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The Washer Life

Caregiving takes many forms.

It’s 11 p.m., and I am headed to bed. Though it is suggested that the average family does eight to ten loads of wash each week (spruce.com), in our home, the washer and dryer run almost continuously throughout the day. Due to the specific nature of Rachel and Janneke’s needs, we average five loads a day. On this day, I counted at least eight loads before closing my eyes for sleep.

Come, Muse, and sing the dreaded washing day.
Ye who beneath the yoke of wedlock bend,
With bowed soul, full well ye ken the day
Which week, smooth sliding after week, brings on
Too soon; for to that day nor peace belongs,
Nor comfort; ere the first grey streak of dawn,
The red-armed washers come and chase repose.

Scrubbing and folding

The well-known poem “Washing Day” by Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1797) suggests anything but joy with the task of washing the clothes. Shortly after the arrival of Janneke, I remember talking with my grandmother about the care of our girls. She conveyed her worry over how I would manage the laundry, based on her own experience of washing by hand and boiling diapers on the stove. Mind you, though I do not have the red arms of washing by hand with hot water, I will admit that there are days when I am flushed from the process of loading my machines and folding. 

Back in August, both my washing machine and dryer protested their work schedule. I explained to our local appliance store that five loads a day meant I couldn’t wait the six weeks for the new parts or hang out at a local laundromat. I didn’t need fancy buttons or a built-in microwave; I just needed some agitation, rinsing, spinning and a little heat. Their salesperson then took me to the back of the store and presented an offer: a refurbished Maytag set, circa 1991. 

Loving through laundry

Did I really sit down to write about laundry? Yep. Laundry exists. And there’s a lot of it in our house. How I see these piles will not change whether or not they get clean, but it will change the spirit in which I work. In search of a better mindset, I went so far as to read a book about a “laundry evangelist,” author Patric Richardson. In his book Laundry Love, Richardson writes that caring for your loved ones’ clothes is an active way of demonstrating care to your loved ones.

Caregiving takes many forms. Though I don’t believe Rachel and Janneke will thank me for doing their laundry, I know this work means so much. As a child, I remember meeting disabled adults who had a strong smell of body odour and urine. Consequently, as a mom, clean and fresh laundry matters, as I send my girls to school and into the community.

Support also takes many forms. Sometimes it’s exactly what you imagine and other times, it surprises you, like a vintage washer and dryer. That new-to-me set of appliances has been stellar since, and I am so grateful to have that help. 

From dirty to dignified

As I work through the new day’s loads of wash, I am reminded of how the small and seemingly insignificant things we do each day matter. Richardson writes, “Consider how many people around the world would welcome the chance to wear freshly laundered clothes – and just how much dignity that offers.” I may not ever love to do the laundry, but I’m mindful of the gift it offers. 


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