I remember one time when my siblings and I were growing up that my mom asked my brother (who was probably ten or so at the time) to help with the dinner dishes. He responded with “No, that’s woman’s work!” My mom, however, wasn’t the one who set my brother straight—it was my dad. My dad was the first to step in and tell my brother that his comment was not only disrespectful, but it also didn’t reflect our values as a family. In our family, no one was exempt from dish duty, man, woman, or child.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church) shares these values. Husbands and wives are intended to work together and share the load, even when it means washing dishes.
Roles within the Family
God designed men and women with specific purpose and endowed men and women with specific talents and responsibilities. In an official statement issued by Church leaders in 1995, we learn that “by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
This statement goes on to say that “in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” Think about the family as a small business with each parent as a project manager: each manager heads up a different sector of family life, but those responsibilities are not mutually exclusive. A wife can certainly help generate income and manage finances, while a husband can do dishes and put the kids to bed.
Men and Women Are Partners
I have so many memories of my dad working on dinner dishes. Even after a long day at work or church meetings, my dad so many times would be the first to start cleaning up dinner, and he often did it without being asked. My mom also did all she could to help our family financially. When we hit some difficult financial times, she gave up her job as a full-time stay-at-home-mom—her dream job—to find part-time work to help support our family.
What makes marriage and family work is selflessness and service, both principles central to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. While husbands and wives each have separate responsibilities, they will be successful in those responsibilities only if they seek to help the other. I learned from my parents that men and women should seek to help and serve the other, especially when that service falls under the purview of the other’s responsibility.
Fathers Should Follow the Savior’s Example
The best example for parenting that fathers have is that of our Savior. Jesus Christ was not discriminatory in His service, nor did He ever think Himself too important to engage in that service. In Matthew 9 we receive valuable insight into understanding how the Lord served others. Christ began His day by healing a man of the palsy and inviting a man named Matthew to follow Him. Later that day, a father approached Him and asked that Jesus heal His daughter, who had recently died. On His way to serve this family, He healed a woman of a bleeding disease. After He restored life to the dead girl, He healed some blind men and cast a devil out of another. Talk about a busy day!
This account of one day shows brilliantly how Jesus Christ served wherever He saw a need, no matter how busy or tired He must have been. We should also take note that the people in this chapter approached Christ themselves, and likewise fathers should be approachable to their wife and children. They should always know that their father is a source they can go to for help and strength.
As a father becomes involved in family life, he should seek opportunities to serve his wife and children. (And trust me—there are always opportunities to serve in a family!) A father can and should not only offer financial support, but should also provide emotional support to those in his care and seek to lift the burdens of his loved ones when possible. The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect example to both fathers and mothers for how to interact with each other and with their children.
Presiding Over the Family Is an Involved Responsibility
Having the duty to preside over his family does not mean that a husband and father has the final say or is the highest parental authority. Husbands and wives are directed that they are “equal partners,” and understanding what it truly means to preside is crucial. Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said this about a father’s responsibility to preside:
Fathers, by divine decree, you are to preside over your family units. This is a sobering responsibility and the most important one you will ever assume, for it is an eternal responsibility. You will place the family in its proper priority. It’s the part of your life that will endure beyond the grave (“Fatherhood, an Eternal Calling”).
Mormon dads do the dishes because they want to serve their wife and children. They do the dishes because they are not above menial housework. They do the dishes because their family is most important to them. They do the dishes because they strive to parent and love like their Savior.
Charlotte graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in English, with an emphasis in editing. During her education she interned with the Neal A.Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, BYU Publications, and the New Era magazine. Charlotte currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son. She's a stay-at-home-mom and has been able to keep up her writing through maintaining a personal blog (smallandtrivial.blogspot.com).