Then There Was.

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In an effort to explain how the universe began, scientists have looked to the stars and skies, pooled their data and created the Big Bang Theory. According to this premise, there was nothing, then there was an event—an explosion—and then there was the universe. Let me summarize: nothing, explosion, universe, life. That’s all I am saying, but I will get back to that shortly.

I used to work outside of the home. I worked long hard hours, talked with adults, complained about my pay, was thin and had nice clothes without stains. After my oldest was born, I went from full-time madness to part-time chaos. Our second child has the benefit of having me home all of the time. Well, it will later be determined if this is indeed a benefit to anyone. Regardless, I work at home now, meaning I do not get paid.

When you work inside your home, you don’t get the feedback you normally get when you have to travel to an office. When the living room is spotless, no one wanders by on the way to the coffee pot and utters something like, “Hey, nice living room. I like what you did to the couch. Strong effort.” No one notices that there are days when ALL of the laundry is done, folded, ironed and put away. A coworker never mentions how the ring in the toilet bowl never shows up anymore. And why would anyone state that they neither smell the dog or the cat litter? It’s only an offense when the olfactory nerve is rudely stimulated. Regardless, the person who stays at home rarely gets feedback simply because there is no one to give it.

Because there is a lack of external feedback—a paucity of compliments—it is easy to start thinking that perhaps the “home” job is not vital and that the service provided is not as necessary as other jobs. Most of the work is hidden from view and no one is around to notice. Unless you have a baby with you in the home who may notice but simply not care; by the way, the baby will repeat almost anything you say but will not flood you with a plethora of compliments. It’s not right.

Just last week, I was told that my husband should not do so much in the house because he has a busy job. He should not have to put a load of laundry in the wash, or rinse the dishes or even change the baby’s diaper. He is busy during the day and tired at night. He should rest. I contemplated that while staring dumbfounded at the person relaying this opinion.

Lack of feedback and comments like that eventually distort reality and perspective. Perhaps, I occasionally question, my job is not that vital? Maybe if I just stop to smell the roses and not run right by them or trample them, no one will notice? Perchance, clothes can be worn more than once before friends and neighbors start to keep their distance? What would happen if I actually stopped vacuuming? Silly thoughts scurry through my mind during the day. Then it happened.

I got sick. I didn’t catch a cold or sneeze violently. I did not get a headache and want to lie down. I acquired and cultured some GI microbe that soon took over my entire being. By the time my husband came home that day, I was convinced I would not live to the next day. I looked at him with glassy eyes and crawled up the stairs, convinced that I would never return again. I muttered something about love, vomited and left.

For three days I was quarantined in the master bedroom. I will spare you all the details, but it is sufficient to know I had a pillow and a toilet at my disposal. My husband took the next off from work. I did not care. My father came the day after. I had no energy to spare. On the third day, I felt almost human; I had kept ginger ale and a cracker in my stomach for several hours. I decided to shower and return to my family. It was only then that I actually remembered I had a family and became curious about their well- being.

I went downstairs, clinging to the railing. I was alive. They were alive. The floor was… alive.

We have two boys, ages nine and a year-and-a-half. Perhaps it was just post-fever hallucinations, but it looked as if at least 17 children lived there. I did not recognize some of the toys. Or clothes. Or dishes. I wandered to the kitchen and saw a smoke detector on the counter. Confused, I texted my husband as to where it belonged. He promptly responded, “The perils of getting better. Go back upstairs.”

This is where we go back to the Big Bang Theory. I firmly believe that my family took advantage of my absence and decided to see if they could prove this theory true. Through experimentation with items perhaps now buried in the backyard, they tried to create a new world—maybe life—from nothing. It was clear there was an explosion. There is no evidence they were successful in their quest.

I now have the authority to tell anyone who runs the house that yes, you are important. The mundane drudgery of daily chores is indeed necessary. Never doubt that your presence is the power that prevents explosions from occurring in your home. Just, never, never become ill. Those who stay at home do not have sick days.

DeeDee Corbitt Sauter is a resident of Prince William County. Her column, “Tambourines and Elephants,” appears monthly in Prince William   Living.

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