Friday, March 18, 2011

I’m trying to give up the martyr-thing.

We saw a classic rerun of Raymond last night. It was the Christmas episode, where Ray uncovers Deborah’s martyr-complex by offering to watch the kids so she can go to a movie. She turns him down and he realizes that she can’t go to a movie, or she’ll have to quit telling people how she never gets to go to movies. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most hilarious scenes from the series, because it rings so true. It does to me, anyway. From what I see on Facebook statuses, I don’t think I’m the only one.

There is not a doubt in my mind that the entry of women into the workforce effectively doubled our load, possibly more than doubled it. Some of that is biological necessity. If my husband and I could gestate and lactate on a 50/50 basis, the last ten years of my life would have been substantially altered. I’d have gotten more sleep, that’s for sure! But I’d have missed out on some of the most amazing miracles reserved for my gender, as well. During those ten years, I’ve done my share of martyring. I often joked, while enjoying the blessing of having my infant daughters at work with me, that my husband should try it for just one day; he’d probably have had me quit my job that very night. Maybe so, maybe not, but giving up wine and sushi for 9 months, getting up in the middle of the night to nurse my babies, and scheduling staff meetings during nap time is, to a large degree, the stuff I do just because I’m a woman – because I am a mother, it comes with the choice to procreate. But the fact that we owned our front-loaders for five years before I bothered to show my husband where I keep the soap and how to run them is full-on martyring. There is no biological necessity to my running every load of laundry our family dirties.

I bemoaned to my sister once that it was disgusting to unravel dried out, sweaty dress socks that had been thoughtlessly thrown into the hamper inside-out and tangled. She looked at me sideways and said, “Then why don’t you hand them to your husband, mention that it is gross, and ask him to unravel them for you.” Duh. Of course, my husband had no idea that it was even a problem for me, because I was being a martyr and complaining about my load, instead of sharing it.

We went through a two-part personal process last year that really highlighted to me my own shortcomings in this area. First, we began talking about having a third child. There is no way I could consider taking on the biological necessities of another baby, if I continued to try to brave the burden of martyrdom. Then, we started a six-week devotional study that was supposed to help us simplify our lives. The opening self-assessment was a clear call for change, as well. It’s not easy to spot all my problem areas, but I’ve been working on it. The girls are now doing small things, like emptying the dishwasher, and I’m being more diligent about making sure they clean up their own rooms and playroom. My husband’s been pitching in at least once a week to prepare dinner for us and picking up other odds and ends chores, like loading the dishwasher now and then. My older daughter learned to vacuum this month, and is my biggest helper in switching out the laundry loads and putting the towels into the cupboard. Everyone, even my younger daughter, has been taking more initiative on things that I didn’t even ask for, like noticing when the dog needs to go out and filling her water dish.

Aside from the occasionally disgruntled child, who would rather watch Martha Speaks than unload the washer, everyone has been unimaginably amenable to sharing more of the load. There is still plenty for me to do, and sometimes I get impatient, overseeing a poorly done chore when I could just as easily step in and do it right. Overall, however, our house is becoming better organized and easier to manage, and I’m finding time for some of my own important pursuits – like blogging, gestating, cooking from scratch, and even sewing vintage aprons. Keep me in your prayers that I don’t backslide on this one…

Being a martyr is overrated. Even Jesus begged for a different outcome, and his suffering was to accomplish far more than a tidy house or stain removal.

Jesus walked on a little way. Then he knelt down on the ground and prayed, "Father, if it is possible, don't let this happen to me! Father, you can do anything. Don't make me suffer by having me drink from this cup. But do what you want, and not what I want." Mark 14:35-36

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