This evening I had to leave my house shortly after dinner, and I did not return for a few hours. When I came home, Matthew had done a load of dishes, changed the laundry, and put the children in bed. This might sound like an ideal situation to you, but to me it just felt like yet another confirmation that I am a lousy mother and wife.
I am not a natural multi-tasker. Something I have said frequently to Matthew is, "I can do housework OR I can take care of the children. I can't do both." Truthfully, I do a bit of both, but I can't do them at the same time. I simply can't.
Multiple sclerosis complicates things. Remember that it's Matthew who has it, not me. This is something I have to keep in mind every moment of every day, because it affects every moment, both physically and emotionally. What does this mean? It means that in everything Matthew does--watering the garden, doing laundry, doing dishes, taking kids to the park--he is in horrible pain. He takes three painkillers multiple times every day, just to bring the pain down to a level where he can walk and function. Even then he still hurts with every step, and fatigue hits him like a freight train after thirty minutes to an hour.
So apart from the obvious, what does this mean for me? It means that every task I do counts for less in my mind, and every break is less excusable. I load the dishwasher? That's part of my expected duties; nothing special. Matthew loads it? I know that every moment on his feet was filled with pain and exhaustion, and my gratitude to him is through the roof. At the same time, I then feel completely inadequate, because if I were doing my duty, Matthew wouldn't have to lift a finger. (FYI that's in my head, not his. I think.)
Every tiny little thing I do feels like not enough. If I were really dutiful, the house would be spotless and sparkling every moment of every day, and I would have the kids in the park for at least four hours every day. If I sit down to take a break while Matthew is working, I feel like a dreadful person, because I know he's much more exhausted than I am. If I take a break while he's taking a break, I still feel dreadful, because he's collapsing because he has to. I just want to sit down and not work for a moment. If Matthew sits down and plays a game, it's because he can no longer stand. If I sit down and play a game, I'm a lazy, slothful person who's neglecting her work. That's what it feels like, anyway.
Back to multi-tasking. One of the biggest things for me is that my children L-O-V-E physical attention. It often feels like they need to be attached to my person every moment of the day. Henry in particular was very clingy today. I sat with him and watched a 50-minute episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, twice in a row. During that time, Matthew walked through carrying a laundry basket. My immediate reaction was guilt--I should have been up doing that, instead of lounging on the couch with my baby! And yet, don't my children need my attention, too? Where do I find the balance between giving attention to my children (very necessary) and giving appropriate attention to household duties (also very necessary)? And where do I fit in time for my husband, and time for myself? Do such things exist?
I haven't found the answer yet. If I ever do, I'll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, I'll go on doing the best I can, because here's the thing: I am enough. God put me here, and when I am not sufficient, I can draw on His sufficiency. Together we are enough. I just need to remind myself of this every hour.
An extra load of laundry probably wouldn't hurt, too.