This Is What I Really Want From My Family

by Rita Templeton

I don’t need my family to lavish me with gifts.

I mean, yeah, presents are awesome. I love getting them and I’m grateful when I do. But I wish my family would realize that there’s only one thing I really, truly want — and it’s nothing they’re ever gonna find in a store.

I just want some damn help around the house.

I want, for once, to not be the responsible party who makes sure everything is washed and wiped and hung and stacked and sorted through and thrown away. I want to sit on my ass for a little while and know that while I’m sitting there doing nothing, something is still getting done. That it isn’t just piling up, waiting for me, creating a backlog of unpleasantness that I’m going to have to deal with later.

If they make me breakfast in bed, I don’t want to be the one scrubbing sticky syrup trails off the kitchen counter that afternoon. I want to experience the joy of walking across a crumb-less floor that I didn’t have to mop myself. I want to know what it’s like to put the laundry in the hamper and find it, clean and folded, in my drawer. Like a miracle.

I’ve got this household running like a well-oiled machine, and I would love for it to keep on running, even in the event that I stop to catch my breath. But it never does. When I stop, so does everything else; I’m like a dam, with everything building up behind me, only to rush over me with overwhelming force once I start moving again. Is it really considered “taking a break” if I have to scramble twice as fast to catch up when it’s over?

In my underappreciated domestic world, acts of service are equal to acts of love. When I do these things for my family, it’s because I love them, because I want them to have good meals and nice surroundings and clean clothes. This is me taking care of everyone, making sure their needs are met, making sure our home is a place that makes them feel safe and happy and complete. And it is no small task, especially when you consider that everything I do has to be redone … day by day … week by week … year by year.

Over and over, like building a sandcastle that just keeps getting washed away by the tide. It can be grueling and soul-sucking, truly, but I do it – and keep doing it, even when I’m exhausted – because I want them to have the best I can give.

So when my family couldn’t care less about the effort I put in, I can’t help but take it a little bit personally. They don’t realize that it’s the emotional equivalent of me spending time on a handmade card that they barely glance at before tossing it in the trash. They don’t understand that it’s my love language, that I’m telling them how much they mean to me.

They’re oblivious to the fact that I put their needs first on a regular basis. They don’t get that if they’d just see it, just genuinely appreciate it and not take it for granted, that it would seem so much less daunting. At least for a little while.

Most of all, though, they don’t understand that the best thing they could ever do – better than flowers, better than spa gift certificates – is to lighten the load I carry, to show their affection not with words or trinkets, but with actions.

All I want is for them to keep things going around here so I can take a breather, a real one, and not have double the workload waiting for me afterward. To be willing to do the crappy, tedious stuff so that I don’t have to. To love me enough to help shoulder my responsibilities so I can actually relax, because there’s no real relaxation going on when I know it’s just creating more work for me in the long run.

This doesn’t mean they should stop giving me flowers altogether, of course. But I’d really like to enjoy them on a table that somebody else cleared off.