I sat in our wide, rugged lounge chair, quietly sipping my coffee.
The baby was stirring in her crib upstairs, and the middle child would be coming down the steps anytime. Meanwhile, I was silently pleading for my coffee to work magic before I had to begin a new day all over again, and actually move, when I received a text from my other half.
“Hard day at work, can’t talk on the phone, things are not great.”
Stumped about what to say, or if there was any advice I could even offer him, I sent him an “I love you,” back, and set my phone facedown on the armrest while my heart sank.
It’s typical for anyone to have a bad day, sure. But this instant reminded me of just how much pressure my husband is under on a daily basis. It reminded me of how regularly I forget that very fact, and how much I take him for granted.
Sometimes, I strongly dislike what I do. I do not want to wash socks. I do not want to steam suits. I don’t want to make phone calls to the garbage company. I don’t want to make lunches, or even dinner for that matter. I hate that I feel like everyone is always asking for something from me besides what I really want (Starbucks and a foot rub, thanks for not asking.)
I hate how sometimes, the most exciting things going on in my life are that I bought a new whisk for the kitchen, and had nail polish on my nails for a whole twenty-four hours before they started chipping.
We as wives trivialize what we do when the going gets really tedious and hard. We trivialize what we do when we forget about the people we are actually doing all of this for.
I forget his face all of the time.
I forget about his face, exhausted and up before 6 a.m., stooped over a 500 page study binder, trying to cram in even twenty extra minutes of studying so that he can be ready to take exams in the spring that will advance his career. That will hopefully advance our income day; that will pay for college and weddings and braces times three.
I forget about the hands that sit at a desk all day, punching numbers into the calculator, attached to the man who stares at a screen for hours until his eyes hurt; attached to the man who used to sand and varnish wood for eight hours a day until his fingers and palms calloused so our young family could make ends meet.
I forget about the feet that walk the trash to the end of the lane when it’s raining the night before, or climb the ladder to hang Christmas lights so the kid’s will smile and laugh with delight while they dream about Rudolph.
I forget about the arms that hold me every single night, even though my snoring leaves him laying awake long after midnight. I forget about the arms that hold the baby, and carry her up to bed but don’t lay her down until they stop to rock with her in the dark. I forget about the arms who, as a rule, never ever turn down hugs from our children with big crooked smiles.
When I’m arm deep in soap suds and grease, I forget.
I hate the word “helpmate” sometimes. It makes me feel like I’m seven years old, in the kitchen with my mom, and all I get to be is the “helper” but never the chef. Or like I’ll never be the person who is front and center, making things happen. I’ll never get the praise or accolades.
It might be that I’ll never know the glory of climbing the corporate ladder, or taste resounding professional success. It might be that I don’t retire one day with a robust bank account, or write that book I have been daydreaming about these past few months. It might be that in the conventional sense, I don’t tick a lot of boxes off of my bucket or to-do lists before I croak. I might even be said that I may not live long enough to see my children grow up because nothing is promised to any of us.
The plainest truth is that we get exactly one shot at this whole living our life thing. And though there are a lot of things that I may not or will probably never get to do, it seems to me that I, we, only have a limited number of chances matter to someone. I mean really, truly, deeply matter.
As helpmates, we are someone’s rock. Someone’s comfort. Someone’s home. We are their strength and their song, their joy and their contemplation. We are not just a chef. We are not a maid. We are not baby machines. We are not child wranglers. We are not errand boys. We are not just anything. Though we might not accomplish a lot by worldly standards, we are living for something greater than ourselves.
I am actually a treasure, even though my snoring and occasional farting strongly suggest otherwise.
As helpmates, we are not waiting dispassionately in the wings, hoping that someday, something great will happen with our lives if someone just gives us the chance.
Every day, we have the chance to either tear down or build something great with these hands. Every day, we have the chance to love the people around us with all that we have. Every day, we have a choice to make about why we are living life the way that we are. Every day, we can either forget or remember why we do what we do.
There is nothing small about what we do. We might feel ashamed or depressed over calling ourselves a helpmate. It may not sit right with us when we feel like we are just someone’s second fiddle or secretary. We may never feel good enough by the world’s standards.
But when I remember the faces that actually hold my insides together, I remember why I’m here.
I’m actually remembering why I am good enough.