One difficult thing for me to wrap my head around is the fact that I am “primarily responsible for the nurturing of my children” and I devote my entire life to raising them and giving them a beautiful childhood. And I don’t even preside over my own work. I wonder if I am accountable for myself or if my husband gets all the credit for how things turned out. And then I think, why does there even have to be a “presider”?
Could we just be equals? Going along both acting on what we think is best?
If there was no presiding person, no head, and we were all on our own, marriage would be pretty loose. Kind of like how it is now in the world. Men and women pretty much see each other as equals, and they both think they are the boss. We would start out close to each other, but differences of opinion, or vision, or priorities would soon have us going our own ways. Because, dang it! I don’t need you to boss me around. I can make my own decisions.
So, for a family to remain a single entity, there has to be a head. One person must represent the family ideals and voice and stay true to that. That doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t already true to the same thing though–I think that is one of the perceived problems with presiding. If everyone is on the same wavelength, then “presiding” really is nothing more than a respectful gesture to the role of the father [everyone waiting with their arms folded–“Dad gets to choose who says the prayer”]. If everyone is not on the same wavelength, then presiding is incredibly important [Come down for scripture and prayer, Cameron. We need you to be with us, you are an important part of our family.]. I think the rub comes from men who misunderstand their authority and decide that they should approach their family with a “top down” attitude. And equally problematic are women who have been trained that they are subservient to their husbands and need to let them control everything.
It is difficult to sift out when a man is “presiding” over his family, and when he is just wanting his own way. If he is used to no opposition to any of his opinions, the line gets very blurry. Fathers and husbands are to preside in the following ways: Making sure they hold FHE and family scripture and prayer time. Making sure they all go to church. Making sure he and his wife regularly attend the temple. Making sure the home is a place where the Spirit is freely welcome by protecting the family against harmful media. Things like this. They don’t preside in their opinions and matters of taste. Like what color the walls will be, or which route they’ll take on the way home from church. Feel free to express your own opinion and not let your opinions and desires slide because “He’s my husband and he presides over our family.”
For me, the best way to illustrate presiding in a family is just realizing that you are both on the same team. The presider doesn’t need to push his ideas to the top, or keep reminding anyone that he presides. See how the green pickle is just a little taller than the pink pickle? I think that is all that it is–he lends a voice and a figure to the couple entity. But she is right there with him, and they want the same things.
The Ensign this month published an article called Equal Partnership in Marriage, which sort of addresses this same idea. But, I also felt like it was saying–the husband doesn’t preside at home. They preside as one. Which I think is awesome, but also, not totally what we learn in the temple. So, I refer to my pickle drawing as how a husband and wife, as one, preside over the family–with the husband acting as the voice and head only by a little tiny bit.
To create unity in this fallen state, there needs to be a head. Why it is the man and not the woman, I can only guess**, but it has to do with the Fall and the consequence given to Eve. And something as ancient as that is not going to change.
**My guess is: women are in charge of pretty much everything else that has to do with household maintenance and smoothness. God doesn’t want Spiritual Endeavors to be lumped in together with the laundry, dishes, homework and mopping. So He placed husbands in charge of it to keep it special and set apart from the rest of family life. For women who have to “preside” because their husbands don’t take the lead, it ends up just being another thing to nag about; which isn’t an ideal way to think about scriptures, prayer, temple and church attendance.