I walk into our house, filled with excitement because it will be clean (it’s a rare sight these days with two children under five). I asked my husband to help with only a couple of chores today but he promised me the inside of our home would be sparkling by the time I finished work.
I wait for the smell of freshly washed bed sheets and polish to greet my nostrils like an old friend but my lips do not form a smile, instead they push out a tiny “oh”.
Bemusement spreads across my face as I look at the living room and see it is pretty much untouched. I had hoped, at the very least, the hoover would have been whipped around. I wasn’t so bothered about the dusty shelves and skirting boards – who bothers with those, right? – but no one can deny that a hoovered room is a happy one. This space however, looks as tidy as a crime scene.
My husband mumbles something about ‘making a start’ but claims the boys had undone his efforts when they returned from school. Okay. That I could live with. After all, kids will be kids. If the house looks as if a bomb has gone off after playtime then it’s been a good day.
With only a few minutes left for cuddles before the boys’ bedtime, I scoop them into the crook of my arms and stealthily sniff their shampooed hair while they watch television. When the programme ends, I take the hand of my youngest and we embark on the long climb up the stairs.
Before I head into his bedroom, I sneak a peek into our own and see it; the laundry still folded on the floor. Anyone who has children, or someone they care for, knows laundry has a magical ability to breed quicker than it is washed or worn. This particular pile of ours had been on the floor for weeks. To be fair, it was the status quo these days but with a baby on the way and a bedroom which needs decorating, I was desperate to get it cleared away.
While my youngest busies himself picking out a story, I recall a phone conversation with my husband from earlier in the day:
“Do you mind sorting out the washing in our bedroom for me please?”
“I can do that.”
“Don’t worry about hanging it out. Just sort it into piles and pop your own stuff away. I can do the rest when I get home.”
“Yep. Sounds good. See you later. Love you.”
It sounds crazy to anyone who hasn’t been driven mad by the laundry monster, but I was so damn excited and relieved that this particular chore was going to be sorted. Unsure of what to do next, I trap a nervous giggle in my throat while struggling to hold back the tears.
At the beginning of this very same week, I sat in our car on the driveway, with my hands gripped to the steering wheel, unable to move. Overwhelmed. It’s the first thing which happens to me when I start to… go. I lose the ability to be physical.
In this moment, I know all he wants – needs – from me is something as simple as a hug, or at the very least a pat on the back and a peck on the cheek, but I am so angry I just can’t bring myself to do that. The demons of my past have destroyed normal physical connections. And his repeated failure to stick to his word is like a kick to the gut every time. I always take it so personally.
So where do we go from here?
A few months ago he walked away. From the house, from the children, from me. I never thought that would happen. I didn’t know he had become that ill.
I shut the door on the laundry and kneel down by my son’s bed to read him a story about diggers. I enjoy the moment and the fascination on his beautiful face, the face we made together. I kiss him goodnight, tuck his legs under the cover, and press glow worm’s belly to soothe him to slumber.
Once his door is closed, I sit at the top of the stairs and take a breath, while listening to my husband talk to our four-year-old, downstairs. They are discussing lightsabers. I try to stop feeding the grudge.
My husband has obviously had a bad day and the motivation he woke up with must have been sucked out of him soon after I left for work. His meds haven’t done what they are meant to do and today I left him on his own for too long to think in the silence he hates.
Just for a change I wish I could be the one who needed him, and not have it be him who needed me. We can’t always get what we want though, so I force it. I force a smile, a sweet sing-song voice; I bite my tongue, and arrange with myself a cry-date for another time.
Sometimes, even maybe most of the time, one of us has to love that little bit harder.