The world after The Family: A Proclamation to the World introduced a gender roles debate that still continues today: Is it OK to allow the wife to be the main provider in a family?
The answer, of course, is a resounding yes.
Irene Caso’s story illustrates the answer to this question. In the video below, she tells her story of her struggle between her professional desires and her maternal responsibilities:
Within this story, there are two important principles that can be learned when it comes to gender roles in marriage.
1. Revelation Through Equal Partnership
Before she made the decision to work, Irene sought counsel from both her husband and the Lord.
The answer came from both spouses, which is important in any kind of career opportunity that comes, whether it’s for a husband or wife. Only with the sanctity of the Spirit can both spouses be at peace with their decisions, and the Spirit can only be present when both spouses are treating one another as equals.
In decision making between spouses, Elder L. Tom Perry was clear about how a marriage partnership should work:
“There is not a president or a vice president in a family. The couple works together eternally for the good of the family. … They are on equal footing. They plan and organize the affairs of the family jointly and unanimously as they move forward.”
Marriage is not a hierarchy. It is a partnership where both spouses work together for a common goal, which is to provide, nurture, and care for the family.
This idea is in line with the second part of Irene’s decision-making process, which was the question she and her husband asked of the Lord. They sought what was best for their family, not just their own personal aspirations. In this situation and in millions of situations around the globe, what was best for the family was for Irene to be the breadwinner, not her husband.
Once this decision is made by the consent of both spouses, the second principle is just as important as the first.
2. Sacrificing for One Another’s Happiness
Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and to find purpose in this life. Both, however, do not come without sacrifice.
In Irene’s story, both spouses were willing to sacrifice to fulfill the need for purpose in one another’s life. Her husband stayed home during the day and looked after the home and family, and when Irene came home she took over that responsibility so that her husband could go to school and work as well.
The spouses are still fulfilling their gender roles within the marriage, and yet both are willing to sacrifice for each other to fulfill their personal aspirations in life. This is true partnership in marriage. Partnership doesn’t just mean “you do your job and I’ll do mine”; it’s pulling the oxcart together and satisfying the spiritual, mental and physical needs of the entire family.
Boyd K. Packer confirmed this responsibility in marriage when he said,
“In the home it is a partnership with husband and wife equally yoked together, sharing in decisions, always working together.”
Sharing is truly caring, and when we are caring about each other’s needs, we are approaching true partnership.
I’m writing this article knowing full well the irony of my status.
I’m a college-aged male who’s only been married for two years. There’s a lot I still need to learn about my roles in marriage and a lot I’m still working on to live up to those roles.
The reason I, or any of us for that matter, can talk about these things with authority is because of the beautiful gift of revelation. I was able to reach these conclusions because of my own prayers, councils with my wife and revelation we have received from the Lord together. If you and your spouse are struggling with the concept of who gets to be the provider, I’d invite you to apply these two principles: 1) Seek revelation together and 2) Be willing to compromise for one another’s happiness. I’ve done it, and so far it’s working for me. It just might work for you too.