Saturday, June 12, 2010

Balance in a family crisis: Is it possible?

Going Green Mama feels like a mother of three kids this week...

It's amazing how a few moments can turn your life upside down. Last weekend, it was the realization that something had gone seriously wrong with my husband's health.

My husband has coped with arthritis as a result of heavy sports for as nearly as long as I've known him. But this time things were different. He suddenly started complaining about knee pain, and Friday night realized his knee had swollen to three times its size.

A visit to the doctor and the imaging center later, and we confirmed we have a problem. While I'm writing this, we're waiting on the consult with an orthopedic surgeon.

All of this has thrown my family into disarray. My children, sweet as they are, know they have an opening to do stuff, because Daddy can hardly walk. We're shelling out money for daycare we can't afford because we don't have flexibility to cancel and not pay for it. And on my husband's radically reduced salary due to only a few months ago finally landing part-time employment, we have no financial cushion to weather this latest challenge.

And cleaning? That was hanging in the balance already. Now, more than ever, I've worried about juggling it all.

Except you can't. No person is a superhero, regardless of what we tell ourselves.

One week into this journey I'm finding I'm struggling with what gives and what to stick with. I'm determined to continue to fix my family healthy meals instead of grabbing a pizza at Papa Murphy's on the way home. But veggies have largely fallen off the menu, and with one small exception, I really haven't found time to touch my garden, let alone assess what's ready to pick. Nevermind that my children enjoy the "harvest," too.

And cleaning? While I'm a huge advocate of using baking soda, vinegar, etc., with the need to cram everything in quickly, I find myself grabbing the old 409 bottle instead. Spray and go.

So as we navigate through these (hopefully) temporary waters and make small shifts in what's acceptable, I'll ask you: When a crisis, great or small, strikes in your home, what changes do you find fall first? What things won't you compromise on regardless of time or money constraints?


Donna Bird said...

Hi Robbie,

What is happening with your husband is going on in families across the USA. I believe the most important thing you can do at this point is to make your husband your #1 priority, over all the daily chores you may normally prioritize.

Go with him to see the orthopedic doctor and if it turns out to be osteoporosis or arthritis, try to keep your cool, because he is hurting with pain he has difficulty describing. Most men are embarrassed with an ailment such as this, mainly because they know their abilities are now limited, more than ever before.

Trust me on all of this. I've been there.

God bless you and yours,

Donna Bird

Elizabeth said...

I hope all goes well with the knee surgery. I don't know what age your children are but you're doing something right if they're willing to help and not whining about stuff. If you have friends or co-workers or relatives nearby who either enjoy or don't mind puttering in the garden, ask them to keep an eye on it for you in exchange for some of the produce. When we go on vacation or to a conference during the harvest season, I tell the people who take care of our pets that they can take whatever's ripe. I also ask that they water the garden if it's been really dry and hot; when we have the soaker hose set up, that's no big deal for them to do. As for cleaning, if spray bottles are what you're reaching for at the moment, try Seventh Generation's product(s). For the life of me I can't tell that the "tile and tub" type cleaner has anything different in it from the kitchen cleaner, except the scent, but I love the stuff. Another alternative is to get a 3-year-old, hand her a box of diaper wipes, and tell her to help out by wiping down the counters (a chair or stool will be necessary). When we're busy, cleaning is generally the first to go aside from tossing dishes in the dishwasher and dry-mopping the wood floors once a week. Yard work, too, because it'll all be there later and there's always next year for the garden. Good luck and take care of yourself.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Robbie -So sorry to hear about your husband. Wish I lived closer so I could help, but hopefully you've got some good friends/family there to help. Don't worry about letting things slide. I think the important thing is that you do your best and let your family's needs come first.

Toni's Treehouse said...

Sorry to hear of your troubles. So sad when bad things happen to good people. When we hit crisis mode we do the best we can to maintain. We don't start anything new. People come first, so for us that means trying to maintain the house a little, continuing to eat good healthy food and spending time together every day. We start looking around, assessing everything that's going on and some things are simply put on hold. From a financial standpoint, we first look at what we're paying out every month to see if we can drop anything. For example, we're expecting a rough financial patch this fall and are thinking of cutting our cell phones back to the lowest plan possible. Best of luck to you and your family. You will be in our thoughts.

Jen said...

Cleaning, cooking and laundry are always the first thing to get left undone when something unexpected comes up in our family. My husband was hospitalized last year when he lost 80% of his blood. I spent my days at the hospital and trying to prepare for the arrival of our baby (I was 35w pregnant).

Robbie said...

Thanks for all the kind thoughts! We're fortunate that they're not calling for surgery - yet, so that is a relief. But it's amazing how just the change of him hobbling around will make a difference in what does/doesn't happen in a home! :)

Kathryn Grace said...

First, my sympathy for your husband's injury and suffering, for your financial situation, and for the burdens you are carrying. I ask for strength, courage and healing for all of you.

What I've learned the hard way about crises is that cleaning can be done when I'm ready to do it and we'll manage around the messes till then. Don't sweat the small stuff!

Kids want to help in a crisis. Tell them what you need from them.

Even very small children understand a crisis on some level and want to help their family through it. When mine were growing up, I always asked for their help, based on their age level.

If tiny: I need you to play quietly while I do this. Later, when Aunt Susie comes by, you can go play with her and your cousins. Alternatively: Later, we'll play together outside and you can run and jump ...

If four or older, children love an age-specific task they can be counted on to do without supervision. First, sit down with them and explain the need for their help. Then tell them what you are counting on from them during this crisis.

Little: After lunch and again before bed, pick up your toys and put them in this basket. Carry to your room and put away.

Older: While I'm doing XXX, help with the little ones, make sure they don't hurt themselves, feed them a snack. Come to me if you are unsure how to help them.

After each meal or snack, load (unload) the dishwasher. When the laundry basket is full, fold and put away the clothes. (It doesn't have to be perfect.) If you and the little ones need more clean clothes, sort a load of darks and another of lights and I will wash one today and one tomorrow.

Spend at least five minutes each day with each child, one on one. Tell the others that this is *Dana's* special time and that you won't let anyone interrupt their special time when it is their turn.

Accept every offer of help from friends and neighbors when they ask, "What can I do to help?" Give them two or three tasks from which to choose and have them pick one. Don't worry. Time will come when someone you care about will let you return the favor.

Personally, I would love to be asked to help with a garden. I don't have access to one and would be thrilled to help with a neighbors', so don't be afraid to include a little gardening or watering on your list.

Let someone you trust take the kids for an hour or so, shut yourself in the house and take a soothing bath, read a book, go outside and pull some weeds. Water the dirt with your tears, if need be. Lie in the grass, feel the earth under your body, the whole length. Breathe deeply.

Most importantly, breathe deeply. Take lots of long, cleansing breaths.

Lastly, DON'T beat yourself up about anything--not 409, not pizza, not using paper towels, if you have to. If you wish you could make better choices, let that go for now. When your world is right again, you'll have time to take stock of how you handled this emergency and plan how you'd like to handle the next one.

That's my 2 cents worth.

Kale for Sale said...

I hope just writing this gave you some relief. My husband recently had shoulder surgery that was way more serious than I anticipated going into it. We have no kids in the house and still the seams of a semi-well tended household quickly pulled apart and I appreciated so many quick conveniences we generally have the time to side step and accomodate with less impact. I bought soup in cans (we actually ended up donating it to the postal carriers food pick up but still it was manna from heaven that first day). And each day I carried home ten pounds of ice packaged in plastic bags for his ice machine. I bought packaged cookies, crackers, hot house flowers. We needed it all and I was so grateful for our easy access. As grateful as I am now that my husband is moving with more agility and we can sidestep packaging, plastic and manufactured food again. There's a time for everything. Take really good care and my best to you and your family.


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