This story is part of a Globe and Mail series on housework.
Just looking at a load of laundry makes Angel LaLiberte want to scream. “Our house runs on two to three loads a day. I cannot stop. If I stop, everything caves in,” the North Vancouver mother of two says. “I hate it. I resent it,” says the North Vancouver mother of two. “I didn’t expect to find myself at 52, wondering what to do with a mismatched-socks basket.”
The cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the lunch-packing, grocery shopping, list-making, appointment-organizing – these tasks fall to Ms. LaLiberte, who runs a website from home (achildafter40.com) and is working on a book about having kids as an older mom.
Her husband, Bill Cozzens, works as a computer-networking consultant, earning the larger salary; he operates out of a home office, but is often on the road.
“I do the guy jobs,” he explains, which include home repairs, taking out the garbage, hauling in the firewood and water jugs, making elaborate coffee drinks (and hot chocolate for the kids), driving their two children to their various activities and “tech support,” as he calls it.
“Don’t underestimate the importance of that as a part of the modern house. … I’ll get calls at all hours of the day, saying ‘Netflix isn’t working,’” Mr. Cozzens says.
Meanwhile, at home, Ms. LaLiberte looks up a recipe for yet another pasta casserole and, literally, stews. Or scrubs a stain from a school uniform and seethes. Sometimes, the laundry basket of clean clothes sits at the bottom of the steps all day, as if invisible to everyone else.
Mr. Cozzens is matter-of-fact: A clean house isn’t that important to him. “Good enough by her standards and good enough by my standards sometimes diverge.”
It all came to a head last summer. After the family moved to Vancouver from California, Ms. LaLiberte was unpacking boxes, trying to get her house in order as the school-year deadline loomed, when she stuck her foot in a storm drain, breaking her leg in four places.
“It broke more than my leg,” she says.
Ms. LaLiberte, who likes everything a certain way – toothpaste-glob-free bathroom counters, meals prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients, lunches plotted out for each child 60 days in advance (one of several charts posted on the wall) – was sidelined for months, relegated to watching all eight seasons of Desperate Housewives back to back.
Mr. Cozzens took over, with mixed results. “That was crazy-making,” he says. “That led to a lot of ‘oh-my-gosh’ recognition of what she did.”
This eye-opener for him was also a wake-up call for Ms. LaLiberte.
“Being a ‘supermom’ just got me a broken leg and a state of absolute exhaustion. That’s all it got me,” she says.
Last month(May), Ms. LaLiberte finally reached the end. “I felt like Atlas holding up the world.”
She didn’t ask for divorce. She didn’t have a nervous breakdown. She didn’t run away. She hired a live-in housekeeper.
“Honestly. when you’re on your deathbed and you’re counting off the things that were really important, having a sparkling floor and how many loads of laundry you did are not going to be on that list.”
An admission of defeat? More like an epiphany.