We’d been married about four months when I made a big mistake.

In graduate school, we ate pretty simply, on a monthly budget that would now do little more than fill my gas tank. Once.

Still, I prided myself on preparing good meals, and I had a strong but perhaps misguided territorial possessiveness about my responsibility of chief cook for our fledgling family.

In fact, I initiated a not-small fight one night when my husband joined me to prepare dinner. He started added spices to scrambled eggs — not the way I would do it. And, though I don’t remember the words I said, I think they were something like “I want to do it my way. It’s my job to cook. Get out of the kitchen.”

photo credit swanksalot

And with that, he did.

So, over the years since then, I’ve been the chief cook in our home. Though my husband is quite helpful in other ways, he steered clear of anything cooking related, including manning the grill, until the past couple of years.

I still remember the day I realized I had seriously miscalculated during our newlywed years.

I had just returned from a business trip and I came in the house to the delicious smell of a freshly home cooked meal: pork chops, green beans, some kind of potatoes, sliced and buttered bread. My husband had set the table with a centerpiece of fresh flowers and the girls greeted me at the door, faces scrubbed, hair combed, handwritten cards in hand.

What a treat to sit down for a meal prepared, at home, by someone else.

What if I had never shooed him out of the kitchen? What if I had held less tightly to my idealized version of being superwoman in the kitchen, all the time? I might have enjoyed many more such meals over the years.

My husband now cooks many weekend meals. During the week, I typically cook, following a menu he plans and shops for over the weekend. Just today, I joined him in the kitchen only to help out with last minute preparations.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Someone else’s skill or ability does not diminish my own. In my insecure early 20s, I thought that if my husband cooked, I would somehow be lacking as a woman, as a wife. (Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?) Now I realize that his skill means we all eat better. At work, someone else’s excellence just means that more value is added to the team. That you are good at something I aspire to does not mean that my contribution is unimportant. There is more than enough work for all of us to do together.

Something doesn’t have to be done my way to be wonderful. My husband does things differently in the kitchen than I do. He adds more spices; he uses more butter; he creates wacky combinations. But the results are wonderful. In the workplace, people may not do things exactly according to my recipe, but their end result can still be pleasing. Isn’t that all that matters?

Being territorial doesn’t get you anywhere. When I built a fence around the kitchen and slammed the gate to leave my husband on the outside, I hurt no one but myself. He still had good food to eat, but I missed out on the richness of his contribution. When we try to shut others out of our sandbox at work, we miss out on the opportunity to learn from others and benefit from their unique gifts and abilities.

I am no longer the chief cook at home, and I like it that way. And when I am tempted to feel diminished by someone else’s skill, in the kitchen or anywhere, I remind myself of all those years I cooked alone. Far better to share the kitchen. Don’t you think?

Tell me something! Who d0es the cooking at your house? What leadership lessons have you learned at home? Which of my three lessons resonates most with you?