Being a Helpmeet

I’ll be honest.  I hate the term “Helpmeet”.  It sounds like “helper” as in, “Go and be a big helper and get me a drink of water!” Helpers are like slightly spastic 10 year-olds who are just glad to be included in whatever is going on.  I don’t feel like that is my role in my marriage.


Semantics: Besides, it is a made-up word, used only to describe Eve’s relationship to Adam and any other use of the word is a reference to the original usage.  So it is loaded with condescension.  Strong’s Bible Concordance shows that the original Hebrew of the word (ezer) is actually just “help”. But it is related closely to the root that means to surround, protect or aid. Also of interest: Strong’s has the word broken into two: help meet.  They are two words in one sentance: “I will make him an help meet for him.”  I can handle that!  A help, meet (or equal,  appropriate) for him. Had John Wycliffe translated the Bible into more modern language, he might have reasonably translated ezer as partner.   A former institute teacher said a proper translation for Ezer is “equal but opposite”–someone meet to be a partner.

Vignette #1: My husband and I were recently recounting all of the projects and things we had accomplished since January.  He listed off big, impressive things.  Built a smoker, refinished the deck, scraped the popcorn off the ceilings, built a fence, planted our gardens, went camping three times. Satisfying things with an obvious end and a final product.roses

I thought, hmm.  I’ve been crazy busy too, but I don’t have much to show for it.  Cleaned the house 45 times, did 800 loads of laundry, made bread 15 times, delivered kids to and from school 100 times, did 450 meals worth of dishes, fed the baby 200 bottles, taught 45 piano lessons.  Most of my work needs to be done each day, there isn’t a big final product.  But day to day, we are healthy, happy and hygienic, which is also very satisfying.

And because I kept the kids occupied, kept my husband fed and clothed, he was able to do all of those awesome things around the house.  Both part of the same vision, equal and opposite jobs.

Vignette #2: After you scrape the popcorn off of your ceilings, you have to re-texture it to get ready to paint.  We took a morning last week to do it by hand and we developed an efficient system.  I stayed on the ground and loaded up the hawk (a flat piece of fiberglass with a handle on the underside) with the  joint compound and my husband stayed on the ladder and pushed the hawk over and over against the vaulted ceiling to create the texture.  At times, I thought “I want to be up there doing the fun part.  I want to be useful and do the job that will be seen.” And I’m sure my husband would have let me up there but it wouldn’t have made much sense.  He is six feet tall.  He has longer arms and better stamina for doing heavy things over head. I wear out easily and am less meticulous than he is.  I could do it, physically, but it would have slowed us down and made the texture patterns different.  I calmed down when I realized that We were texturing the ceiling; we were working together to get the job done and my job was just as important as his job, even if it wasn’t making the actual marks on the sheetrock. If I wasn’t there, loading up his hawks, he would be going up and down the ladder and the job would take three times longer.

Moral:  President Benson stated that “Men are the head of the home and women are the heart of the home.” Sometimes I hear things like that and think–Hey!  I want to be the head of the home! Why am I not the head?  And the answer is: Then who would be the heart?  And why is the heart any less important?  I think the analogy is really beautiful: the head is visible.  It is the first thing people notice about you–your face and hair.  The heart is hidden inside, but it keeps the body alive.  You can’t be whole without either, and you would be freaky with two heads.  Just because we aren’t always recognized for our work in the home, we are absolute partners, building a life together.  When we share a vision and we share the work, we are both responsible for the outcome.  So, when you come to visit, I will show off the ceiling that we textured together, as well as the deck that we sealed, the barbeque that we built and the garden that we planted. And my husband will no doubt tell you about the great kids we are raising.

13 responses to “Being a Helpmeet

  1. Maybe we should just list them in different order. “Women are the heart of the home, and men are the head” Too bad we can’t list them simultaneously.
    Good job with all your projects.

  2. Lammy, I would hope that you feel that way and she feels that way about you. I think it has more to do with our roles in society than it does our actual capacity for thought or feeling. Men are out in the world, visually representing the family. Women are at home, not as public, making sure the family is running internally.

  3. People do go into liver failure. No one thinks about their liver until they turn yellow, their belly swells up real big, and they smell bad. So there you go Lammy, you are a vital, you may say a vital organ if you wish!

  4. Have been thinking about this for roughly 40 years. My (pro tem conclusion: Our roles are never exclusively “head” or “heart” but a fluid co-mingling of both. I think the problem is trying to analyze the two roles separately when they were intended to be “one.” Together, Cole and I are a pretty good team, but pull us apart and analyze/compare
    the roles and one of us (Louise) is bound to be incompletely characterized and therefore offended.

  5. Another thought I’ve had about this is that in the body, the brain regulates the heart through the autonomic nervous system, which functions below the level of conscious thought. You can’t will your heart to beat and neither can a man will his wife into obedience.

    …and I bet Louise would say I’m taking the metaphor beyond its useful limits. 🙂

  6. Louise, I agree with you completely. The problem is the conference talks (and temple) who DO separate us into heads and hearts, providers and nurturers. In our happiest times of marriage, we both do both, going towards the same goal and not worrying about who gets the credit or who is doing more. In our most miserable times, we keep track and feel resentful. So unity definitely is happiness.
    And I am honored to see you comment here 🙂

  7. In my world I am the tool monkey. (my own words) It helps me to get over the part about being shorter, not as strong and skilled with the tools.
    I completely understand your comment about wanting to “do the part that shows.” I tell myself a lot “they also serve who only stand and wait”. I also appreciate where you acknowledged the truth that you both accomplished the tasks.
    PS I do a lot of canning, not least that I have something concrete to show for my efforts.

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