By Liz Chang
Before the years of my mother’s time away, my grandmother was also around. She lived with us until she passed away when I was six years old. When my grandmother was with us, both of my parents worked during the day. My grandmother was the one who did all the household chores. She took care of me. She made the food, she did the dishes, and she cleaned up the apartment.
During my mother’s time away, she no longer worked. My father worked and also took care of all the household chores. When I was in high school, he drove me to school at 7 am and returned home by around 6 pm with groceries to make dinner for us. He cooked the dinner, he cleaned up the table, he washed the dishes, he took out the garbage, and he did the laundry. He frequently instructed me to make my bed or put my clothes away, but I was never expected to help with other chores.
At the time, even when I wanted to help wash dishes, my mother would not allow me to help with chores. So, I quickly gave up on trying to help. I learned that I did not have control to shape my home environment. The emotional chaos of my mother’s “time away” fueled my desire for order, which in turn probably fueled a lot of the perfectionism I have been working out since I moved out for college 9 years ago.
Throughout all those years, there was probably some element of teamwork going on in the background. But, I am also sure that my only child self was spoiled and free to ignore any possibility of contributing to the home’s order and cleanliness.
Somehow, that shaped me to be very particular and orderly about the way I like to keep my home. I like to make the bed daily. I enjoy arranging and organizing things a particular way. And, I default to doing the cooking and cleaning, even when I don’t have to. Have I always been so mindful of tending to my home environment? Maybe these years of living away from my parents have helped redeem those years when I could not help out or change circumstances at home.
Now, as my fiancé and I navigate the joining of our lives, I find that there is a new turn to make in my understanding of being my capable, independent, and driven only-child-self. He and I are a team, and we want to sharpen each other and support each other. Plus, we both work full-time jobs and neither of us wants to be the one to do all the household work. As I think about this work in progress for our relationship, I am reminded that my home is not going to just be my home. It is now about my home being our home. Our home that we both are capable, dependable, and driven to care well for.
What is happening now is that I, as a woman who is independent and throwing my hands up to that song by Destiny’s Child, am growing in the value of interdependence. Because somehow in this mystery of interdependent relationship, I grow in my understanding of God’s relationship with the people of God. We need each other. On so many levels.
Liz Chang resides in Seattle, WA and works for Navos as a substance abuse prevention & intervention specialist at a local middle school, and as a child and family therapist. She graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a Masters of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and is working towards certification as a Chemical Dependency Professional.