I was talking to a friend last week about going to church, and he was saying that his wife is interested in finding another church than the faith she was raised. He was saying he doesn't particularly care to go to church at all, and I suggested he just stay home like thousands of men across America do, and let his wife do the churching for the both of them.
I say this, in all seriousness, because it is how we do things in our household. Mark comes to church with me sometimes, but often, I go alone. Frankly, I prefer to go alone. It's me-time. I've been going to church alone since high school, when my parents told me I could stop and I said, "no thanks, I'll keep going." I've always assumed that, like my family, I will take our children to Sunday school and Mark will stay at home and do the laundry (much like now) or do the dishes. (I don't go to church just to get out of doing housework, but it's a bonus.) Growing up, I went to church or Sunday school with my mom and my sister and my Dad stayed home and made lunch for us and my grandparents, who often came over after church for lunch.
Anyway, my friend said that his wife gets annoyed by the women-at-church family dynamic, and she doesn't want to be one of those women who goes to church alone or with the kids. I can understand this perspective, I suppose, but it seems to me that if only one person in a relationship enjoys an activity, and the other does it, only the person who enjoys it should do it. However, there are people who view church not as enjoyable, but as an obligation. This makes church much more like dinner with the in-laws, and therefore it seems more fair that both partners should have to suffer through. Let's review that I'm a Unitarian, and our sermons are fun, do not make you feel guilty, and there is no communion or anything else to make a person who doesn't "belong" feel awkward. So if you feel differently about church, please share in the comments! I'm very curious about the churchgoing activities and desires of others.
As we've been married, I don't go to church as often as I would like, but this is mostly because in the winter months, my churchgoing gets replaced by the Church of Hockey. I have women's leagues games on Sunday, often around the same time as the only service at my church here in Baltimore. I also still don't really feel at home here in Baltimore. The church is just different. My lack of churchgoing has nothing to do with my husband not supporting my churchgoing, or anything but my own busyness or laziness. All of that will be changing pretty soon though, because my sister bought a house.
My sister bought a house that is about a mile from my home church. My home church, where I still feel like I belong. My home church, which has 9am and 10:45am services. My home church, which is about 3 miles from my parents house. My home church, that my grandmother goes to. My home church, where I know the ministers and the Sunday School teachers and the kids I grew up with. So what better excuse could there be for returning to my home church than to get to go to church (hopefully with my Mom) and then having lunch with (or watch Redskins games with) my big sister and my Mom? I'm obviously really excited about this plan, and I don't mind telling you: it never even occurred to me that Mark might want to come with me. I assume he'll either come down and hang out with my BIL, or stay home and do the laundry. (Last Friday, I overloaded the washer and also melted the detergent cup. Then the dryer didn't dry everything properly and it got left for the weekend because I didn't notice. I am not going to be encouraged to do the laundry ever again.)
I feel like it would be easy to look at this dynamic and say that church is for women, and women go to church and get mad at their husbands for not going; but I think for a lot of women, church creates an opportunity to build communities with other women. I think that some women, like me, relish the space that church creates for them; but other women, like my friend, worry about being forced into a gender role or gender-based dynamic that they aren't comfortable with. But the question remains: how do we fight stereotypes when one of us really doesn't want to do something? Do you suck it up and spend an hour a week at church because it matters to your partner? Do you use church as a negotiating tactic or bargaining chip? Or do you just go it alone, or with other members of your own family/faith community, like I do?