I felt his hand on my hip and stirred awake.
Glancing at the clock, I sighed. 5:33am. Too early.
No wonder I hurt everywhere.
Joints stiff and sore, I shifted for a more comfortable position. Remnants of drowsiness rapidly escaped as the pain shot through my body.
Not off to a good start, this day.
I sat up, knowing it was too late to try to go back to sleep. I was up for the day.
Pain is more effective than caffeine at clearing the grogginess.
I stumbled to the bathroom, wondering to myself, “If this is how I feel now, how will I feel when I actually AM 80?”
And as the pain chased the dull from my consciousness, anger, self-pity, and resentment licked like flames around my heart.
My eyes welled with tears.
“It’s not fair,” I thought.
(Remember, I’m not a morning person at all… and research shows women need more sleep than men…)
Nearly four decades of exercise – both aerobic and strength training – gobs of effort towards eating right, expenses tied to therapy, and a simple thing like a night with less than a full eight hours of sleep (six last night) renders me decrepit.
Because of the pain. I wanted to be angry at my husband for waking me. But his intent was just to love on me, and it wasn’t like he rolled me around to suit his whims – he just put his hand on my hip.
And there’s no way he could have known I hadn’t had enough sleep to feel well this morning, or that it would make me sleep as lightly as I was.
I have a connective tissue disorder called,”Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.” It’s resulted in chronic painful tendonitis in multiple places in my body, and early onset arthritis in many of my joints. I don’t talk about it much here, not because it doesn’t affect me or my family, but because I don’t want to be defined by it. I’ve learned to deal with my circumstances.
I’ve had to.
And God’s used it to teach me.
So this morning, I chose to focus on what was true, Philippians 4:8 style. I remembered that I actually felt like this all day long for nearly three years. I remembered that in a couple of hours, I probably won’t feel as bad. I remembered that if I go to bed early tonight, I might actually not hurt at all tomorrow morning. The sleep thing is super frustrating for me – not only am I obviously female, but because of EDS, I need even more sleep to repair daily damage. It’s hard to get consistently.
I also actively gave grace to myself and my husband. I literally extended empathy to myself, saying, “Poor Nina. This is a lousy lot, isn’t it? You do hurt. It IS hard. It certainly doesn’t seem fair. And you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, would you? But your kids also struggle with this disorder, so take a few moments to be sad about the now you are in, but you need to walk through this well, you need to lean on Him, because they are watching.”
And then I extended empathy to my husband. “You know he doesn’t understand what it is like – but how sweet is it that he wants to start his day hugging you? And how sweet is it that he understands enough to be gentle with you in the mornings? You know it is rare that you sleep so lightly that his hand on your hip would wake you… and if you just tell him how you are feeling, he’ll listen. Don’t blame him, however, help him understand.”
And I told him how I felt.
And he had empathy for me, too. If he hadn’t, I may have said, “I feel like you are brushing me off. I literally hurt all over and feel like an 80 year old woman. I need you to empathize with what that is like for me. Will you please comfort me? I’m sad and about to cry about it all.”
Know that I view my biblical role of “helper” as important – and that means helping my husband understand things sometimes when he doesn’t, so yeah, I really might have said that, because it would have helped him understand.
And I remembered days gone by where I literally couldn’t brush my teeth or type or pull up my own underwear because of the pain and the weakness. And I was thankful to not be there any longer, and knew that today was not as bad as that.
So I am grateful also for perspective – because the pain of yesterdays has given me an understanding of the pain of today.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the entire “housework” issue in Dare Thirteen in terms of who is actually doing what. Yesterday, I wrote about the “Do It All” woman, the one who is exhausted, burned out, and stressing out those around her. I received an email saying, “This also applies to men!” and I fully agree.
Today I’m going to share how we can get those around us more involved in the chores. This post is written to women (and men, I guess! ) who are struggling with this, doing everything themselves and have no idea how to train their kids, or encourage their husbands to participate in chores at home.
Know that this is a particularly important topic for me personally, because some days, I’m making a decision between doing one more physical chore and making dinner for my family. If I do too much, I can be in a spot where I seriously can hardly do anything for days. It used to be weeks, but I no longer do some of the things I used to do…
Like plant trays of annuals in the springtime. I’ll spend three weeks unable to dress myself or brush my teeth if I plant tons of flowers like I used to.
So I’ve learned to be happy with less of that hobby – and enlisted the help of my husband and kids in multiple areas.
And so that brings us back to the topic of chores. There was a gal in a Daughters of Sarah class who took the lanyard nametags and wrote out all the chores for each room, and each day, her kids got a different lanyard with those chores on it. We do something like this with our kids – and hold computer time, social activities and car keys over their heads to see to it that things get done.
They don’t like it, but they understand and respect it.
(I’m happy to wait until they are 25 to be their friend – right now, they need parents, not friendships from us)
So now, in other words, we work first and play later.
Dr. Kevin Leman has several books on raising kids that are stellar – Making Your Kids Mind without Losing Yours and Have a New Kid by Friday – and he recommends involving your kids in home life by daily chores from when they are very little. He’s a boss with teens, elementary aged kids and with little ones.
So suggestion #1 is involve your kids in the work:
- Help them succeed at it by being specific about what needs to be done
- Do chores with them from a young age to help them learn and have fun
- Hold rewards until the daily jobs are done – no computer, tv, social life, etc., until the work is finished
- Don’t yell at them or be angry while they are working, even if they are doing it wrong or poorly – help them get it right and make it a pleasant experience
- Also work while they are to avoid causing resentment in them
- Lower your standards from perfection – use the opportunity to be satisfied with “good” instead of “perfect” otherwise you breed a sense of “nothing I do is ever good enough” in your kids
- Compliment them on a job well done and the EFFORT they put into it – don’t criticize them (coach positively when necessary) or you’ll suck all the motivation to do a good job out of them
With the adults in your life, suggestion #2 is also simple: ASK
- Ask for what you want – don’t assume other people “just know”
- Include your spouse in a chore-chart discussion as you delegate specific daily responsibilities – creating a context for input helps ownership occur
- Follow up kindly, gently, as if it is the first time you are asking, “Hey, baby, I know we agreed we were both going to set a good example for the kids – I was just getting ready to have everyone finish up some things – can you join us in a few minutes?”
- Compliment your spouse on the effort, leadership, care, time, etc., s/he put into getting things done – don’t point out everything that was missed, it’s demotivating – and what you pay attention to GROWS!
- Don’t be afraid to flirt with your husband and have fun with this – for sex or for your wife with a night off (or other things) if they help with something – “you know, I’ll be highly motivated to play tonight if you can get the garage cleaned out today…*wink* “ or, “I’ll trade you putting the kids to bed and cleaning up after dinner and give you the night off if you’ll help me with those boxes in my office this afternoon…” This is in no way meant to be demeaning, but rather to connect with what motivates and fulfills him/her, or speaks directly into his or her love language. Please read a tone of “fun” and respect into this one! This would be whatever would be considered a “positive” as Gottman discusses in his research (remembering that research shows healthy relationships have a 5 positives to 1 negative ratio). As an aside, many times men will view the “giving of sex” as a negative – they want us to be drawn to them, to want to BE WITH them – so ask God to change your heart if this is a “favor” you are doing “for him,” instead of an activity that celebrates the one-ness between you (remember marital math is 1 + 1 + 1).
- Don’t nag – if s/he doesn’t do what was committed to, allow a little time, then follow up by saying, “hey, I’m not wanting to nag you, and I know you have a plan for that pile of papers in the bedroom – can you let me know when you will have it done? I want to schedule the carpet cleaning and am waiting on it,” being factual, not emotional or judgmental or critical (which looks like, “I can’t believe you haven’t taken care of those papers yet! I have to do everything around here, you are so lazy. I can’t count on you for anything.”)
- Let reality teach if there are consequences for his or her not doing something – be your spouse’s friend, but don’t enable him or her – that’s not help.
And stop taking it all so personally. Every family has issues figuring out how to get the work done. Be proactive and work through them – use it as an opportunity to engage the people you live with in caring for your home. If you do, you’ll all have a lot less stress, you’ll be ready for company daily, and your kids will learn a good work ethic.
And in doing so, you’ll bring glory to God.
Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might…
Whatever you do, work at it with all your might, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, …. as to the Lord, and not unto men
And I confess I’ve not always been great at these things myself, but am working on it. Totally worth it. Don’t quit. Don’t give up.
I hope you’ll subscribe and join our community here. I’m interested in what YOU are doing with your family… how do YOU get chores done?
AND… I’m REALLY wondering today WHY you think so many women in our culture think they have to “do it all?” What say you?
If you are parenting small people, you should totally follow Leah and Debbie if you have tweens, teens, or twenty-somethings. Like us on Facebook so you can know when Daughters of Sarah becomes available in video format this year. I’m also active on Twitter as @NinaRoesner. Come join the discussion!
And PLEASE keep us in our prayers as we walk through the next steps of finishing the work for the video version of Daughters of Sarah!! We’re back in the studio next week. I can speak to large groups of people, but the camera… not my favorite!
Love to you,