unhappy, I should take action to meet her needs. Granted, my wife may (and often has) come to me to address problems in our lives, but all else being equal, if we are both aware of an issue in our relationship, I have no business waiting for her to bring it up.
This last one is a hard pill to swallow. I know a lot of excellent small unit leaders who can get undivided loyalty from their guys, yet they go home and start to blame problems on their wives and children. Are my kids being brats? It’s my fault for not teaching them about consequences. Instead of complaining to everyone about my kids and broadcasting my problems, maybe I should find ways to instill good values in my children. Is my wife disrespectful to me? I’m probably not doing much to earn the respect I want, or I’m not meeting one of her needs. Instead of giving up and complaining to my buddies about how my wife is a horrible person, I should put time and effort into pursuing and romancing her. What are my friends or drinking buddies going to do to help fix my marriage? Don’t wait around for someone else to fix your family for you.
Disclaimer; my wife obviously does not act like this. It’s just an example.
I know that the analogy breaks down with much further scrutiny. There are many substantial differences between a leader in the military, and a leader of a family. The biggest difference is this:
A leader in the military has his soldiers obey his commands in order to accomplish a mission. To a husband and father, providing for and protecting his wife and children tend to be the one of the biggest missions.
I’ll summarize by further beating the horse I’ve been hitting for the past few months:
Men, if you’re going to call yourselves men, complaining is the last thing on the to-do list. Take the initiative and work the problem. Do the work. Earn the title.