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Paradigm Change

Stephen Rymer reflects on a life-changing experience.

In 1995, after 27 years of married life, a change in both our jobs completely overturned an established way of life. I began to work from home and my wife, until then the long-term home-maker, became a commuter.

At first the change seemed minimal. As we breakfasted together she might say, "I've filled and started the washing machine. Would you hang the clothes out on the line when the cycle's finished?" No problem with that!

Later I became aware that it wasn't right to leave her to cook supper after she got home. Surely I could do that. A new pattern emerged. Start preparing supper, get it cooking, go to the station to collect the commuter, on returning finish off the cooking and serve the meal.

But then the real issues began to emerge. While I was alone in the house, I had the confidence to make any decisions, choosing the menu, determining the cooking time and temperature. But the moment the 'expert' walked back in through the front door, my confidence walked out and I found myself leaving it to her to make the final decisions; Was the pasta sufficiently cooked? Should I put butter on the new potatoes? How do you make custard?

Then one day, the question of 'ownership' reared its head. "Those chops were bought for Sunday lunch", she said. I had used them on Wednesday! Who owned the contents of the freezer or cupboards? Was it the purchaser?

There were some salutary lessons to be learned in this paradigm change to our married life, and a decade later, we are still married.

The church will have to face those issues eventually. Can the 'ownership' and responsibility continue to be left to the professionally trained expert, or do other members have to take responsibility for the family's life in a complete change of paradigm?

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