I always wonder what would happen if I weren’t around for my kids and my husband. I think of what they might eat, how the house might look, and who would do the laundry. During the last week or so — when I was unable to bend, barely able to walk and a chiropractor recommended I lay down for a while — I learned something.
With a little practice, my family might actually fare just fine on its own.
Of course, I didn’t know that going in, so when the chiropractor working on my back warned me not to venture to the store to pick up necessary supplies, I began to panic.
“What will they do for dinner?” I asked, slowly rolling to my side on his massage table and sitting up carefully. I was still moving like molasses despite his adjustments, moving like I used to alongside the aged when my mom got us to volunteer at the home for the elderly.
“I’m sure your husband knows how to use his fingers to dial a phone,” he suggested with a smile.
The deep abdominal psoas muscle — which I strained while trying to get in bathing-suit shape — also has links to many emotions, including fear. So I imagined there was some karmic intervention at play as I laid upstairs and listened to my family figure out how to manage without me.
Suddenly, all the many hundreds of invisible jobs I do — the picking up of dirty pajamas, the clearing and doing of dishes, the constant putting away and organizing and shopping and cooking and cleaning — all came blaringly into the light.
I often complain to Big G about the many loads of laundry and the many thankless tasks of a freelancer and housewife, but nothing is so effective as learning things firsthand.
But we discovered last week that I’m actually not the only one able to pick things off the floor and put them away, and I’m hardly the only one able to rinse a dish and put it in the dishwasher.
I usually get up at 5 am to get organized, to put in a load of laundry and have clean and dry sweatpants for gym or baseball by 7 am. Last week it was my husband, falling into bed dead tired at midnight from folding, waking up in the morning to do more.
“I’ve finally figured how to tell the difference between the boys’ clothes,” he said proudly.
His newfound attentiveness to tasks he had so many times begged off being able to perform seemed to be a miracle. It turns out he has the capacity to learn if he tries.
I wonder if my temporary disability is due in part to a build-up of resentment and fear, and I have to say it has been a blessing in disguise. It is amazing to see my family pull together to actually pick up after themselves, to notice all the little ways in which their actions make work for me that they never even noticed, that I subsumed without even paying attention myself. But my body knew. I felt it in my bones. Resentment grows in our posture.
“The pelvis holds all the ‘shoulds.’ ” a cool chiropractor in Tribeca told me as she hammered a little electric placebo on the tense area.
And that got me thinking.
We shouldn’t have to disappear to prove the point. A mother’s work should get recognized and families should collaborate.
I thank my body for teaching us all the valuable lesson that pulling together is not only possible but necessary. I have my fingers crossed the lesson sticks, so that when I can finally bend again, I won’t be the only one picking the popcorn up off the floor.
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