Before the era of single income households, and the growing rate of single parents, the disappearance of the structured work day and week and the decimation of core morals and values by the impulsive cravings of instant gratification; there was a position in the family hierarchy known as the head of the house, or head of household. This position still exists albeit scattered demographically globally, but the importance of it has become somewhat diluted.
The head of the house was tasked with earning financial support for the household, making major decisions, and overall providing strong leadership and definitive direction for all members of the household. The majority of these individuals were male, although some females held down the position just as well as the males in situations where circumstances dictated she head the house. In family dinner photos from the 20th century, the head of household always sat at the head of the table, a physical position that denoted their position in the family hierarchy. Most importantly however is that the success and well-being of the household depended largely upon the head of the household being qualified to be the head of the house. It wasn’t an assigned or an assumed position, it was an earned one. One earned a long time before they even showed up in the households they led.
This observation of the standard family structure from yesteryear lead me to the notion I should present this question to readers of this post.
The past decades have ushered in contented social attitudes about casual relationships, diluted marriage values, compromised sexual standards, bartered relationship commitments, and impromptu pregnancies. A lot of these shifting intimate attitudes seemed predicated by a desperate need among some to simply have a companion. This need to simply have a body, or attention, or a figure in some people’s lives have led to some folks arbitrarily letting the responsibility of the Head of Household default to folks that don’t even come close to qualifying for the role, and in some cases don’t want it.
Much to do has been made about checking credit, criminal, and financial histories of a person being considered for a long term partner. Exhaustive focus is targeted on the financial worthiness of the male and sexual facilities of the female. Very rarely however; are these people’s social resumes scrutinized for validity and depth.
Rich with great credit, great in bed, and no criminal history doesn’t always mean someone is qualified to lead. They could very well have stolen every cent the have, paid for everything in cash, and never got caught by the authorities. Hardly someone you’d want sitting at the head of your dinner or breakfast table. But it happens. And it happens because in these times of instant gratification, and lives unfulfilled by materialistic acquisitions, and unrewarding careers, time available to cultivate human relationships has become of the essence. All too often we rubber stamp people into our intimate lives “accepted” because if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and says its a duck, it must be a duck. And therein lies the problem.
Right now in more households than could probably be counted in one evening, there are people masquerading as heads of households and are about as qualified for the role as I am to perform brain surgery. And inside these homes are some troubled, confused and misguided children. If there is another adult (spouse, girlfriend boyfriend) in the home, they’re not too happy either. Because the purported leader is failing them. Bills probably aren’t getting paid on time, if at all, the children are mediocre academic achievers, and the other partner is emotionally and spiritually drained by disappointment and confusion. And the alleged leader is frustrated and in some cases downright angry because they’re failing miserably in their role as a leader. If this sounds like a bad business that’s about to fold , then you’ve identified the perfect parallel that mirrors an ill led family. Like a successful business, successful families reflect successful leadership.
Then there are the sad scenarios where two adults are present in the household structure and they choose to compete vigorously with each other to avoid relinquishing this “mythical” control they think they have. They fail to realize or accept that leadership is about guidance integrity, decision-making, and leading by example. They don’t realize that leadership is bigger than who’s wearing the pants or has the biggest balls. Nothing will tear an organization apart quicker than a bickering deceitful upper hierarchy.
Here is a sobering question. Would you hire someone to run your company that had little or no leadership skills? Everyone responding to that question will come in with a “no.” But some of those same people will turn over leadership reins of their personal and family lives to people that can’t lead them across the street on a slow Sunday Morning.
So what constitutes a good head of household?
They have to be respected. And that respect has to be voluntarily conceded by the other members of the family and not demanded by the Head of Household. If one has to demand respect that simply means someone is reluctant to give you respect and usually there is a reason behind that reluctance.
They have are concrete decision makers.
They are confident.
They are not afraid to be constructively critical
They have to be effective planners.
They hold themselves accountable.
They don’t threaten, they ask.
They know and understand each family member’s strengths and weaknesses.
Their leadership values are reflected in their actions
They have a diverse repertoire of domestic skills. There is no feminine or male designation, there is however; a who’s best suited to accomplish designation.
They are enterprising.
This list is comprised of some of the core characteristics a head of household should bring to the table but is by no means an end all be all requisite. And the list is not inclusive to two adult households; it is applicable to single adult households also. Single adults have no option than to take on the leadership role and most often do very well at it being motivated by the “sink or swim” mentality I’d suppose. If they are witnessing dysfunctional characteristics occurring in their family units it wouldn’t hurt them to evaluate their leadership attributes.
The examples and fallout of poor household leadership are diverse and pompous. We see them every day. I’m not suggesting either that households with strong effective leaders don’t have problems however; they’re usually not problems of the magnitude of the household with the weak or absent leader. Families with a strong respected leadership figure will produce children with higher academic accolades, and a low percentage of abnormal percentage problems, more consistent financial structures, healthier family members, and longer sustained marriages and relationships.
So if your marriage or relationship is all over the road with no direction defined, it could be the Head of The House is ineffective in harnessing leadership of your unit.
If such is the case, its time for a heart to heart talk or even a changing of the guard. Changing of the guard doesn’t always require extremes such as divorce or the dissolution of the relationship. Maybe the adults should switch leadership roles and see if that improves things. Remember leadership roles are not gender specific and it’s not capitulating to concede the reins of leadership to someone of a different gender. Remember, a good leader also cosigns what’s in the best interest of the family. Sometimes that may require someone to step down but not step away.