Right Answers, Wrong Questions
by Susan Harris Howell
One reason that questions about men and women continue to confound us, I’m convinced, is that we’re asking the wrong questions, which tend to lead us to inadequate answers. So in an effort to un-confound things, I offer the following tweaked questions (TQ) so we can move toward answers that are more effective in addressing our concerns.
Q: How can a woman adequately balance work and family?
TQ: It’s difficult, but then it’s also difficult for a man to balance them both. How does he do it?
Q: Typically by having a spouse who helps him reach his career goals and who will be there for the children when he is overwhelmed at work.
TQ: Wouldn’t that also help a woman – having a spouse who helps her reach career goals while stepping up involvement in childcare?
Q: But what about his career? How can he be what his wife and children need while still attending to his own career advancement?
TQ: Are you asking how he would then balance family and work? Good question, and a tough one at that. Maybe if we start out in marriage asking this question of both the man and the woman, they can have a plan in place so that neither has the full responsibility (and privilege) of a career, nor the full privilege (and responsibility) of a family.
Q: But, aren’t some women called to be full-time homemakers?
TQ: I have no doubt. But, we should also ask if some men are called to do the same. Then the real question becomes: Why aren’t we encouraging men to fulfill that role when God calls them to do so?
Q: I’m saying, shouldn’t a man be a good provider for his family?
TQ: Of course, but should we limit his providing to bringing home money? Shouldn’t we instead be asking: How should a man provide for his family? Should it all be about finances? Shouldn’t it also include providing his time and attention?
Q: In a situation like that, could she still respect him? I definitely believe men want respect from their wives.
TQ: If they don’t, they should. In fact, I don’t know anyone, husband or wife, who is content without respect. Have we studied the need for respect among wives?
Q: So you’re saying…?
TQ: I’m saying there are many more questions than the ones we’ve been asking. Shouldn’t we start asking them?
Sometimes it isn’t about getting the right answer; sometimes it’s about asking the right question. The next time you’re stumped for an answer, consider revising your question. Or, if you’d like, share your question with us and maybe we can find the right question for an answer that leads us all closer to the truth.