I sighed passive aggressively as I dumped the leftover chili into a plastic container while my husband and kids ate breakfast at the table nearby.
“You forgot to put the food away,” I scolded, clunking the pot into the sink, then filling it up with hot water and dish soap.
He barely looked up from his bowl of cereal to apologize. I’m pretty sure he rolled his eyes at me in the process, though I didn’t see him as I was too busy scrubbing the crap out of a smelly pot.
Clearly he didn’t understand that the last thing I wanted to do in the morning was wash dishes, especially when they should have been done on his clean-up duty the night before.
This wasn’t the first time I was finishing up his incomplete jobs. I’d call myself “The Closer,” like the last pitcher in a baseball game brought in to win the game for the team. Or at least keep the damage to a minimum.
That was me.
There were the piles of folded laundry waiting to be put back into drawers. The vacuum cleaner with the cord haphazardly wrapped around the handle like a drunken snake left sitting outside the closet door, still warm from the turns on our carpet.
The kitchen tablecloth hanging over the chair after a post-apocalyptic breakfast spraydown.
Some days I’d moan or complain. On others, I’d audibly sigh so loud that the neighbors across the street could hear me.
Because having to do part of the task, even as small as pushing the vacuum cleaner back into the closet, seemed so incredibly inconvenient, careless even. And the break that he was trying to give me wasn’t really a break at all because I still had to do something. Rather than the nothing I so desperately wanted.
I’m not quite sure when small things became such big things. Since he traveled a lot for work (and still does), I was left to carry the incredible weight of primary parent of four kids and housekeeper. So when he was home, I felt owed the pleasure of not having to do anything involving dinner clean up.
Aside from the ridiculousness of getting pleasure out of just not having to clean something for 24-hours, having to do everything for extended periods of time can really make you want to do absolutely nothing.
And the truth was, I never left loose ends untied. The laundry was always folded and put away, never left in hampers or in folded piles on the floor. And the dishes were washed and neatly stacked in the cabinets, so when I turned off the lights at the end of the night, there would be nothing to greet me in the sink in the morning.
But then he started pointing out the chargers I left plugged into the wall. And my shoes tossed carelessly in the middle of our foyer. And just when I was about to yell at him about picking on me about the little things that he could just do and not mention because of all the things I do around the house, I choked on my ungratefulness.
Here all this time I had completely ignored all the amazing things my husband was doing around the house. Aside from his two jobs as a pilot and Air Force Reserves officer, plus the nightly work on his Master’s Degree, he was doing as much as he could to contribute to the household. Beyond the one pot left on the stove, he cleans the floors and tables and hand washes many of the dishes.
He vacuums our carpets on a regular basis with the vacuum cleaner left outside the closet door.
And even though he often doesn’t put the laundry away, it’s pristinely folded, better than anything I would have ever done.
As it turns out, in the midst of all my complaining about what he had forgotten to do, I had missed all the wonderful things he had done and continues to do every day that he’s home, most of the time without thanks or recognition.
There aren’t many breaks for either of us when he’s traveling and I’m home with four kids. But even if you’ve got a spouse who works regular hours and fewer kids than I do, life can still be overwhelming.
And as thankful as I’ve become for what he does, I can’t say that I never wish for a morning with absolutely no dishes in the sink. I’d love to not have to do anything related to laundry for one whole day.
But by focusing my energy on appreciating what he does do around the house rather than using it to attack him for what he doesn’t, I’m a happier person. We’re a happier couple.
We’re a happier family.
That dirty pot or that pile of clothes seem so small because compared to everything else, they actually are.