When I first moved in with James, I happily (naively) thought it would just be the two of us.
We'd talked about kids and both agreed that a family just wasn't for us.
It never occurred to me he'd want a
Then one day, he just blurted it out.
"I want us to get a kitten together."
I wasn't thrilled.
I'd just left my career in design to write a book and the last thing I needed was a distraction in the form of an energetic bundle of fur.
Besides, I'd never had a cat in my life.
"I'll have to learn everything from scratch," I told James.
He rolled his eyes at my pun.
"Cats are the easiest animals in the world," he said.
We both soon discovered this wasn't true.
The kitten we selected was a wild, red-haired female who shredded everything in her sight. She was anything BUT easy.
So when I found myself suddenly dealing with the responsibilities of kitten-care, I wasn’t amused.
As the one working from home, I ended up doing most of the hair-brushing, nail-clipping, cat-feeding and vet visiting.
Instead of writing (as I had planned), I lost a great deal of my day to cat-chaos.
But somehow, despite all the work and frustration, our little orange girl sunk her claws right into my heart.
"You're officially a crazy cat-mum," my niece told me.
She was right. I loved Maggie with a fierceness that surprised me.
But when it came to scooping the cat-litter, my feelings were less than loving.
The more I scooped, the less loving they got.
Oh, I wasn't mad at Maggie (what kind of good Mum would be?) I was mad at JAMES.
HE was the one who wanted a cat! And now I was stuck with all the work.
Do you recognize this story, dear one?
It's an old one handed down from my Mother.
I have to do all the work.
It’s always on my shoulders.
If it wasn’t for me, this wouldn’t get done.
Men get to have fun while women get stuck with the responsibility.
There's truth to this story, to be sure. Not that long ago, society told women to seek fulfillment in the home, expecting them to devote their entire lives to their husbands and children.
And as many women, including my Mom, found out, devoting yourself exclusively to others withers your soul. It's also not a nine-five job. It's round-the-clock.
The men may have worked hard to put food on the table, but when they got home, they could put their feet up.
My father certainly did.
And while he was relaxing, my mother seethed with hostility, slamming things around in the kitchen.
As a girl, I absorbed a lot of her anger. Her story of injustice became mine.
Instead of questioning it, I became convinced James wasn’t doing his share.
A brittle resentment started to form.
I'd shovel the litter as if I was out in the cold, shovelling coal.
One day, while scooping in my usual disgruntled way, I had a sudden, terrible thought.
What if James died?
Would I still be angry about scooping Maggie's litter then?
Would I tell stories about how unfair it was? How I had never wanted a cat in the first place?
The thought made me ashamed.
I imagined myself, living on my own—taking care of Maggie.
Not only would I need to scoop the litter, I'd need to shovel the sidewalks. And take out the garbage and recycling. And do all the other things James did for us.
As I thought about it, I realized there were so many things I hadn't factored into my story.
Like the fact that James shopped for the heavy boxes of cat litter, then brought them home and carried them down to the basement.
Or that he drove to the pet-store to get her food.
Or that he was the one who climbed the tree when she slipped out and got stuck in a giant pine.
I realized my mother's story needed to be consciously healed and made a commitment to tend to my mind while I tended to the litter.
Because it's not the 50's anymore. I have more choices than my grandmother and Mom.
I'm also an adult. I have the ability to face life, think for myself, make choices, and stand on my own two feet.
If I don't like something, I can change it.
If a conversation needs to be had, I can have it.
If it doesn't get the results I want, I still have options.
I'm not oppressed. I'm not helpless. And no one is forcing me to do anything.
I clean up after Maggie because it needs to be done.
The way I feel about it is up to me.
Everything comes down to attitude, my friend.
As I found out, there's two ways of cleaning the cat litter.
And only one of them makes me happy.
Sending you so much love,