They are having the same discussion again. Sometimes she is so angry she pushes until it is a fight; other times she is capable of a healthy discussion. But always, it is the same: She is unsatisfied, and he is frustrated he can’t make things perfect for her.
As soon as she discovered she was carrying a child — a beautiful, wanted promise created in perfect partnership with the man she loves more than breath — she knew it was her destiny to raise this child in her home. The ease of the decision was startling to her — she didn’t know she was willing to leave the world of paychecks and praise for a world at home. But she was at peace.
She knew it would be hard work raising a child. She was prepared and accepted the tiring work as cheerfully as she accepted her child’s coos and smiles. What she didn’t know, what nobody told her, what she never could have understood, and what she can’t even explain in a manner that satisfies her, is that her house would become another child in need of care.
She never could have understood the needs of a house until she was living in that house all day. A newborn sleeps and its needs end for that blessed stretch of time. She never understood that the house never sleeps. Its needs never end. It is a living, breathing organism who throws up, soils itself, breaks its bones, begs for attention, and defiantly remains damaged until its demands are met.
Unlike her miraculous 5-year-old who can dress and feed herself, the house never grows up; it never learns to do things for itself. It is a newborn who doesn’t sleep; always crying, always screaming, always, always, always there.
He wakes early in the morning, and while she exercises, showers, or steals more sleep, he scurries throughout their living house. He empties the dishwasher, he empties the litter box and feeds the cat, he tidies a corner, he straightens a floor. He does this in record time, always looking for areas to clean — spots he can remove so his wife won’t ever have to even see them. He turns the heater on, but leaves while the house is still dark, still cold. He looks behind him and his work is good.
She emerges from her room with two children in need of nourishment. She tries so hard to meet every single nourishment need — they read scriptures together, snuggling in the big bed. She and the 5-year-old stifle giggles while the toddler imitates their prayers, and everyone collapses together when the toddler shouts “MEN” at the conclusion, her own agreement that this prayer was good. The mother is happy. Her decision to be here with them is right. Her work is good.
She brings them down to nourish their tummies. She sees cat hair on the floor that was deposited after her hard-working husband shut and locked the door. She sees toys he didn’t see while the house was dark. She debates if she should set her toddler in the cracker-crumb high chair or if she should first wipe the crumbs away. She begins to hate this house, this third child who’s needs so often must be met before anybody else’s.
All through her long day, her house mocks her with its begging, its screaming, its refusal to stay clean. Should she ignore that mess over there or should she ignore her children? When the children are playing happily, should she tend to the house, or should she do something to enrich her own life? Always the decision is there, frustrating her.
He comes home at the end of the day. The cold, dark house is now warm and bright. Onions are sizzling in a skillet. The table is set and there is a place for him; he has been thought of. Music flows from the speakers, and the beautiful girls pause mid-pirouette to run to him with arms reaching higher than they ever reach, begging to be picked up and held. They babble about their day while she sneaks in a kiss. She is happy. Her work is good.
He doesn’t notice the toys on the floor, the toys she carefully placed in their designated boxes moments before. Why would he? The family is happy. The house is warm and good smells come from the kitchen. Everyone is loved. Their work is good.
The balance between love, care, and passion is always out of reach — it is a carrot (Or chocolate bar? She is realistic.) dangled in front of her. She struggles. He hurts to see her hurt. He tries harder. She accepts his gifts, while realizing they can never be enough, because the house demands too much.
So what is there left to do? When the tears have been shed and the game has been lost, he is there. Sweeping a corner. And he pauses to hug and hold her.