Laundry (Confessions of a Love-Hate Affair)

Love it or hate it, laundry won't go away on by itself.

Love it or hate it, laundry won’t go away on by itself.

Laundry? I hate doing laundry…I think.

Pedro and I had a system that worked for twenty-one years of marriage. I did laundry one week, he did laundry the next. Our arrangement sprang from my strong beliefs that a woman’s place was NOT doing all of the quotidian chores if both of us worked full time. I mowed the lawn every other week. We took turns cooking. Of course, I don’t think Pedro loved our (um, MY) system of divvying up duties, but really, how could he argue—we both worked full time in our early years of marriage, so it only seemed fair.

When the girls came along, we continued to divide and conquer—ensuring that each of us had quality time with the kids as well as time to unwind and not be ‘on duty’ all the time (this system worked, for the most part, minus the fact that kids ALWAYS ask Mom even if Dad is standing right next to them….). We managed to always have one parent home with our kids until they started school, and of course, the division of duties changed—but the laundry duties didn’t. Every Sunday, one of us would faithfully wash and fold and put away.

Since I hate laundry, I taught the girls how to wash their own clothes as soon as they were old enough to unload the washer without falling in headfirst (six and seven).

And then Pedro got cancer and our lives whirled out of control, and finding a clean pair of underwear and socks that sort of matched made me a happy camper. I did laundry when I could (and boy, was I glad I’d taught the girls how to do their own laundry—at least I knew that they went to school with clean clothes), and where I could. When I was thousands of miles away from home with Pedro, I’d use a Laundromat; when things got really bad, I dropped my clothes off and a stranger washed them and folded them neatly for $7.50. Sometimes, I just went to the store and bought clean clothes.

Once, someone insisted on doing my laundry to ‘help’ me, and I felt angry and resentful (quirky things happen to caregivers whose lives change minute by minute).

Twenty-five years after the first laundry agreement, things have changed. Pedro started his dream job last year, and I had a sabbatical. I agreed to do all the laundry and cooking (except for Saturday morning), since I no longer had a full-time job. Even when I started working again in August, I agreed to keep on doing the laundry.

A couple of weeks ago I was gone on a Sunday so Pedro helped me by running the clothes through the washer and dryer and leaving them all on the bed for me to fold.

I resented that. It shames me that I resented his help. But I have a system that I like (wait, did I just use the word ‘like’ while referring to laundry?!). The more I thought about why I resented his help, the more I came to realize that laundry symbolizes my need to control situations. I want to know the details and do it MY way. When someone helps, I resent that they do it differently (because, after all, my way is best).

And isn’t that how we act in our relationship with God a lot of the time? We want his help on our terms, according to our perceptions of what he should do for us and when he should do it. We take him our dirty laundry and ask that he clean it up how we see fit. And when he doesn’t, we resent him. We doubt his benevolence, his grace and his deity.

But I can change. Change doesn’t come naturally. After all, it’s taken me 25 year to like laundry (hopefully, it won’t take me another 25 years to put my new insight into practice). But I can choose to have new attitudes on a daily basis. I can learn to appreciate the fact that God helps me when I ask—and be thankful that he does it his way, and not my way. I can’t read the mind of God, but I can trust his promises to give me a hope and a future. His way.