Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Marriage 101: The 'Good' Wife

After 3.5 years of marriage, I can say that expectations really suck!

Sometimes these are the expectations put on me by others.

Sometimes they are the ones I put on myself (maybe because of the real or perceived expectations of others).

The surprising thing I've found is that the person who has placed the least pressure on me to conform to a certain image is Duncan.  Kind of surprising really since I'm HIS wife so you'd think he would have expectations.  I'm sure he does (we all do), but he is very kind.

I've also come to the realisation that there are two types of wives who face untold pressure to conform:

Pastors' wives
Farmers' wives (in my case, farmhands' wives)

When you're married to a pastor or a farm worker, it seems that there is a new level of pressure to be a certain kind of wife.  You're expected to be involved in your husband's work in a higher level.  My married female friends have husbands in a wide variety of occupations.  I have a friend whose husband is a pool salesman, but she doesn't know heaps about pools.  I have several friends who are married to engineers, but they don't know stacks about engineering.  Most of these women could probably state where their husband works and his role, but I doubt having a husband in that profession has made them an expert like he is, nor would they want to be.  They love their husbands and want to support them, but they are just not interested in pools or engineering.

But when you're a pastor's wife or a farmer's wife, you're expected to know the intricate ins and outs of church or farm life.  Whenever we go out to church, to tennis or wherever, people ask me what Duncan is doing on the farm and how much rain we've had.  Normally I can give them a basic answer, but sometimes a basic answer does not suffice.  They want DETAIL and I feel like shouting, "For heaven's sake, Duncan's standing over there, go and ask HIM!"  I feel like I am defined by the farm and the fact that my husband works there.  In the loneliness that sometimes comes with country life, I'd just like someone to take an interest in me and what I do - not just the fact that I'm a farmhand's wife.  Praise God, there are some lovely ladies at church who are interested in my work and my book.  That makes me want to take an interest in their lives as well.

Maybe it would be easier if Duncan was a pastor because sharing and teaching the word of God and encouraging others is something we're BOTH passionate about.  I'd suck as the stereotypical pastors' wife, but at least it'd feel we're in it together and it's something I understand.  The farm, on the other hand, is something I'm not passionate about and find difficult to understand.  It's like calculus to me.  Despite what some of our city friends seem to think (that you just stick a seed in the ground and watch it grow), farming is an intricate science and I don't get the terminology.  I am there to support Duncan and that's it.  I don't think I should be forced or expected to take any more of an interest in my husband's job than my friends with engineering husbands do.  I see my role as 'holding the fort' - doing housework and helping make life easier for Duncan during busy seasons of shift work. The farm is NOT our family business!  I was talking to one of the other wives on our farm and it was such a relief that she GETS IT.  Her husband is also a farmhand, but he does not have a farming background and this is their first time on a farm.  While she loves the country life and raising her kids out here, she does not take a huge interest in the farm.

I'm also realising that the word 'support' means different things to different people.  To me, it means allowing Duncan to do what he loves and helping him to do that.  It doesn't mean that I BECOME him or pretend to be interested in things that I'm not.  Sure when you love someone, you want to take an interest in the things that make them tick, but there is a line.  I've seen some women totally change their personalities when they meet a guy.  Suddenly they've become revheads because their boyfriends/husbands are revheads - even though they never liked cars or bikes much before.  When Duncan and I first started dating, he took up blogging because he could see how much I liked blogging.  But not long afterwards, he canned his blog because he just wasn't into it.  He didn't HATE blogging - he just found writing hard and it wasn't for him.  That's fine, I don't love him any less because he isn't into everything that I'm into.  I'd like Duncan to support my writing by letting me write books and seek out publishers, but I don't expect him to want to become a writer himself, to feel strongly about it, or want to be my agent or my editor.  I just want him to let me do what I love, the same as I try to make things easier for him when he is working on the farm.

It's women that I've found the most discouraging in my 3.5 years as a farmhand's wife.  Some women just don't understand that I want to pursue interests off the farm. They don't get how I don't want to kill, pluck and cook my chickens, or sit around making jam all day.  They think I should be able to answer all of their questions about the farm - and some have criticised me for not being able to.  I'm wondering if this is a generational thing where, in the past, farmers' wives didn't work, except on the farm, and their whole life was the farm.  I went to an office management course for work earlier in the year and I met a number of young farmers' wives who seemed rather discontent about their life on the farm - having to do the office role (even though they find it hard and would rather be doing something else), dealing with a disapproving mother-in-law etc.  I really felt for some of these women.

So how have I learnt to deal with this?
  • Remind myself that I am playing for an audience of one.  God is the one I'm looking to please in my role as a wife and He is already well pleased with me because of Jesus.
  • Support comes in different ways.  Duncan has asked me to work part-time in the past because we've needed the extra income.  He doesn't want me to sit around doing nothing.  He's very excited about my book even though he's not a writer or much of a reader.  Likewise, I try to do little things for Duncan that encourage him - going out for a ride with him in the ute, tractor or header (depending on what he's doing) because he likes the company, getting meals at a reasonable hour, making sure he's got plenty of work clothes etc.  And when I fail at these things (which is often), he tells me not to put so much pressure on myself.
  • Telling people, "I don't know," and suggesting they ask Duncan if they ask me a question about the farm which I can't answer.  If they give me a disapproving look, that's too bad for them.
  • Rising above any snide criticial comments for not being a farm expert.  If other ladies don't approve, again that's just too bad.


bettyl said...

Expectations can be good or bad. When I realized that I was on earth to serve like Jesus--whether it be as a tutor or a wife--expectations went out the window, but life got easier for me.

As far as finding that women are more discontent, I think women are just more outspoken about personal feelings than men. However, acceptance of your circumstances makes a big difference in your attitude.

Keep doing what you know is right and all will be well!

Sarah said...

Very true, Betty, especially in regards to serving Jesus as a wife. I think some women think they are serving Jesus by serving their husbands (which is true), but that looks different in each couple's circumstances. Often I think the whole idea of what consider serving Jesus and serving husbands is influenced a lot more by culture than it is by Scripture. I've found that in the country, being a 'good Christian wife' is having lots of kids, being really involved in the farm etc. In other cultures it can be having 8 children, having a beautiful home, not working outside the home, homeschooling...(fill in the blanks). While I'm not saying that these things aren't good things, it can be unhelpful to insist others are not being Christlike if they don't do them.

Amanda said...

Yep, being a Pastor's wife is hard work. The first time round for me I didn't think of myself as one and always referred to the other Pastor's wife as THE Pastor's wife. Next time round though it will be different. I'm part of a PW's forum and I tell ya, the 'typical' Pastor's wife is starting to be non existent. I read a stat yesterday that said 80% of Pastor's wives wish their hubby had a different job. I can understand that.

Sarah said...

Some good thoughts there, Amanda.

I'm wondering if it is a 'grass is greener' thing in that we think we'd be more content if our husbands had different jobs, but, in reality, we probably wouldn't. I'm realising more and more than contentment has to be learned (just as Paul said).

Iris Flavia said...

That´s already 3,5 years? Time flies!!
I could imagine it´s a generation-"thing" or that internet will maybe change those expectations? "Simply" refering to your husband is a good solution :-)