How Folding Laundry Has Become the Way I Show Love to My Family
Years ago, I read Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts,” and as time has gone by and my family has grown, I’ve continued to periodically ask my family members a question, sparked by the book, that has helped foster good relationships at home: What do I do that makes you feel loved?
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One answer that my husband gave, early on in our marriage, really surprised me. He said that he feels loved when he opens his dresser drawers and sees his clothes neatly folded and ready for him to grab and wear. I’m not sure if part of his feeling stems from a realization that there’s so much behind those neatly folded shirts and pants (the shopping, washing, drying, folding, and putting away), but it’s clear that among his primary “love languages” is what Chapman categorizes as “acts of service.” My husband feels loved when I do things for him.
Since this revelation, I have softened whenever I feel myself getting resentful about doing monotonous housework. Laundry especially trips me up; I don’t mind washing and drying, but when it comes to folding and, most of all, putting it away, I tend to get stuck. The laundry bottlenecks and becomes a way bigger mountain than it has to be.
But knowing that completing this task actually communicates love to my husband has transformed a chore that I tend to procrastinate into an act of care — and I treasure this. I use this to sustain my efforts even when I fold laundry for the family members that haven’t expressed the same sentiment my husband did because it helps me become mindful about a task that can feel like drudgery.
Mindfulness anchors me in the present and allows me to let go of my trivial surface feelings (I wish I could be doing something other than laundry) so that I can tap into the heart of the matter with more magnanimous thoughts (I get to show my love through this act of service).
These thoughts have many different layers. My older kids are in charge of doing their own laundry, from washing and drying to folding and putting away, so when I grab a load and do it for them, they feel grateful. I also get to sink into the nostalgic thoughts of motherhood: They’re getting so big … I remember when the older boys wore this fleece top … She won’t be able to wear this cute dress much longer …
So whether my laundry-folding results in rows of fresh clothes that make someone’s heart squeeze with the comfort of being cared for by another or I nurture my love for my family as I’m checking off a mundane to-do, having the perspective that what I’m doing can be a channel of my love and care makes the whole endeavor sweeter.