Acceptance in the ‘nontraditional’

The Poseys do things a little differently.

When Trisha Posey found out she was pregnant, she didn’t tell anyone for five months. She was happily married to her husband of seven years, and they had been hoping for a child.

Posey was researching for her dissertation at the University of Maryland, and the academic directors were reviewing funds to distribute to graduate students.

Posey was worried that if they found out she was pregnant they would assume she was dropping out of school and would see supporting her education as a waste.

She was granted the funds, and later announced her pregnancy to her academic colleagues.

“Well, it’s a shame your career is over now and you’ll only think of babies,” said the graduate director of the history department.

Elliot was born in 2005, just after his mother’s research phase had ended and her writing phase began.

Trisha Posey is now an assistant professor of history at John Brown University with a doctoral degree and three children.

In the Posey household, Trisha goes to work and Jake stays home with the children. Elliot is in kindergarten.

In college Posey majored in history and focused on her graduate plans. She hadn’t thought much about marriage. Posey began dating her future husband their sophomore year. As things became serious, she realized that she wanted both grad school and Jake.

“I was so concerned that if I got married, I would have to give up my dream of grad school,” she said.

Posey had decided to become a counselor. Graduate degrees in history were frivolous, she thought. History doesn’t help society, and God could use her more as a counselor than a professor. By her senior year she had been accepted by Denver Seminary. She and Jake were engaged and making plans to move to Denver.

But one sunny afternoon in the fall Posey broke down in tears. “I want to get a PhD in history,” she told him, sitting on his blue couch. “I don’t want to do counseling. I think God can use my history degree, too.”

Posey was scared that she was changing their plan too much. “I feel like I’ve changed things to the point that you won’t want to marry me anymore,” she cried.

Jake calmly told her that he loved her and they were getting married no matter what. “We will face our future as a unit, as a family,” he comforted. “I will support you no matter what. Get your PhD in history.”

The Poseys married in 1998, right after they graduated college.

She was the first person in her family to finish college and seek a graduate degree.

They pray together at least once a week, sitting on a couch and focusing on their joint relationship with God. They have many talks about men, women and work.

As they finished their master’s degrees, they talked about their future family. It grew apparent that she was passionate about teaching while Jake was content to stay at home with children.

“Well, I suppose I don’t have to be the one that works fulltime,” he said one day on the couch. “It could be you.”

As they prayed about their roles, Posey was able to look at the historical context of women and work.

“The idea that women had to stay home really isn’t prevalent until the 19th century,” she said. “Before that, everyone’s work was done at home. Even the Puritans, who followed Scripture more carefully than any other religious group, had men and women working alongside one another. Scripture never says that men have to work outside the home and women must stay at home.”

While the Poseys agree that God made men and women differently, it doesn’t mean that their jobs never overlap.

Although Posey felt criticism from her fellow scholars regarding her family’s nontraditional lifestyle, she has sensed only acceptance for her family in the small evangelical communities they have lived in.

“At JBU I felt welcomed with open arms as a faculty and as a parent,” she said. “People here meet others with nontraditional families with openness. I think some of that is because JBU is so family-focused.”

Posey plans to continue working fulltime. Her husband would like to do some work when their children are in school.

Though most people are supportive and encouraging of their decision, it is not always well understood. Jake sometimes speaks at a class a JBU about parenting. He fields questions about their family, parenting techniques, marriage, and overall lifestyle.

“How do you know you wife respects you?” one student asked him.

Jake was surprised and had a little difficulty answering the question. “I guess I just assume she does,” he answered. “We’ve never really talked about it. It’s not an issue for us, and it isn’t related to who works in the family.”

He told his wife about the question, and she was as surprised as he.

“I guess the question makes sense if the basis for respect is built on the father and husband providing financial security for his family. But I don’t really see it that way,” Posey said. “I respect him for being a great dad, a friend, and a spiritual mentor. Whether I am the main worker or not isn’t part of it.”