2.27.2005

no woman, no cry

B and baby G have been gone since Thursday. They went to Phoenix to help out a friend who's having a traumatic pregnancy and can't leave her bed and has no family around to help. In the meantime, you'd think that I'd forgotten how to exist outside of the married state. The girls leave and I freak out about how messy the house is, how I'm going to feed myself, where the garage door opener is, how to get money, how to put on my pants.... But then instead of cleaning or doing something, I get sad that I don't here baby noises eminating from anywhere or B humming while she does chores and I attempt to think enlightened thoughts. So now I feel sad and like a bum since she does 10 times the amount of housework that I do. Granted, my job is to read and write until my brain hurts and hers is not. But that doesn't make her a maid and I feel that both Dave and I do treat her that way unintentionally from time to time. We really just don't think about all the work she does in a given day. I suppose if she complained about it more we might notice, but then we'd get bitter because there's not much we can do about it--we always have deadlines hanging over our heads. Housework seems to be so much more subjective than schoolwork--you can always go one more day without clean floors or sheets. Dirty dishes and clothes are a little more difficult to work around, but when you're desperate you can make do without trying to clean them. When B wants help doing housework, my first response is to assess the costs to benefits: if things don't look that dirty or cluttered, I'll complain that the work doesn't need to be done right now. But when it looks dirty to you--when you finally hit that point where you can't stand the dirt and junk and build-up of entropy any more--then you can't do anything else. You just have to get the mess down to a level that you can handle it. It used to seem silly to me that couples, families, and roommates fought over cleaning stuff. I always used to think, What's the big deal? Why can't each person keep their own stuff as clean as they need it to be and let everyone else deal with their own stuff? I can still see the logic of that argument. Unfortunately, it's hopelessly self-centered. It's tantamount to saying that if I didn't directly cause the mess than I shouldn't have to deal with the consequences of it, especially when I don't experience the pain of those consequences myself. But besides that--besides seeing it only through your eyes and not attempting to love your neighbors enough to see it through their eyes--it denies that living in proximity or community, whether because of blood or marriage or convenience or rental agreements, makes any larger demands on you other than your existence and relationships with the other people in that community/family/whatever. That attitude says that "the family" or "the community" means nothing more than my interactions with the other people in that group, take them or leave them. Now I guess I see it totally differently--though my behavior doesn't always match up. I thing there is such a thing as a "family" or "couple" or "community" greater than the sum of the individuals that make it up. And in that sense, we all owe something to, or at least have some responsibility toward, that "family" or "couple" or "community". We have to work to make that structure hold up--to turn a bunch of "I's" into a "We". Perhaps this is why individualism is so divisive. It corrodes the notion of something greater than ourselves to which we owe our service and respect, if not our love and devotion. It seems to me that if we really want to uphold "family values," then we have to figure out a way to also uphold "couple values," "neighborhood values," "community values," "civic values," and all the rest. That doesn't mean we can't object to the way the overarching group is going. But we can't just eject the idea that we don't owe anything to anyone unless they're giving something back to us. So we can't say that the government or church should prioritize "family values" at the expense of broader civic ones just because we don't like to pay more in taxes. Nor should we give our time and money only toward those things that bring us direct pleasure or fulfillment at the expense of things that have little to do with our direct wants and needs. [I have no idea how I got here...talk about following rabbit trails.... I dunno. Was I making the point about how all these things are related--housework to tutoring kids to getting involved in a church small group to helping your civic government? If I wasn't, I meant to....]

3 Comments:

Blogger Scott Sloan said...

E,

Excellant post. I tend to be messy, and others like the people I live with clean up after me. After reading your post, I realize how selfish I am when it comes to doing things that I don't feel comfortable with, or just plain don't like doing.

Anyways, your post is very convicting and humbling.

In Him,

Scott

2/27/2005 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Donnell Wyche said...

E,

I hear ya! I hate cleaning, but I do it because it serves Maria. We trade a lot with cleaning, I have not desire for it and like you do a cost to benefit analysis with my time. Before getting married I mentioned to Maria that I hate cleaning and find it an absolute waste of my time and energy. I told her that I was willing to work more (say in my private business) to pay for someone to come and clean. She was offered, and I was confused, I thought she would welcome the extra help and would value the extra time the same way I would. I was wrong. She serves me by cleaning and I try to remind myself to serve her back by cleaning. Like tonight, we host a small group at our place Sunday nights and she cleans before group and I clean after group. It serves her and gives me time to unwind from our stimulating discussions.

I haven't had to be at home for long periods of time with Maria so I can't feel your pain there, but I will pray for Brooke's quick return. Hope all is well. - Donnell

2/28/2005 12:00 AM  
Blogger e said...

hey donnell! good to hear from you (finally) :-)
give maria our love!

3/01/2005 9:32 AM  

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