I work 8 hour days, 5 days a week, by 5:00 p.m., my brain is all mushy from writing web programs or dealing with the technical issues of the day. I always look forward to getting home so I can have a few minutes to relax and spend time with the kids before their bed time. My wife who is an excellent cook always has a meal ready for us to eat. After the meal, we try to get the kids to help with cleanup and getting the dishes in the dishwasher, even though it is messy at times; it’s the thought that counts. Once we have the dishes all cleaned up, it’s time to play tickle-kiss with the kids—some kind of game we invented. Our oldest son is the loudest and most active and our youngest is obsessed with stuffed animals; she has quite a stash in her room. All it takes is several minutes for the house to look like a mini tornado went through. If my wife told anyone that she had cleaned the house and had everything in order, no one would believe her because of the lack of evidence.
How does she keep up with the never ending list of chores, menus for the week, cooking, laundry, cleaning and whiny kids? And the list goes on. Where does she get the strength to keep going? When does she have a quiet time to reflect and rest? Can you imagine a single parent who has to raise children, work, go to school and worry about the day-to-day chores?
The other day, I heard a man argue with his wife; he told her “all you do is stay home with the kids while I bust my [tail] with these 10 hour shifts at work to put food on the table”. I couldn’t believe what came out of his mouth. Yes, he definitely deserved the dog house. I am afraid that was probably the way he regularly talked to her. The lady, who was visibly shaken, picked up the crying baby and proceeded to check out the groceries in silence. The guy kept grumbling on the way out the store.
One thing that came to mind after I saw the incident was the story of a Texas woman Andrea Yates, a stay at home mother who drowned her children. No one really knows what drove her to commit such a crime, but what we know is she was suffering from postpartum depression after her fifth child. When I read an article “Andrea Yates: Ill or Evil?” by Katherine Ramsland , I couldn’t help but feel sorry for a family that was fully involved in their local church and appeared to be happy on the outside, go through something so horrendous. When I read comments from people, calling her a monster and that she deserved to be hanged, I was amazed at such rage coming from the readers of the article. Wow! I am not trying to lessen the crime she committed; I am just appalled by people who commented without a clear understanding of what mental issues can do to a person. Her oldest son’s final words to her were “I am sorry”. Could it be the challenges of raising five kids that drove her to the breaking point? Is it possible that her husband was so busy trying to provide food, clothing and shelter for the family that he neglected a crucial aspect of their relationship, her emotional well being?
A lot of people who are suffering from depression and in need of help are afraid to reach out for help because of how we respond to them. We tend to isolate ourselves from people who are dealing with emotional or mental issues. We have created an environment where there is no room for people to be real. People like Andrea Yates who do reach out to the church or people around them, get a “you got to fix your life first” before you can come into my little circle of friends. This kind of treatment could be the reason why a lot of people dealing with depression and other emotional issues remain silent. What Andrea Yates shared with the cops in the 30 minutes interview after she was arrested, was what she should have shared with her husband or her church group. She believed she was a bad mother and the kids were getting out of control. She needed to do something to save them from hell. This to me sounds like an outcry of a mother who felt alone and did not have anyone to share her issues with. Could the whole situation have been avoided?
What makes us human is the ability to process information and able to make sound judgment. In most cases, people going through depression or extreme stress have a difficult time making rational decisions because their reality has been warped by isolation and compounded by life demands, cultural expectation and the little voices that circulate and condemn. Sometimes family and friends who know of a loved one dealing with depression or other mental issues live in denial, and would rather not deal with the situation instead of seeking help through counseling or other means.
I can’t comprehend what it is like for a mother carrying a baby for 9 months and going through labor, the everyday demands of giving without receiving, sacrificing herself for the needs of the kids and her husband over and over. Moms never have a break. They keep going even if they are in pain or sick. Parenting is hard, harder when you feel like you are carrying it all. It is easy to go off to work, earn a paycheck, and come home and check-out of this world through watching TV. I know of mothers who work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week who still go home and cook, clean and do all the household chores. We all need a break, we all need a rest and refuel, but how does a woman find the time? Since she is so in the groove of self-sacrificing she will not ask for time alone, she might. Sometimes she does, but it feels wrong to her….is it culture telling her that she cannot rest, refuel? We guys can zone out in front of the TV, computer, iPhone, play games, be totally oblivious to what is going on in the house. Sometimes it is easier for a woman to do the chores herself, rather than try to communicate to a spouse who has checked out to what needs to get done or how to help. Wives are expected to assist their husbands, to listen, be sensitive to pick up on the cues of what they like, dislike. Why can’t men try to do the same?
What a mother does is more than work, it’s LOVE. It’s sacrifice. So how does she do it? I can honestly say that I don’t know. But I can help her.