My Own Cool Girl
Three days ago, I stared up at the ceiling, my chest gripped with the anxiety of a mile-long to-do list, when my husband climbed into bed next to me.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said. “Both of us are making a little extra income now, and once we get to a better place with debt, I would love to hire a personal assistant for you. I have one now at work, and it’s great. We could get you one who could also answer emails, help fold laundry, or even run errands during the day while you take care of Wynn.”
That’s what he said. What I heard? “Babe, you’re contributing to our income by taking time away from your wifely duties. The kitchen is a mess right now, you’ve been promising to get to that laundry all week, and Wynn slapped a little girl at daycare, probably because he shouldn’t be in daycare while you’re teaching, even if it is only twice a week. You need a personal assistant to pick up your slack, because you’re a loser with warped priorities.”
He said, “I just want to help you. You’ve got a lot on your plate.”
My shame-filled self yelled, “But I’m supposed to be your helper!”
And I’ve crumbled under the weight of that conversation for three days.
The Raw Deal
If you asked me to list the things I love most in this world, I would say:
- My family
- My job (teaching)
- My side hustle (writing)
For anyone thinking, “Aha! God is not on the list!” a few words are in order. First, God is a given. Second, I’m talking about the gifts he has given to me. And third, don’t be that person.
My family is my sweetest earthly gift. I was blessed with an amazing family of origin, and Phillip and I have built a wonderful family over the last three and a half years. Our son Wynn is our world. We are those obnoxiously gushing toddler parents.
When Phillip and I got married, my mom took him aside and said, “Remember, you can hire someone to keep your house clean, but you can’t hire someone with her mind and her heart. Anyone can do her to-do list. Nobody is going to love you like she can or think like she can.”
With nine kids at home, my mother was twice the home-keeper as I am, a thought that fuels a lot of my homekeeping shame, but she understood me better than I understood myself. She had clocked the hours I spent pouring into my younger siblings while my bedroom remained a mess. She watched me calculate money for end-of-the-year gifts for my students while I neglected to balance my checkbook. She received the fiercely loyal, intense brand of love that I lavish on my family, and watched while I yearned to spend time with her instead of time on my chores.
She knew me. But I didn’t know myself. I went into my marriage with fire in my eyes: I was going to be just like my mom, who was just like the Proverbs 31 woman. My home was going to be number two on my list of loved things. But it turned out that while I love the heart of my home more than life itself (my family), the more mundane aspects of home life are the first thing to overwhelm my to-do list.
The Real Deal
I thank God for the man I married. The one who, just a few days into dating me said, “I can’t wait to see who you really are under this perfect girlfriend act.”
I didn’t know I was acting, but he saw right through my “cool girl” façade. He built me a blog and pushed me to write. He included me in every one of his work endeavors where he thought I’d be a good fit. He encouraged me back into teaching after the birth of our son. He pushed for a move to Mississippi, where we’d be close to an entire community full of people who love my son well.
He did it all because he knows what’s most important to me: our marriage, our son, teaching, and writing. He knows what I love. And he refused to see me putting those loves on the shelf for some cultural stereotype of the kind of wife I thought I was supposed to be.
There’s nothing wrong with organization. It’s a good thing. I’m getting better at it every day and admire women, like my mom, who are masters. But that’s different than finding my identity in it, or thinking that it’s a woman’s highest virtue.
Phillip knows that I can’t do it all. And he doesn’t expect me to. He doesn’t even expect me to choose the things I sometimes think I ought: laundry piles over a writing deadline, emptying the dishwasher over time with Wynn, an organized bookshelf over the chaos of books that are always in rotation. “Love God. Love me. Love Wynn. Love others. We will figure out how to take care of the rest together.”
I’m going to be real with you—sometimes, he drives me crazy because of that.
The Rude Awakening
I can’t stand the way he rips the Band-Aids from my shame-filled wounds. The way he says things like, “You don’t think Adam ever helped Eve? Why are you the only one who gets to help? God helped. Jesus helped. Men help.”
He’s right. Eve’s aid to Adam had a much bigger scope than I often think it did. She helped him levy dominion over the world that God had created. Anytime she obeyed that mandate, she fulfilled her purpose as a helper, a corresponding part. I help my husband when I’m on mission. I help my husband when I’m more concerned with the boundary lines of Ssripture than those of culture.
I narrowed my image of “helper” to secretarial housekeeper, not the Word. And the home-keepers—home “guarders”—Paul wrote to in Titus 2 came from all different types of backgrounds, from servants helping other women keep their homes to delegators giving those servants their marching orders. He spoke to homemakers and tentmakers (Acts 18:2–3).
So many slender passages have been extrapolated into tomes of guilt and shame.
I narrow my calling, and my husband comes in and rips down the fake boundaries. He’s working on being gentler, but no matter how gentle he is it is painful to loosen my grip on my idols.
If I invited every aspect of me to dinner, the writer and the teacher would sit on either side of the mother, culling inspiration for their crafts. Writer would recognize the inspiration of motherhood. Teacher would recognize the mother’s love for her son. Wife would joyously commune with all three of them, reveling in the fact that her husband arranged the feast.
And the Cool Girl would sit at the head of the table, shooting judging side-eyes at the rest while flinging You-should-bes and Why-don’t-yous the whole time.
She will always have a seat at the table. I will always war with her judgment. I will always have to say, “I am becoming,” and “The Bible actually says,” and “You’re lying.”
But I’m learning not to let her ruin the meal.
I’m learning to ignore her as I look across the table at my husband, who continually reminds me of the fact that this marriage, this family, and these callings are beginning to work together, and that that’s a beautiful thing. The tension of bringing them together is glorious. He wants to help me. And I’m going to let him. And I can’t wait to see what God has in store.