Keeping up with household chores isn’t easy. But when you have a spouse with MS, it becomes as much of an emotional effort as a physical one. Some days I fear that one of the cats might disappear under an avalanche of dirty clothes. I try not to notice the inches of dust on the coffee table or the tufts of cat hair floating across the hardwood floors.
It’s the summer so it’s a tough(er) time of year for many people with MS. I don’t want my husband to do something he can’t really handle just to make life easier for me — not at the expense of his limited energy. At the same time, I feel resentful and consumed by guilt from wanting to ignore his disease and demand some help.
The line between what my husband can and cannot take on is still so blurry to me. So much so, that I end up saying “I’ll handle it.” But the truth is, I feel like I’m drowning and I just don’t know what to do or how to handle asking for help while being sensitive to his limitations. I start really focusing on his disease. My thoughts go from, “I sure wish he’d put his socks in the hamper,” to “MS is something I can’t handle; I can’t do this!”
Thankfully I recently got some great advice: Set weekly family meetings. On Sundays we usually sit together and plan the menu for the week ahead so I can do the grocery shopping. Now we tack on our family meeting at the end. I tell him exactly what I need help with and he tells me what he can realistically manage (or not). Nothing gets pent up on my end and we work out ways to make some things easier for him to handle. I also learn more about what he needs and how I can help him. I feel so relieved and life at home is more manageable. My husband feels like he’s contributing more, too. Everybody wins!
Kelly Nieuwejaar lives in southern Maine with her husband, Khoren. Read another article written by Kelly — and learn more about how MS affects the whole family — in the Fall 2012 issue of Momentum.