Help is a 4-Letter Word

HelpGraphic

When I get home, the late afternoon sun is sinking behind the houses in the neighborhood. My three run from whatever room they’re in and wrap their arms around whatever body part is available to them–a leg, a belly, a wrist. Sometimes they meet me in the driveway–sticky faces, wide grins, open arms. It feels like Noah’s head rests so much higher against my body, and even with my growing belly, his arms wrap around me. Chloe has another loose tooth. I know because she’s wiggling it with her tongue and touching it with fingers decorated with blue chipped polish that I didn’t paint. Sylvie is humming a song I didn’t teach her.

At 4:45, I’m seeing them for the very first time apart from the 5:15 peeks I steal into their bedrooms as I prepare for the day. At 5:15, there’s a rare stillness in the house. I keep the lights dim and my footsteps soft. In the darkness of the early morning, I can’t really see them.

Standing at the stove getting a steam facial from boiling pots is the man I married eleven years ago when we were young and silly, the one who gifts me the 5:15 quiet, the one who gets the kids dressed in the clothes I lay out (when I remember), the one who double checks homework, the one who drops them off at school and makes sure their coats are zipped.

He smiles at me. And continues to chop or stir or plate the food.

He does all of this and works full-time from home where he hears the patter of Sylvie’s footsteps all day and tends to her demands for a snack or some crayons or another beautiful dress or her frantic: “Daddy, I need to use the potty!” He has at least 15 coats of nail polish on his toes and pictures of the entire family on his legs because in a pinch he lets her decorate him with magic markers while he works.

His phone buzzes and beeps for work, and his calendar is color-coded with practices and game schedules for Noah and Chloe. He reminds me who needs to go where at what time, and together we lace cleats or fill water bottles. We move around each other in our own choreographed dance. Right now, he leads, and I let him.

***

Our family dynamic shifted entirely when I went back to work in August. We survived, thrived even– all of us from the littlest who finally embraced potty training to the biggest who embraced a domestic role and, without saying a word, challenged every “dumb dad” sitcom stereotype with a laugh track.

Two weeks ago, Chloe and I saw a commercial where little foil men sprang into action to help with dinner. Sitting on the playroom couch with toy and craft carnage on every surface, I joked that we needed those little guys to come to our house.

She answered, “Yeah, they could help Daddy make dinner.” And after a pause, she finished, “ And help you…” Silence. Her voice trailed off, and she changed the subject. She could not recall the previous five years of her life when I prepared every meal and zipped every coat. She couldn’t see Mom refilling all the drink cups and tightening waist bands or finding new socks without bumps or singing the “Days of the Week” song until my throat burned.

Maybe I should have reminded her of all the things Mommy did and does in a day. I didn’t. Maybe I should have been offended or sad. I wasn’t…for long.

In college I was burned too many times doing “group” projects by myself. I planned one too many parties on my own. My fault. Totally. I had something to prove to someone, myself mostly. I had this idea that asking for or accepting help was a sign of weakness. Maybe I was trying too hard to show that I didn’t need saving, that I was no damsel in distress searching for a knight in shining armor to save her from anything.

I’m too tired for all of that now. I have a knight in shining armor. He’s making dinner or taking Noah to hockey practice or peeling polish from his toenails. That guy has a knight in shining armor, too. It’s me, the missing piece in archaic princess culture. We make it through together. We help each other.

Help, I’ve learned, is not the 4-letter word I thought it was–the ones it’s not polite to say in mixed company, the ones we mutter under our breaths.

Help is definitely a 4-letter word. But so is love.

13 comments for “Help is a 4-Letter Word

  1. December 4, 2014 at 10:04 am

    What a beautiful post. I have to frequently remind myself that it’s okay to ask for help, which is not easy, especially when I became a single mother and felt I had to “prove to everyone” I could do it. Man, how misguided we are in our youth! 🙂

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      December 4, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      I have complete and total respect for single mothers. It is not a job to be taken lightly for sure! I hope you were/are able to ask for help from friends or family or both. Everyone needs to be able to tag out sometimes!

      I think there is pressure for women to be all things for all people all of the time. It’s just too much!

  2. Kathleen Gallo
    December 4, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Precious to read! The Lord has blessed you both with being such a good team as equal partners, lifting up, loving and supporting each other! That’s the way it’s supposed to be – and it is a blessing to see!!

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      December 4, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      Thank you! The truth is, we’re really best friends. We’ve always been 🙂

  3. Jay
    December 5, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Marriage and family is not always equal, but it’s clear that yours is making it work wonderfully, and setting a good example for your kids who are lucky to have two parents who work so hard to give them a stable life.

  4. Meghan
    December 6, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Emily, this made me cry. Charlie is 14 weeks and I just got back from my first overnight work trip – leaving Adam and the baby. I am so lucky to be able to have a partner! Love you and we cannot wait to hear news about #4. Merry Christmas! Xo, cousin Meghan

  5. December 18, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I loved this! What a beautiful picture of partnership. Thank you, sincerely, for this lovely glimpse of your family.

  6. December 21, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Love it. The mix of guilt and enjoyment, appreciation and envy. In this season of life where I’ve gone back to work so Joel could go to school fulltime for his Master’s (which he just finished), he is carrying much of the load I carried for 8 years. Between my own feelings of guilt and frustration at not being “all things to all people (big and small) and the guilt others have tried to lay on me for their own feelings, I find those moments of appreciation for all I have and the husband who gladly handles things at home so we can make this work. So fun to read about your perspective!

  7. December 31, 2014 at 1:11 am

    Loved your post! Just amazing how full life can be and our ability to ask for help can be hampered by how busy we are to even make the phone call!!

  8. Deepti
    January 5, 2015 at 5:35 am

    I loved this post. Thank you… I think that it is important for more women to read this… sometimes we need to be reminded we are not alone, and that if we do things for others out of love, those who love us wish to do the same for us.

  9. January 19, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    I like the way you shared your experiences. I find myself blessed too, to have a great partner (even my ex is still an awesome co-parent.) Some days, when I get the chance, it’s nice to sit back for a moment and appreciate our family dynamic. I am just starting to blog, both write and read.

  10. February 1, 2015 at 6:39 am

    Hi
    I love your blog and the heart you put into it and was hoping that maybe we could coresspond and become blogging friends?
    bye!

  11. Cheryl
    May 17, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Great post! I am new to your blog, but am loving what I see and read. Your family dynamics sounds like a BIG blessing, which I am sure you appreciate by what you write. I shall be back to your blog to read many more of your posts.

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