The term “sister-wife” commonly refers to a woman who is in a polygamous marriage. In these cases, the husband has a relationship — sexual and otherwise — with multiple wives. The wives, in turn, practically interact with each other as sisters might; sharing childrearing and household duties. Sometimes the arrangements worked. Other times they didn’t. It’s easy to imagine jealousies and turf-wars.
In today’s pop culture, we mostly know of sister-wives through television — especially reality TV — and an early practice in the Mormon faith. However, the concept of polygamy dates back to the bible. We all know that Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah (he thought he was marrying Rachel); then he really married Rachel (a true sister to Leah); and then he took Zilpah and Bilhah as concubines (handmaidens to Leah and Rachel). With the four, Jacob produced at least twelve sons and one daughter.
My ego wouldn’t permit me to share my husband with other women. The idea of shouldering the burden of daily home-life (regrettably I never had a full-time housekeeper, maid, au pair, or nanny) with others, however, certainly sounds appealing. On the flip side, I confess to having fantasies of multiple husbands tending to my every whim….hmmmmm….Has a woman ever been in a marriage with “brother-husbands”?!?
At first there were six of us; then five. And so, I developed deep, close working relationships with four female colleagues during my tenure at the Jewish Federation. Essentially, we found ourselves managing all day-to-day operations (planning, marketing, fundraising, programming, allocating grants, accounting, HR, etc.) during a period in which our CEO position was vacant. We knew it was a unique situation; women running the traditionally male-run organization. We believed we could make a difference. We wanted to do it on our own. So we fully committed ourselves to a situation that lasted for the better part of eight months.
With a strategic direction in mind, we learned to divide an conquer. We leveraged each other’s strengths. We covered for each other’s weaknesses. We used each other as sounding boards. We allowed each other to vent. We developed plans and tried to keep morale high. We truly worried about each and every member of the staff; trying to manage their fears and concerns in light of uncertainty and impending change. We made decisions and tried to evolve the way our business was run, but lay leadership questioned our every move and often blocked our progress.
It was not a fun time. We were overworked. Exhausted. Frustrated. Nervous. Worried. Unsure. But, we had each other’s backs. We got dressed, went to work, plastered smiles on our faces, and did our best. We were a real team. It all was for the greater good; for a community for which we deeply cared.
Most importantly, I came to love these women. Through our time together, I learned to appreciate the meaning of truth, integrity, loyalty, courage, strength, patience, confidence, and teamwork. I bought into the idea of “all for one and one for all” and saw how putting it into action made me a better person.
I left the Federation a year ago…for many different reasons (enough for another blog!). But my love and admiration for my sister-wives are unwavering. They continue to hold their heads high and endure. I still cheer them on…from the stands and in the locker room…if not from the field. I’m thankful that we’ve stayed in touch and very much appreciate being part of the team.
Now, another one of us is moving on. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know how my sister-wives’ careers will fare in the future or what turns their lives will take. But, they each know I’m here for them…always. I hope they will carry forever in their hearts the lessons we learned together and will pass them on.
“Ya ya sisterhood” truly is a great thing.
Wishing my girls…and my family and friends…a holiday season full of joy and a New Year filled with hope and new possibilities.