How does marriage work when the wife has a high-power position in the working world?
By Cindy Easley
Money is power. At least that’s the theory in most of the world. Not so in Washington, D.C. Inside the Beltway it’s not what you know but who you know. It’s not how much money you have but how much power you yield.
Janet Parshall knows everyone. In talk radio, she is a power broker. More than likely you’ve heard Janet’s voice over the airwaves as she hosts her nationally syndicated radio program Janet Parshall’s America. Or you may have seen her face on Fox News, CNN, Hardball, Larry King Live or even in People magazine. Janet is an articulate spokesperson and an advocate for principles and policies that strengthen the family, and she’s the smartest woman I know.
Babies and legal briefs
Janet and Craig married at the end of their junior year in college. As they approached graduation, Craig considered attending seminary. Both had a passion to serve Christ but were unsure of where that would lead them. However, several people counseled Craig to consider law school, because at the time there were no Christian civil rights groups fighting for religious rights.
The next few years Craig attended law school while Janet stayed at home raising their four children. This was not what Janet had expected. “I had been working on my master’s degree in music for vocal performance. I was an opera singer, and thought I’d have this big career singing as a mezzo soprano in the opera while Craig was at law school.”
Years later, Janet would reflect on this significant time in her life. “Women do lead lives different than men. We lead lives in seasons, and something is rich and precious and enduring in each one. In each season, God would inevitably teach me something that would be used in the following season.”
Stepping into the culture wars
“As the kids grew up, we sent them to the local school a block away, the same school I had attended and taught in. The oldest came home one day and said, ‘Mom we had an interesting day at school. They made us sit in a magic circle and they passed around a red scarf. When the scarf got to us, we had to answer three questions: Do you bite your nails, do you wet the bed, and if your parents divorced, who would you want to live with?’
“I honestly thought that the floor was going to open up and swallow me because every bit of training, teaching, praying, and nurturing that Craig and I have done for our children was now in the crosshairs of a cultural war that I didn’t even know existed,” Janet said. She was the PTA president. She thought that surely this was a misunderstanding and asked to check the curriculum. “What Craig and I discovered was that our elementary school had been chosen as an experimental site by the Department of Education for ‘in class guidance counseling.’ They wanted to use those invasive procedures to identify at-risk kids. In the process, of course, they trampled on the rights and privacy of families that were healthy and didn’t need intervention.”
This was Janet’s introduction into the world of family advocacy as she and Craig began talking about their concerns with other parents. They were invited to speak at home church gatherings, at the local library, and all over the community.
The local Christian radio station invited Janet to speak on air about these issues. At the end of that interview, the station manager offered to let her host her own radio talk show. After determining that the show would not interfere with her family schedule, and with Craig’s encouragement, Janet began her career in radio broadcasting.
Two years later, Janet moved her program to a larger radio station in Milwaukee. God used these opportunities to teach her to listen and to drive her to His Word as she searched Scriptures for the answers to her callers’ questions.
Another consequence of Janet’s experience with local school issues was her involvement with Concerned Women of America. Aware of the cultural battles around her, she volunteered at both the local and state levels before being asked to join the national board of CWA by Beverly LaHaye, the president of the organization. Janet helped represent Mrs. LaHaye and CWA to the major media, gaining national exposure in the process.
Out of this, Janet received a phone call she never expected. She was invited to move to Washington, D.C., with the prospect of becoming the future president of Concerned Women of America. “I asked Craig, ‘What do we do?’ And he said, ‘Janet, when God calls a couple, He calls them together. Let’s wait and see what God does.’”
Exactly one week later, Craig received a call from John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, asking him to manage the East Coast office. Craig looked at Janet and said, “God doesn’t have to shout; we heard Him loud and clear.”
All of these experiences worked together to bring Janet to the place she is today: host of her own nationally syndicated daily talk show. Her intellect and verbal acumen have made her a popular commentator in the national media on issues concerning public policy.
I asked how she dealt with that huge public persona. I wondered how she managed that in relation to her husband and the head/helper roles in marriage. Janet laughed, saying, “Craig and I have discussed this again and again. He understands that this is part of the work I was called to do. What Craig sees that others don’t is my sweaty palms and knocking knees before I walk in the room. He knows that before we left home I had to throw the sheets in the dryer and write a check for the dry cleaners. Craig understands that part of my ministry is to be a role model. The ‘people want to talk to you thing’ is part of that, it’s the Titus 2 thing.”
Janet also pointed out that, by God’s providence, her work has always connected with Craig’s. He is a well-known Christian civil liberties attorney and the senior vice president and general counsel of the National Religious Broadcasters Association. Craig has authored numerous legal-suspense novels, is a magazine columnist, and speaks nationally on legal and worldview issues.
The parable of the trees and Peter Pan
Janet likens her relationship with Craig to two trees growing in their yard. “We have a tree with a sapling that is completely wrapped around the tree. It’s like someone artistically designed it. That is my picture of my relationship with Craig. I really can’t tell you where one tree stops and the other tree begins.”
It’s the same in their marriage. “Every time the path has made another turn, it has absolutely been in harmony and parallel to what God is calling Craig to do. It’s been an easy progress for me because my little branch is wrapping around the base of his life, and whichever way his tree is swaying, I just naturally sway in the wind at the same time so it’s not an overarching, constant struggle.”
Janet gives Craig much of the credit for her personal accomplishments. “I often refer to Craig as my Peter Pan. He would sprinkle fairy dust and say ‘fly.’ When I was afraid to even step on the window ledge like Wendy, Craig would say, ‘You can do this.’ … Craig would embolden me.”
Being Janet Parshall
I asked Janet how she balanced being the boss of the workplace with being in the role of helper at home. “It’s an interesting dualism in my life. I am the one calling the shots because that’s the definer of what I do in the workplace, but it’s definitely not the definer of what I do when I come home. I’m in a supervisory position at work, but that is something I have to shed on the commute home. I can’t think of a faster prescription for chaos in our marriage.”
Janet believes God prepared her slowly, incrementally for this dual role. Her broadcasting career has never been her first priority. “My primary identity is not as a broadcaster but as the wife of Craig and the mother to our children. Feminists say, ‘You can have it all.’ But they practice the sin of omission. You should say, ‘You can have it all—but you can’t have it all at the same time.’ We women have to make choices, but we don’t get a second chance. If you miss the first step or that first word or that birthday party, you don’t get a redo.”
Clearly, Janet admires and respects her husband, but she was concerned that readers weren’t left thinking she has a perfect marriage. “I’d like to say that marriage, on its face, is an absolutely ludicrous idea. To put two sinners together under one roof and say, ‘Now live happily ever after’… it shouldn’t work. If you take our rebellious nature, if you take our sinful nature, we should be clawing at each other constantly. The fact that marriage works at all is because we have to be in relationship with one another as God defined.”
It starts with loving the Lord. “If you don’t honor and love Him, then you won’t be able, in your own flesh, to love and submit to your husband in the way God calls us to.”
Many problems in marriage can be whittled down to a single factor: pride. There have been times when Craig and Janet did not agree, and Craig would let Janet do it her way, “There would be utter dissatisfaction in my mouth. I got my way, but I didn’t have my husband’s support, and it probably wasn’t the right choice in those set of circumstances. In the end, all I had was my pride, and pride is very unsatisfying because it is like an addiction. All pride wants is to be fed and it is never satisfied. …
“You have to learn that even if you fall down, even if you have a day where your marriage just stunk, it is wonderful to know we serve a God of second chances and fresh starts. We wake up with a clean slate no matter how much we’ve blown it the day before. I don’t know a husband out there who doesn’t want his wife to love him unconditionally, and I don’t know a wife out there who doesn’t want her husband to love her like Christ loved the church. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
Adapted from What’s Submission Got to Do With It? © 2008 by Cindy Easley. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, Ill. All rights reserved.
Cindy Easley is a nationally known speaker with the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. She is a retreat speaker, Bible study leader, and a regular commentator on Prime Time America on the Moody Broadcasting Network. She and her husband, Moody Bible Institute President Emeritus Michael Easley, are the parents of three daughters and one son.