I live a charmed life. I have a beautiful wife who works hard to support me so that I can stay home with our two boys and work part-time in a ministry about which I am passionate. Ruth honors me with a great deal of credit for her professional success, though in truth, she has earned a lot of it with a work ethic that makes me look rather pathetic.
By God’s grace, however, I have managed to do two things that have been important in her success. First, I have supported her when she felt inadequate for her work. Her training was difficult, as she was a first-generation college student in elite institutions. Her tenure track years have been even more so, as she has excelled in another elite institution while bearing and raising two children. And the pressure to perform will only increase as she becomes a tenured associate professor this fall. Anyone would struggle to keep up with that workload, and anyone could harbor doubts about his or her ability to do so. At these moments of doubt, I have reminded her that 1) her training was world class; 2) her work ethic is unbelievable; and most to the point, 3) God has placed her here for his purposes, and he will make sure she has whatever she needs to fulfill those purposes. Her self-doubt is often imperceptible to those around her, but I can see it, and I have to step in and bolster her confidence. Brothers, no one knows our wives as well as we do, so it is on us to look out for them in this area, as they make their way in an academic world that is often particularly brutal to women.
I have also intentionally subordinated my own professional aspirations to Ruth’s. I saw special potential in her to make a tremendous impact on her students and colleagues, and I wanted to do whatever was necessary to help her succeed in that mission. Too many of Ruth’s female colleagues have to navigate the tenure track while also taking primary responsibility for their home life and supporting their husband’s careers above their own. The burden is crushing. Even worse, these women have to compete against male colleagues in their fields who don’t face anything like the same burden. I decided, then, that Ruth and I would be a team in every way. Her success would be my success, and if her success required that I postpone some of my own goals to stay home with the kids and take care of the house (however sloppily!), then that would be my privilege.
I understand that our situation would not work for everyone. For one thing, Ruth makes enough money as a professor to support the family comfortably. In addition, I have felt called since college into vocational ministry, and InterVarsity has offered me the chance to exercise that calling part-time, while allowing me to focus first on supporting Ruth and raising our children. Each family arrangement will look different, but I encourage you to open your heart and mind to all the possibilities, including that of planting yourself proudly in the professional shadow of your wife, spurring her on to the highest levels of success, receiving her calling as your own, and counting her success equally as your success. As I said, I live a charmed life.