In Defense of the Charlotte Mason Husband
The longer I use the Charlotte Mason method, the more I love it. I think many of my Charlotte Mason friends feel similarly. This is truly an amazing method that just keeps on giving.
And yet. There’s a little issue that creeps up now and then in my life, and by what I observe around the internet, maybe you’ve experienced this too: The case of the Charlotte Mason husband.
The Charlotte Mason husband is one who loves his wife and children, is supportive, hardworking, and intelligent; and yet he does not gain the respect of his wife, because he has failed to read and narrate six pink volumes.
My husband is fantastic, really he is. He works tirelessly for our family, putting food on the table, clothes on our backs, and books on our shelves. He listens to me while I relate school incidents, he lets me narrate Charlotte’s volumes to him (ad nauseum?), he has been my greatest supporter in this endeavor.
Despite all of this, I used to get a little dissatisfied from time to time. Sometimes I would wish he cared more…or that he would read some of Charlotte’s work. I wished he knew as much as I did about Plutarch, Shakespeare and art history. This dissatisfaction has at times made it difficult to see that he’s wonderful – just as he is.
He does not need to spend his evenings cramming Plutarch in order to be an intelligent father to our children and leader in our home. He already is those things.
The internet can be quite an unhelpful place at times. It shows us that there are some Charlotte Mason husbands reading her volumes, holding thoughtful discussions on her ideas, maybe doing things our husbands couldn’t even imagine. We might have to remind ourselves that it’s okay…to each his own, right?
What I have realized through all of this is very simple…but difficult:
My husband is thoughtful. He’s interested in what’s best for our family, and therefore willing to hear what Charlotte has to say on the issue at hand. I’ve learned that I don’t get to call all the shots for these children – my husband will have to answer to the Lord for how he lead his family and raised his children, so it follows that he will need to be able to veto things that he doesn’t feel are best for our children. I’ve learned that if he and Charlotte disagree, that it is my husband I am called to submit to “in all things”.
This is simple. And difficult.
I remember coming back from a Charlotte Mason gathering one time, gushing over Shakespeare and my new understanding of that subject. In the course of explaining to my husband all that I knew (and I assumed he didn’t), I managed to imply that he just wasn’t in my intellectual league. I was demeaning. I was snooty. We argued. It was unpleasant. At some point I unfortunately said: “If only you had read what I’ve read on the subject…”
People, he has a Masters.
He studies and reads widely all week in preparation for his sermons each Sunday.
Oh, the pride! The hypocrisy! The complete lack of understanding on my part of how intelligent he is on matters I know NOTHING about! (That he chooses not to rub in my face!)
Shame on me. Charlotte would never have approved of this behavior. I groaned a little when I came across this:
“Bearing in mind how easy it is to hurt other people’s bodies through their minds, we begin to see that a word may hurt as much as a blow, that a want of courtesy may do as much harm to another as want of food.
Once we see this, we are courteous to the words of others; we listen, we do not contradict, we try to understand; and, when other persons express their opinions, however much they may differ from those in which we have been brought up, we keep ourselves from violence in thought and word, and listen with deference where we cannot agree.
Then, when we state our own notions with gentleness and modesty, we shall find that they are gently received.”
-Charlotte Mason, Ourselves -“Justice to the Persons of Others”
And what is the remedy for this little issue that can easily destroy the peace of our home and school?
Gratitude. If our men love God, care for us, provide for us, and buy us some beautiful old books occasionally, then by all means, let’s be grateful! Those men are Charlotte Mason husbands, doing just what God has asked of them: To love Him, to provide for us, and to lead their children in the ways of the Lord.
When our homes are full of gratitude, our children will thrive, our husbands will be happy, and our hearts will be at rest.
“A glance, a smile, a word of appreciation and recognition straight from the heart, will fill the person who has done us a kindness with pleasure.”
-Charlotte Mason, Ourselves page 109