Last week we talked about Amish beliefs in relation to specific spiritual teachings. Today I thought we’d talk about the role of family members. Remember, the comments below are what I have observed, but each community is different and you might have different observations.
The husband is certainly the head of an Amish household. This is taken very seriously. From the Amish families I’ve met, it does NOT mean the woman is unimportant or less in any way. I’ve met plenty of out-spoken Amish women. But it does mean that the husband leads the family, that he makes final decisions, and that he is dedicated to being the spiritual leader of the family as well as providing for the family.
The wife has a support role in the family. She is to help her husband. She is to help her children. She works tirelessly, and her number one priority (after her faith) is her family. This is why few Amish women work outside the home, though they may have a cottage industry near the home where they sell homemade goods.
The children are considered blessings from God, but they are not coddled or spoiled in the traditional American way. Instead, they are brought up to be responsible and follow in the faith. You can read more about the life of Amish children here. Most Amish children go to school from 1st through 8th grade. At that point they become an apprentice to someone (boys and girls), and the money they earn is given back to the family. Older children help with the younger children.
The grandparents are considered an important part of every Amish family. Although they may be “retired” the grandfather will still have a hand in what goes on at the farm, and the grandmother will be involved with the cooking, quilting, and child-raising. Grandparents are rarely ever sent to live in a nursing home. Instead they often live in a Grossdaddi Haus that is built on the property, but a little ways from the main house. This gives everyone privacy, but they still have close proximity to help one another.
If this sounds like an idealic family, it’s probably because it resembles mainstream families in our culture two generations ago. Only in the last 40-60 years have our roles (especially women and children) begun to change. I don’t offer any of this as a “better” or “worse” scenario, but simply so we can better understand the Amish community.
I’d love to hear your experiences with the Amish.