Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Provider

Male egos are difficult things to quell.

For the first decade and a bit of my marriage, the missus and I both worked more or less equivalent jobs. During that time, I tended to bring home a bit more vegetarian bacon-like protein strip product, particularly when she was part-timing so she could stay home with the kids when they were bitty.

It was satisfying. I felt useful, even though the work wasn't really my calling. Knowing that my hours in the office were both necessary and vital to the financial well-being of my family was a significant and positive thing. I was doing what a man does, what my dad had done and what his father before him had done.

I was The Provider.

Entering the ministry changed that, and I knew it would. I marvel that it's even possible to get paid for something that's so much what I want to be doing. There are few other jobs that allow you to explore the philosophical and spiritual, to write, to teach, and to share meaningful conversation with those equally interested in exploring the purpose of being. And hey, when you're called, you're called.

But as I started work in my little church, and my wife began working full-time as the kids got older, she and I started down very different income paths. This year, as she took a well-deserved step up into a great new executive position that totally matches her skills and gifts, we crossed a rubicon of sorts. My income is now no longer really necessary for the maintenance of the household. Oh, it's nice to have it, sure. It allows us to accumulate savings, and replace things around the house without worrying about it at all. We are financially comfortable.

But I am no longer in that role of being the primary wage-earner. She makes a multiple of what I make, and given how smart, capable, and hard-working she is, I'd expect that multiple to increase over the next few years.

I could just stay home and bake cookies, and we'd get by just fine.

I have no desire to do that, of course. I serve my church for reasons that have jack-diddly to do with compensation. My role as a father to my children and a husband to my wife is also unrelated to income. But there is, if I am honest with myself, a peculiar churning now and again in my subconscious. There is an occasional sense of lostness, as if I am not the person I'd anticipated being. It is, without question, all Ego. It doesn't reflect the reality of my calling. I don't for a moment equate it with some legitimate alarm over my Not Fulfilling My Responsibility as the Papa to Have the Final Word At Home. That's not the dynamic I want for my family. I'm genuinely proud of what my wife has accomplished. It's a sign of her character.
I want nothing less than success for her.

Still, ego can be a difficult thing to overcome. Good thing that's the whole point of my vocation.


  1. I'm glad you're at peace with your situation. You're fortunate to have such an understanding wife.

    My wife earns more than me too, but my ego suffers because of the hypocritical nature of my job and my inability to market myself.

  2. I'm one of those newer anomalies, the Stay at Home Dad. At first, it was a blow to the ego and it still is from time to time. Still searching out just why that is. But child care is just too expensive and any part time work counseling (LCDC) I could find seemed to only be enough to pay for daycare.

    My wife doesn't get it, the ego thing. I know at its heart it's sort of a "id/ego" hang up, really. Not grounded in any sort of reality, just instinctual hoopla. We weighed our options a couple of years ago and when I injured my back for the umpteenth time, my stint as an EMT was over. So with my wife's increasing salary and promotions the decision was obvious. She was at home with the Number One son until he was 3. He's now 5. Now it's my turn with the itty bitty guy, Sam. He turns a year in July.

    As an added bonus I'm getting to piecemeal my education together while doing the S.A.H.D. thing.

    I can honestly say that I have learned a great deal about myself that I just didn't know before this experience. Best of all, I have discovered that I can cook a really mean meatloaf, man.