The Mrs. and I were recently part of a panel discussion about the state of Black marriage where the moderator posed the following question: “Who is the head of your household?” While the other married couples all unanimously named the husband as the head, the Mrs. and I were the only ones to counter by saying we both fill that role equally. However, the general consensus was that we were just naïve newlyweds and in time we’d sing a different tune.
At the root of the conversation was the idea of gender roles in a relationship. It was a debate over what a man/husband and a woman/wife are supposed to do. Traditionally, that means a man plays the role of provider and a woman serves as caretaker. That sounds nice in theory but the realities of a marriage are not so black and white, as there are varying shades of grey in every relationship.
We exist in a world where women are no longer limited to being housewives (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and men aren’t immediately let off the hook when it comes to domestic duties. But what does it mean to be the head of the household? If it’s about being the breadwinner, throwing out the trash and getting the big piece of chicken at dinner then I’ll take that title, but I believe being the head of household is about who makes the decisions and Rocque la Familia is a two-person democracy.
I liken the dynamic of how my wife and I make decisions to the symbiotic relationship between a pair of shoes. It doesn’t matter if you put on the left or the right one first, because you won’t get far without the other. There are certain things that I excel at and the Mrs. lets me take lead on. Similarly, there are things that she is strong in and I trust her decision-making in that regard. We walk side-by-side not one behind the other.
I am not my wife’s father and she is not my mother, so neither of us tells the other what to do because someone feels it’s their right as the head of household. We make a concerted effort to consult each other on matters that will affect the other. Even if it’s something that I may have pretty much made a decision on or vice versa, it’s a general rule of thumb in our relationship to consult each other before moving forward. It’s a sign of good communication and the foundation of a healthy relationship.
Apparently this is a foreign concept for many other couples, where the man is automatically put in the power position. Maybe I’m biased but part of me understands that line of thinking because there are times where the Mrs. and I fall into traditional gender roles. But my wife cooks more often than me not because she’s a woman but because she works from home and it makes more sense. Regardless of who makes dinner on any given night, though, I generally do my part by washing dishes. It’s a constant give and take that keeps balance in the home.
Ultimately, I’d like to think we’re a little more progressive than most in sharing the leadership load. We are each other’s favorite person and equally respect the other’s opinion so it makes sense that we consult one another often. Maybe I’m just a naïve newlywed but I believe two heads (of household) are better than one.
Do you think a man should always be considered the head of household or can that title be shared? Sound off!
Mr. and Mrs. Rocque are the couple formerly known as Anslem Samuel and Starrene Rhett, New York-based journalists who found love in between bylines. Follow the newlyweds’ musings of a marriage in progress here, on Twitter and via their joint blog.