And the new calling is . . .

A call from the Stake Executive Secretary yesterday put me and my husband on alert. He was asked to meet with a counselor in the Stake Presidency about a new calling and I was invited to attend.
So, we worried about what the new calling would be and hoped it would be something that didn’t require a lot of time. Yeah right. What kind of stake calling doesn’t require a lot of time?

Of course we had finally settled in to our Sunday schedule at 9 AM with my husband teaching 17 yo Sunday School second hour every other Sunday and both of us teaching CTR 6 weekly. (he misses Sharing Time every other week) With a newborn, this is about as much as we can handle right now. I end up breastfeeding during Sharing Time, and we take turns with the baby during class. It works for both of us. I enjoy junior Primary, it’s more laid back than other meetings with no difficult doctrine that I am uncomfortable with.
So we tossed around the possible callings. DH has been the YM President, so we thought maybe he’d be a counselor in the Stake YM Presidency. Or maybe a stake financial clerk, as the stake is doing an audit right now and DH had discussed his MBA/ money management skills at his last temple recommend interview.
I had been freaking out, calling friends, predicting my future doom and being chastised by DH, “Why are you making such a big deal out of this?” “Because we don’t see you enough as it is!” I replied.
At 4:15, just before we headed out the door for the appointment, DH looks at me and says, “It could be the Elders Quorum President. I feel sick to my stomach.” He listed some reasons he thought made this prediction a possibility, and sure enough, the EQ Pres. was leaving the office just as we were walking in.

Oh dear.

It turns out that my husband wasn’t even on the bishop’s original list for potential replacements for this calling. Since my husband hasn’t attended EQ for the last 3 years, I suspect the bishop thought he may not be the right fit. But, he’s been asked to serve nonetheless. When the call was extended, the counselor asked me first if I could support my husband in his calling. I didn’t give a firm yes or no. I told him that I would pray about it. I feel entitled to a confirmation that this is the right calling for him if we are going to commit so much time and resources to a such a big calling with such a young and needy family. Of course, if he gets the confirmation and I don’t, I’m sure he’ll say yes anyway. DH didn’t exactly say yes, he said that it would be difficult to unite the quorum, especially since he hasn’t been attending for so long.

The 2nd counselor instructed us to pray about it and call him back tonight or tomorrow (are his prayers answered that fast?) or whenever we got our answer.I should mention that as I sat in the tiny room surrounded by 3 white men in dark suits, I felt very outnumbered, and a little second-class. This was abruptly juxtaposed when the Stake Counselor told DH, “You’ve got to keep your relationship with your wife proper. You have to put her first. She sits first, talks first, wins at board games, everything.” It seemed like such a strange thing for him to say, not just his referring to me in third person. I think he tried to make me feel better but it made me feel worse. Why couldn’t we be equal? Why was he in charge of deciding that I go first? What if I didn’t want to go first? I’m pretty headstrong as it is. But, I didn’t feel comfortable launching into a feminist tangent. After all, it wasn’t my calling.

So, needless to say, I walked away from that meeting with my head spinning: far more questions than answers.
But one thing I am sure of, patriarchy is alive and well.

Jessawhy

Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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  1. Maria says:

    Oh wow…here you go!

    I think you ABSOLUTELY are entitled to revelation on this, because it is going to affect your life dramatically. Who do you think will be picking up the slack for all the household/child-rearing duties while your husband is off being the EQP? No matter how wonderful, and devoted, or willing he is to share in these responsibilities, the fact of the matter is that there are only so many hours in the day. And if he is off doing the EQP stuff, he physically can’t do the household stuff.

    I think I’ve said this before, but I think in retrospect I should have negotiated paid outside (domestic) help to be part of the deal in accepting my DH’s calling. We really thought we could be committed to our 50-50 ideal, but the practical reality has played out much differently.

    I have much more to say on the topic, but the household stuff is my knee-jerk reaction to your post this morning.

  2. Janna says:

    This is going to come out strong, and contrary to my normal take on things…

    Patriarchy notwithstanding, it’s not your calling. If I were called to a position in the church, it’s not important to me whether my husband has a confirmation that I should accept it. It’s my relationship with God, and mine to work out the balance of tasks and responsibilities with my family in consultation with my husband. But, the prayerful yes/no is between me and God – and I would feel no need to confirm this answer with my spouse.

    From an outsider’s perspective, this seems to be more of an issue with the patriarchy more than anything. I’m 100% with you there.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why would someone emphasizing that you should be your husband’s first priority make you feel worse?

    If nit-picking at the semantics someone uses as he speaks is your only excuse for feeling bad, you need to lighten up a bit maybe.

  4. Naismith says:

    I love the photo; it really expresses how we can feel we are lost in the fog sometimes when we have to consider these life-changing decisions, and the answers may not come as fast or as clear as we would like.

    My experience when my husband was called as bishop and high councilor was that we were told he serves at my discretion. The stake president himself interviews the spouses of such people for temple recommend interviews, so that they can ask how things are going in the family and whether the calling is getting out of hand. (You might find that the bishop himself wants to do your interviews, for that same reason.)

    So I think the guy with the “wife first” lecture was trying to make that point, although perhaps not in the best way.

    BTW, I think your husband may be IDEAL because of having not been there for some years. It makes it less likely that he is part of one clique or another. I am sure I was called as RS president because I had no friends in the ward at the time, and thus could be more objective.

  5. Janna says:

    I think that Jessawhy is commenting that sometimes when leaders need to point out that you are important, you may not be, in reality. It’s akin to when leaders remind women of their value at the General RS Meeting. Do they say similar things at the Priesthood meeting, such as, “Wonderful men of church, know that you are loved and valued for your contributions”? No, because the inherent structure of the church values men. The fact that men need to be constantly reminded that women are valuable or require prioritization is a red flag to Jessawhy, I think. I see completely where she is coming from.

  6. Ana says:

    My husband was just released after serving about 4 years as eqp in our ward. It was terrifying for me to lose so much of his time, but he loved serving in this calling. He gained strong relationships with his peers in the ward and a lot of insight about how the leadership of the ward saw things and worked. He shared a lot with me and I ended up learning a great deal, as well. He also learned, eventually, to balance things, delegate, and overall work the calling in a way that it did not feel like such a burden on our family. It can be done. You can support this if you choose. I ended up being glad of it, in the end. Good luck to you both.

  7. claire says:

    This is a great opportunity to negotiate…. he could feel good about accepting, but only if certain (VERY HELPFUL) people round out his presidency, and you are released and given a less time consuming calling (VT supervisor, RS instructor, CS committee,what ever you would ENJOY that is not taking a lot of time from your family). I have no issue making these sorts of requests (demands?) When my DH was EQP, it wasn’t that much more time consuming than clerking, or YM presidency, over the week. If you have good help with collecting HT stats, good teachers, then going to the extra meetings is the main time issue. But I don’t know your ward of course.

    BTW, when YOU are given a more time consuming calling, this goes both ways (he gets the easy calling). So I don’t see it as patriarchal. It’s a way to say yes and still address your concerns.

  8. Jessawhy says:

    Thanks for so many wonderful comments.
    Today has been a bear. My car wouldn’t start and we’re trying to refinance our home, so I’ve been on the phone all day. But now it is nap time and instead of cleaning the house, I’m blogging. 🙂
    Maria,
    Thanks for reminding me about negotiating for help. Right now we can’t afford to hire someone, but maybe talking about that would help DH understand what kind of strain I anticipate. You also expressed the difference between the ideal and the reality, which is a huge problem for me. Lowering my expectation will be the way to go there.
    Janna,
    I can see what you’re saying about it not being my calling. There was a ZD post not too long ago about who should have the more time-consuming calling, the husband or wife, and most women preferred to have it themselves. I know I do because then I have control over how I most efficiently spend my time. It’s hard for me to watch DH do things his way and think that if I did it it would be more efficient and he’d have more time at home. (yes, the controlling monster in me shows herself)
    Anonymous,
    Maybe I was nitpicking. But, I liked Janna’s explanation. Also, neither the Stk Counselor or High Councilor introduced themselves to me (I came later that DH), and only one of them shook my hand as we left, while both shook my husband’s hand. It’s hard to explain, but there’s an issue of eye contact, body language, etc. that just makes me feel like I have to prove myself in a way that I don’t feel around men who aren’t in the church.
    Naismith: Thanks for the comment on the photo. I like that it’s a bridge, because I know that difficult callings do bring us to a new place, even though we struggle through the unknown.
    Well, being the wife of a bishop would be much more difficult. I’m interested to know the ages of your children when he got that calling?
    I do think they want our house “to be in order,” at least that was the first question they asked us. But, what does that mean? Right now my husband has a good job, but is not making enough money to make ends meet. He’ll be better off in a year or two, but right now things are really tight and it’s adding stress to our marriage. Also, I’m dealing with lots of questions about the church, and God in general. But, I didn’t feel comfortable saying any of those things, mostly because I wasn’t sure they really wanted to hear them, and also because I would embarrass my husband. Maybe we’re unusual, but I wonder how many people answer that question honestly, or what exactly they mean by “is your house in order?”
    Thanks for your comments.
    Ana,
    My husband’s older brother spent 4 years as EQP and his wife told me last night that the first year was the hardest, too. I hope my husband gains strong relationships with his peers as that is something he really needs, and we’ve both been praying for.
    Claire,
    Really good counselors are the most important thing. Yes! When he was in YM’s, there was no one who would really help him out, so he struggled a lot.
    I hope you’re right about the time commitment not being so much as long as he has the big items under control.

    I’ve really enjoyed all of your comments!

  9. Can't Ever Win says:

    “It’s hard to explain, but there’s an issue…”

    Yes, and it is yours. At least partially. I know in my calling, I bust my butt trying to make sure no one – especially wives – are offended, and no matter what I do, someone always finds huge fault in it.

    I wish people would stop reading so much in to what happens: “he didn’t shake my hand”, “he talked to my husband about my calling”, “he didn’t talk to my husband about my calling”, “he didn’t invite us both to the interview”, “he invited us both to the interview”.

    Both men and women do this, and while I am sure some people my be partially discriminatory, the vast majority of us are just trying to extend the right calling so we can actually help the people in the ward that really need it.

    Some days I feel like standing up in a meeting and screaming at the top of my lungs:
    “Will you all just chill out some and cut us some slack for once!”

  10. mraynes says:

    Wow, that sounds familiar! I wonder if they give that speech to every wife. We got a call a couple of months ago asking us to meet with the stake presidency after SM. Luckily DH only got called as EQ 2nd counselor but I did get that same speech. Plus when the 2nd counselor in the SP met with me individually, he started our meeting with a prayer that went something like this…

    “Dear Father, blah blah blah. Please help Sister M understand how wonderful it is to be a woman and that she will joyfully fulfill her role as supporter and nurturer…” I’ll give this brother the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t trying to manipulate me but it was a very effective tactic. I couldn’t say no after that for fear of coming off as unsupportive and unrighteous. My place as a wife and a woman was very well communicated to me and I have to be honest, I was unprepared for how to respond to it.

    Yes, the patriarchy is alive and well. After our meeting with the Stake Presidency, the SP took me aside and commented how lucky I am to have a worthy priesthood holder and that I must be so proud that DH is capable of priesthood leadership. I responded that I am proud of the man that my husband is but it has very little to do with his priesthood. That surprised the SP but I had had it by that point.

    I know that people will read this and dismiss us as bitter and nit-picky. Maybe that’s true but I don’t like feeling manipulated. I will support my husband in his effort to serve God, I don’t need the sales pitch.

    Jessawhy, your husband will be a wonderful EQ president. Plus, think of all the feminist propaganda he can push on those unwitting elders ☺.

  11. BgIOgirl says:

    Why don’t you consider leaving your faith? It seems so incredibly sexist. I’m particularly bothered by the number of women wasting years of their lives as stay-at-home moms in LDS and other Christian faiths. It’s such a complete waste for college educated women to stay at home and be with an infant or small child when they could be having a career.

  12. Caroline says:

    Best of luck, Jessawhy. I’m sure it will be difficult, but hopefully it will also be exciting to see the good your husband can do with this position. My husband was called as clerk a couple of years ago. The time he spends in long, unorganized meetings is frustrating, but it’s also kind of neat to know that he’s there speaking up and watching out for women’s concerns, etc.

    Mraynes, what an awful meeting with your sp guy. I too would feel manipulated by such comments, even if that wasn’t the intention.

    bfiogirl, to each her own is my motto. For me, being a feminist means supporting women in whatever they find most fulfilling, whether that’s raising kids or pursuing a career.

  13. FoxyJ says:

    When I was called to be Primary President, the bishop met with my husband to find out if he would be supportive and all that. It was a few years ago so I don’t remember all the other details. When you have been called to be president of something (anyone, not just the author of the post), have they talked to your spouse too or was my experience unusual?

  14. Jessawhy says:

    Thanks again for the comments.
    My husband wants me to applaud “Can’t Ever Win” for your bullseye comment.
    I can see your point as well, but think that greater sensitivity isn’t always a bad thing. But truthfully, I want people to cut me slack, so I should do the same. Enough said.
    mraynes,
    It sounds like we had very similar experiences. I like what you said about being proud of your husband for who he is, not because of his priesthood. And I hadn’t thought about my husband’s influence for good with women’s issues. That is really encouraging.
    (ps, he’s also talking about ending EQ 5 minutes early. That will make him the fan of every Primary teacher)
    bgiogirl,
    I was confused about the tone of your comment. Were you serious or sarcastic?
    Caroline,
    Thanks for the well wishes. I did feel a kind of confirmation about my husband’s calling today. It came while I was helping my teary 5 yo learn to share. I told him that I have trouble sharing sometimes, too. Then I realized that I need to share my husband with the ward for a while and that it will be good for all of us in the long run, even though it might not be easy in the short run. Yet another example that God teaches me just like I try to teach my kids.

  15. Jessawhy says:

    FoxyJ,
    I haven’t been president of anything. I was the secretary in the Primary once, but they just met with me.
    But, I think it is common for presidents, men or women.

  16. FoxyJ says:

    My husband’s last calling before leaving the church was in the EQ presidency and I was proud of him for introducing things in their lessons that many elders quorums don’t get into much: self-esteem issues, intimacy with other men (ie friendship & sharing–many men feel isolated in their quorums), pornography, personal spirituality. He really tried to foster a spirit of connection among the men in our ward; many men are missing a sense of “brotherhood” at church and could use more of an active promotion of that.

  17. Jessawhy says:

    FoxyJ,
    I read your comment to my husband and he really agreed with the topics you listed. He is wondering if he could email your husband for more information about how he brought up these topics and how it went over in the quorum. If that is something your husband would be okay with (I know you mentioned he left the church) please email me at jessawhy at gmail dot com.
    Thanks for your comments.

  18. Naismith says:

    Yes, I think they do interview and expect husbands to sacrifice and support their wives when the wife is called to leadership.

    In once case, a general RS president’s calling meant that her husband’s mission presidency had to end a year early.

    In my case, my husband had to be released from the bishopric in order to have me serve as ward RS president, as our children were too young to be left alone.

  19. Ziff says:

    Janna, I love this point you made.

    It’s akin to when leaders remind women of their value at the General RS Meeting. Do they say similar things at the Priesthood meeting, such as, “Wonderful men of church, know that you are loved and valued for your contributions”? No, because the inherent structure of the church values men.

    Exactly!

    Jessawhy, I’m so glad to hear that your husband wants to end EQ 5 minutes early. That should make all the dads with kids in primary his fans too. I know I find it frustrating to have EQ go over consistently by 5 minutes, because with my wife always doing RS stuff, I’m left chasing my kids down. They’re just old enough to convince their teachers they can go, so they go and run around the church and I have to find them.

    Good luck, Jessawhy, to you and your husband, and your kids. I hope it turns out to be more good than stress, or that the stress is at least usually worth it.

  20. Jessawhy says:

    Ziff,
    Thanks for your encouragement. I always appreciate a man who understands some of the feminist concerns of women like me. (of course, if you weren’t at least a little sympathetic, I think you’d be kicked out of the Zelophehad clan pretty quick 😉
    I’m hoping that EQP won’t be too much more work than YM Pres was. As far as ending 5 min early, I’m going to hold him to it.

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