Yes, I made that title a little emotional. It is emotional. Chores, now that I am in a wheelchair, drive me to a very emotional state! Sometimes, that emotion is happiness – “I actually finally finished mopping that floor!” Sometimes that emotion is sadness – “This job used to be so easy.” Sometimes…..more often that sometimes….it is frustration and anger. “I don’t have ALL day to clean this bathroom! This is ridiculous!”, “If I get that cord stuck around my wheel one more time I am going to jerk it out of the wall – outlet and all!”, “I would love to clean up that spilled sticky kool-aid all over my fridge but I can’t even reach the third shelf!”
The other day, Jimmy and I had an argument over our schedule. Yes, we argue. In this argument, the point was brought up to me that I hardly do any house chores. It is true. I do not. It hurt my feelings. In this home I rarely ever pull the disabled card, but that day, I was mad right back! I started saying that I cannot reach most of the chores, that I do not make most of the mess, and that I do a million other helpful and practical things in this home and if “he” did not like how things were done than he could just hire a maid! Well, you probably know how all that went over. I felt awful later and so did he. This conversation did make me think though. Was I using the “disabled” card as a true reason or as an excuse? Does my family think I am lazy more than paralyzed? Do I overthink things? Probably.
I have never been OCD about my housekeeping. I was raised by a mother who loves cooking and cleaning and sewing and all that homey stuff. I used to beg my dad to let me take out the trash and mow the yard. PLEASE let me be outside!! Give me my bicycle, a volleyball or basketball or a bucket of soapy water and a car and I was one happy girl. My dad used to have to make me sew. I remember the Easter I had to sew my Easter outfit! He used to make me bake him this special spice cake with this frosting that turned into candy and you had to cook the icing and then stir in icy water. It would take me over an hour to make that cake! The point? I am NOT a housekeeper…I am a keeper of my home. Big difference. Different post for another time. I love working on cars, I love repairing, remodeling and redecorating our home. I would much rather have a new saw for Christmas than a sewing machine. This has been me since I was a kid – which was very much pre-paralysis.
I love making our home a pleasant environment to live in. It is my belief that being OCD about housekeeping does NOT make a pleasant environment, but neither does living like a pig or striving to have your own episode on Hoarders. I believe there needs to be a balance to living in an attractive home, but not living above your means. I believe there is balance to keeping it clean, but not minding dishes to wait for awhile so you can enjoy that cool evening walk with your kids. I believe that this point comes into play with my disability. Before…I made those decisions of balance. I could choose when to be more lax and then I could get my “nitty gritty clean” on and then get it done! I could get in a kids room and together we could clean that room lickety split. I could hit a bathroom and have it sparkling in 30 minutes. Not a big deal. I did it when I wanted or not. It is not that way anymore. Now I depend very much on my husband and children.
- I am short now and cannot reach most of the chores. My fridge, my sink, windows, shelves…anywhere above 4 ft. is a problem.
- I am unstable. I know. I look all prim and proper sitting in my chair. Let me get on the edge of my chair (like to reach something) and I am like a floppy baby. I am always hanging on for dear life so I do not fall over. Because of this, many times when you are cleaning, one arm cleans and the other is hanging on! That makes chores take forever.
- I have a big ship. I really did not plan on having 6 kids and then becoming paralyzed. I would not change any of that but….we are a big ship and it takes a lot of hands on deck to keep up going around here. That was true before my chair. It is even more so now. There is always something that needs cleaned, repaired or organized.
- My energy goes way too quickly now and I have to budget it. My body will start spasming, or my nerve pain will get so intense I have to get out of my chair and stretch out. My ears will start ringing and I will get very lightheaded as my blood pressure (which is already low) will drop. It is SO discouraging to spend 3 hours to do basic cleaning of the house (that used to take 30 minutes) and know that you have used your energy for the rest of the day. Your body is done. You still have so much you want to do and you just physically cannot.
- I have shrunk my expectations. My husband (who never did “women’s work” a day in his life) and my kids just cannot clean to my expectations. Not because they clean bad. It is because I have impossible expectations. They are not “the woman”. I say that with pride. :) In the early days, I drove them insane trying to make them do it like me. That will not work long-term. It is not worth losing my family’s love and respect.
- I zoned out our house and made a detailed list for each zone. We rotate the zones so a kid gets a different one each week. Some zones are easier (laundry room and hallway) and some are harder (kitchen). That way no kid gets stuck with a hard zone for a long time. My 6 year old will never keep up the kitchen like my 15 year old so the kitchen may not get it as well for one week but it will cycle around to an older child who can do it. I asked Jimmy to pick what chores he wanted and he picked kitchen and washing and drying laundry. The kids and I do the majority of the folding and putting up. The difference with the kids is also that Mommy and Daddy have other jobs that they do not have. My level of chores for school is different than summer because the kids have the extra load of school.
- I have tried to do everything I can that my hubby is not gifted to do. I love wood projects and will make what I can to save money (beds, shelves, etc). I will fix what I can reach on a car – which isn’t very much now. But, I know how so I will have my kids be my legs and reach and I will tell them what to do. I have tried to find odd jobs to help with our income to take some stress off my husband since he has added house chores to his schedule.
- I have made sure that I am the foreman and stay on top of what needs to be done before it gets overwhelming. I am still amazed how many people can walk over a crushed cookie on the floor and I am the only one that sees it! I assign certain yucky chores (cleaning out the fridge) as a form of discipline. Attitudes improve quickly when a dirty fridge is on the list!
- I figure out what my day is going to be like and I budget my energy accordingly. I am still not great at this as I always think I can go more than I really can, but at least I have learned to maneuver the big stuff.
So, why am I worried about this chore stuff? Because I do NOT want to be thought of as lazy or not carrying my share. I also do not want to abuse or milk my disability. I know that I can do many of these chores by myself, but have not been willing to trade off all my energy for it. I know that my family has handled it fine. I don’t want to be haunted by a future that says, “Mom was lazy and never did her part.” Not that any of them have said that. It just really bothers me and I want to make sure they do not think that.
I asked a group of amazing gals who all are women with spinal cord injuries and use wheelchairs how they handle chores. I will just let them tell you:
“I love having someone do the deep cleaning. Now remember, no one will ever clean as you did. If you can get past that and relax knowing the fresh clean smell is good. When I could walk, it irritated me when the cleaning lady could run through my house at warp speed and clean, when it would take me two days to clean an up and down stairs. I’ve learned to quit looking for the imperfections of the cleaner and be thankful for what she did do. Twice a week is good. The kids still have to pick up before she comes.”
“Sometimes I think ***** thinks I’m lazy. His love language is “Acts of Service” so it is so tough for me to show him love like that. I work hard to do it every day and feel like I can never live up to what is expected. So…I don’t feel guilty one bit having someone come clean my house.”
“I do just about everything. And yes it takes forever! My hubby vacuums when he can and cleans the bathtubs.”
“I do a lot of the up keep around the house. Dishwasher, laundry, picking up,cleaning kitchen, some bathroom… my husband does the floors, other bathroom stuff and trash. He also helps with the things I listed at times. I have someone clean once a month. They get the bathrooms really well and deep cleaning. It is just my husband and I so the house doesn’t get that dirty. I use to do everything around the house before I got married and it took forever. I can’t do it all now… I just don’t have the energy for it.”
“I do it ALL it takes the majority of my day each day and totally makes me insane…. I try to do these mundane tasks out of love and service but I don’t always get there!!!!”
I could go on. This question got a lot of comments! But, I am already breathing much easier! I am not lazy. I am paralyzed. I have to pick my chores – and they all don’t look like housecleaning. Truth is, I do church chores, I do wife chores, I do Mommy chores, I do business chores, and I am even at this time doing a blog chore. My writings are finally starting to bring in a little money so I feel that is also helping my family.
A couple of days ago my husband said, “Honey, would you mind mixing me up another batch of your homemade laundry soap?” To which I grinned and said, “Is that a chore?” Yes, it is a chore and I did it. He washed and dried the clothes. That was his chore and he did it. Then, the kids folded and put up their clothes. That was their chore and they did it. Together, this family did laundry.
Every family has their own dynamics. Every couple has their own arguments and say things they don’t mean. Every person should re-evaluate, every so often, their own personal role in family harmony. Our family works for us. We all love and appreciate the work we each do each day. We live close to one another, 24/7, so we are going to get in each other’s way and on each other’s nerves at times. But, we love the family that we are. We love our strengths and need grace for our weaknesses.
Chores? Yes, they will never stop. I will do them. Mine just may look different. That’s okay. I look different in this chair so my chores match me! And one of these days, I may really hire that house cleaner!