In the movie Avatar, the Na’vi say “I see you” as a greeting. The meaning, we are told, is “I see who you truly are”. How often can we say that we truly see someone?
Seeing someone for who they truly are includes so many things. Honesty with others and honesty with oneself are only part of it. So much happens behind closed doors that we never see. So much undocumented by public observation.
Having children sometimes means that one parent stays with the children while the other parent is away. The reasons for one parent being away can vary: work, obligations to extended family and friends or attending a necessary event that is inappropriate for children. One parent makes the appearance or fulfills the obligation while the other parent stays home.
I don’t begrudge the parent who goes out into the world on behalf of the family. Not at all. I know many times that parent would prefer to be the one staying home.
The reality of the parent who stays home to be caretaker is the same regardless of the circumstances that cause the other parent to leave. The one who stays did not make the appearance, did not give or receive the hugs, did not eat the food, did not talk to the people, did not lead the way. The one who stays quietly maintains consistency and routine normalcy for the children.
I have a friend whose husband needed to help his family through a crisis. It was the right thing for him to do, but it left her alone with their children for months of dinners and bedtimes. As her husband did his best to balance his obligations to everyone, she stayed at home and did what she could to maintain a sense of normalcy for their children. I saw her. I mean, I really saw her in the Na’vi sense. I saw her quiet heroism for what it truly is. It was beautiful. She was the glue that held their world together behind closed doors. No attention was placed on her. She did not ask for recognition or acknowledgment as everyone spoke about her husband and how much he was doing for everyone, which he was.
They each did everything they were supposed to do. The difference is that no one saw her. Heroes seen and unseen.
Many times, I am the one who stays home attempting to maintain order in the chaos while my husband does necessary traveling or meets critical obligations on behalf of our family. It’s good that he does these things. The work of leaving and the work of staying are two types of work are equally hard but different.
Yet, when stories are told, the theme emerges that he had the epic day doing amazing things to make a difference in our world and the world of others. This is invariably true. Not surprisingly, my efforts are invisible. As the stories progress, I feel gazes shift to me with a questioning look as they wonder what I was doing while he was off saving the world alone. They wonder why I didn’t help him.
I want to interject “I was taking care of the children, making sure that they ate well and had plenty of hugs! I kept their daily routines consistent during the upheaval of their daddy being away! I read to them, listened to them and rocked them to sleep!” Of course, I don’t do this.
This is not about feminism. This is about silent, unseen heroes. Unseen in the literal and Na’vi meanings of the word. Traditionally, it is the mommy that holds the home together while the daddy is out in the world saving it. These days, either parent fulfills either role, and many non-traditional families exist that emphasize that preference and precedence often define the roles of each parent. We have had it both ways in our home.
The one who stays at home enables another to go save the world. Even if no one sees it.
Do you see the silent heroes around you? I do.
To all caretakers, parents and anyone who does the lonely essential things that keep the world functioning so that others can go out and save it:
I SEE YOU.
Know that what you are doing enables everything else to happen. You are the keystone in all bridge-building, whether anyone tells you or not. Thank you for saving your corner of the world.