As God’s providence would have it, a few weeks ago one of my fellow suburban moms said to me, “Sarah, you are either a lice family or a butt worm family.” Today, I found out we are the former. And yes, butt worms are a thing. They have a more scientific name. But really, do you want to know more than that?

liceUpon receiving the school email I started to grapple with my new reality. I left work. I went to the drug store. I bought the lower shelf in a section marked “itchy.” And then I went home to my husband who had dutifully brought both kids home in the middle of a work day. And then everyone stared at me and my husband said, “Well, what should we do?”

I realized, in that moment, that I was running the Great Delousing Fest of 2015. Because, for whatever reason, this diagnosis fell under the purview marked “Mama.” Unlike taking out the trash, cleaning up dog vomit, and making grilled cheese sandwiches, everyone clearly thought I knew what to do.

And so I leapt into action. I suggested we all eat something before this whole thing started (potato chips and chicken salad, I run a real tight ship). I googled everything (“Can lice be in beards?”). And I figured out what could be washed and what needed to be dipped in bleached acid.

Now, before you go thinking that I sound just like that lady in Proverbs 31, I want to be very clear that this is not at all how I would have responded my first year of marriage. In fact, I’m not sure I would have responded this way even 5 years ago.

I have long been of the belief that marriage should be an institution founded on fairness. You do your part and I shall do mine. Popular arguing points my first few years of marriage were:

  1. Did you unload the dishwasher this week?
  2. I’m pretty sure I vacuumed the last time we had guests.
  3. How much college debt do you have?

I know, I was such a peach. I won’t act like this line of thinking was ever all that healthy. Fairness, it turns out, is death to a marriage. Had I wanted a marriage founded on fairness, then I was stupid to get married in a church where we talk of our marriages being founded in Christ. He was terrible at being fair. Just ask those people who worked all day in the vineyard.

I would love to tell you that I went to a Bible Study and my whole life got turned around. That I somehow heard Jesus tell me to be less committed to myself and more committed to the sacrament of marriage. But that is not how the car went off the cliff.

5164EtYpxzL._SY373_BO1,204,203,200_We had a baby. And babies don’t care about fair. Sure, there were all of these grand plans about how much my husband would take care of the baby. We would “split up” the duties. That all fell apart the first night we brought our tiny son home from the hospital. After hours of being awake with a very upset newborn, I took him and told my husband to go to sleep. And then I sat on the couch and positioned our son on my stomach almost exactly where I thought my womb would be. He feel asleep in seconds. I was the only person in the universe that baby wanted. And he didn’t give a hoot about all of the egalitarian childrearing plans his mother had in mind.

That was the beginning of the beginning for me. I started to see motherhood and then my role as wife as something set apart and sacred. Could my husband do these things with competency? Of course. But was the household calmer and sweeter if I stepped into my roles? Yes. That was and continues to be undeniable. I can claim injustice and unfairness for all of the tasks that seem to fall under “Mama,” or I can skip those unhelpful thoughts and step into the remarkable role of being a mother and a wife.

My point here is not to burden these vocations. But to name them as such. There is an intimacy in relationships that we can unintentionally deny ourselves when we are constantly scorekeeping. It is just such a waste of time and love.

If you have not read a copy of Robert Farrar Capon’s Bed and Board, I cannot recommend it enough. He and St. Brene Brown have changed my marriage entirely. I will warn you, the guy was not politically correct, even for 1965. But to paraphrase, Mr. Luther Ingram, if loving Capon is wrong, I don’t want to be right:

img20150806-4540-kf20ngTo be a Mother is to be the sacrament—the effective symbol—of place. Mothers do not make homes, they are our home: in the simple sense that we begin our days by a long sojourn within the body of a woman; in the extended sense that she remains our center of gravity through the years. She is the very diagram of belonging, the where in whose vicinity we are fed and watered, and have our wounds bound up and our noses wiped. She is geography incarnate, with her breasts and her womb, her relative immobility, and her hands reaching up to us the fruitfulness of the earth.

Now here’s where Capon gets a little crazy. But stay with him, because he’s not all wrong. In fact, given my pantry full of cake mixes and my longing to stitch up worn down lovies, I actually believe he is quite right. And it is a merciful relief to name the reality of mother and wife for what it really is:

All this is no doubt a bit remote now, what with Mother out at a job, and all the nursing bottles and packaged bread hard at work to hide her from our sight—but fortunately the circumstances of her role are such that she is not nearly as ignorant of it as Father is of his. Though she bakes packaged mixes, she still bakes; though she no longer spins and weaves, she still clothes and mends; though she is surrounded by machinery to do her work, she herself still moves in the old orbit; from sink to stove to store, and round and round again. And all this is a great mercy. Her function forces itself upon her.