When I returned to college for my degree, I wasn’t the only one in my family to get an education. Little did my husband and two sons suspect that lessons would be learned all the way around. Seemingly unimportant tasks like household chores took on new dimensions as my goals became reprioritized. One of the areas where this first became evident was the laundry.
As I poured over my notes on Orem’s nursing theory I heard my eight year old wail from his bedroom, ”Mom, all the T-shirts in my drawer are inside out.”
I closed my book momentarily. “Gee, isn’t that a
coincidence! All the T-shirts in the dirty hamper were
in that very same condition.” I offered him some
creative solutions. “The way I see it, you’ve got two
choices. You can take the time to turn them right-side-
out yourself, or you can put them on inside out. Then,
the next time you take one off, it will be right side out
“Aw, Mom … “
My husband pulled up a chair next to mine. “Honey, when I put my foot into my pant’s leg this morning, it gave birth to a sock.” He took a deep breath and continued. “And each of David’s sweatshirts came with a T -shirt stuck to the inside. For Halloween, Adam’s thinking of going dressed as static cling. He’s going to wear his shirt with all the socks stuck to it.”
I could see it was time to enlighten everybody to the new family game plan. “Things are going to be different around here,” I announced. “I’ve resigned my post as domes- tic goddess. I can’t take the time to hand sort every piece of your laundry anymore. I’m washing them the way I get them.”
I turned and studied my husband. Here sat a warm body with above normal intelligence. He had the same number of hands as me, although I’d often wished for a third. He had the same number of feet as me, granted not as quick. He wasn’t colorblind or handicapped in any way that I was aware of. A thought began to take shape. “You know, it might be a good idea for me to show you how to do the laundry.
Suppose I got hit by a Mack truck while commuting to classes? This whole family would come to a screeching halt. Besides, there’s nothing to this laundry business. Any fool could handle it.” He cocked an eye- brow, not sure if he’d been insulted. I continued with- out missing a beat. “All you do is wash the lights with the lights and the darks with the darks. Except, of course, towels are separate. And jeans. And the permanent press demands a little extra attention.”
“A little extra attention?” He sounded suspicious.
”Yeah, you’ve gotta be quick about emptying the
dryer or the clothes get wrinkled.”
“And then you’ve got to iron them?”
“No,” I explained. “Then you have to run them
through the dryer again.”
“And if they’re still wrinkled? Then you iron?” ”No, then you toss them into the wash and start over. The iron was laid to rest over a year ago. It would be sacrilegious to disturb it.”
My husband shook his head from side to side and stood up. “Maybe it would be easier if I just invested in some defensive driving lessons for you.”
As I returned to my books, another interesting thought came to mind. What would the Self-Care Deficit Theory be like if Dorthea Orem had lived in a family like mine?
by Karyn Buxman, RN
Volume 1 Number 1, Spring 1991