Two Heads of Household
By Dani Addante
A friend was telling me about a C.S. Lewis quote that explained why men are the head of household. I told her I didn’t believe in the head of household idea. The quote said that a man is the head of household because the woman is aggressive when something threatens her kids, so the man gets the final say in order for things to be fair.
Really? Men are more fair than women? Look at history and you’ll find that this just isn’t true. I kindly told my friend that she has to look at the personality of the individuals. Surely fairness is not based on gender.
When I was engaged, I decided I didn’t want to come second in my marriage. In fact, thinking of the man presiding caused me to not want to get married. I didn’t feel happy. I felt very uncomfortable and didn’t know how to react. One thing kept bothering me: What if the head of household idea was doctrine? I was so confused.
I wanted to find a husband who saw me as an equal. We would make decisions together. My husband would not have the final say or call himself head of household. We would be heads of household. Two heads are better than one, right?
If one person is head of household, surely it means that person is superior in some way. It would demean the other person.
I prayed for a long time to know about this. Eventually, I came to the knowledge that God views men and women as equals, and that I could definitely have an equal relationship. I noticed that when I wasn’t thinking of a life of inequality, I felt happy and free.
I asked for a priesthood blessing during a time when I felt very hurt by inequality. I was told that God does not view women as inferior, and that men and women are equal. It was very comforting for me to hear this. I had begun to think that maybe God was sexist. But I heard with my own ears that God is NOT sexist.
Shortly after I got married I began to see some sexism at church that I hadn’t noticed before. It wasn’t anything too serious, just some little things here and there that made me uncomfortable.
For example, while filling out the new member form (we had just moved out of the singles ward and into a family ward) I noticed something strange.
At the top half of the page it said “head of household” and asked about priesthood ordination. At the bottom half of the page was written “spouse” or “wife.” I can’t tell you how uncomfortable I felt when I saw that.
I wanted to put both our names under “head of household,” but when I saw the priesthood ordination line, I thought, “This doesn’t apply to me.”
So I hesitantly filled out the form. I crossed out “head of household” and wrote “husband” instead.
I would feel some dread when I went on lds.org to view the directory. It had the term “head of household” with my husband’s name right under it, and then my name under his. I also noticed that they would put his email address under both our names.
I felt like I’d been demoted.
I’m sure the ward leaders weren’t trying to put me down. It’s just the way the ward directory system is set up.
The Family Proclamation says that husbands and wives are supposed to help each other as equal partners. This means that they both nurture, protect, provide, and preside. I believe this in the fullest sense. If a woman is a stay-at-home mom, she is still providing for the family by working at home, even though she’s not paid. While she may not be providing income, she is a provider of time and keeps the house running.
If couples are equal partners, then it makes sense that there are two heads of household. It doesn’t make sense to have a head of household while at the same time affirming that men and women are equal partners.
Despite the conflicting messages I hear at church on this topic, I know that men and women are equal partners. I will continue to live the doctrine of gender equality.
I look forward to the day when the system the ward directory uses and the member forms they use in church will reflect the gender equality the church believes in.
Next time I come across one of those forms, I will cross out those dreaded words “head of household.” I might even make my own form and hand that in instead.
Dani has a B.A. in Creative Writing and loves to write young adult fantasy novels. She has an adorable pet guinea pig and loves chocolate-chip cookies.