Have you ever bought a piece of furniture that you had to put together? In the 1990’s, I moved from one apartment to another. The second apartment wasn’t furnished, but the first one was so needless to say, I needed furniture.
At Walmart, I found a table with a glass top and four chairs. I fell in love with the set the minute I saw it in the store and fingered the table’s smooth glass. At only $99.00, I thought it was a steal until I realized that I wouldn’t be getting what stood in front of me. What I got came in a box and required assembly. Fortunately, Dad was with me and assured me he could put it together without any trouble. Since he had actually built furniture from scratch, I wasn’t worried but felt bad that there was one more thing he would have to do to help me move.
On the big day, as Dad sat on the floor, surrounded by all the pieces and the instructions, trying to figure things out, the paper boy wandered by. The apartment door was open, and as he stood and gawked at the pieces scattered on the floor and the perplexed look on Dad’s face as he studied the diagram, I could imagine the scenario that went through his young mind. Had there been an explosion? The poor kid finally managed to ask, “What happened?”
After we assured him no catastrophe had occurred, and he went on his way, Dad chuckled and said, “What happened? You moved. That’s what happened.” True to his word, he got the table put together, and that night, I enjoyed my first meal in my new apartment, a frozen dinner.
I heard something interesting on National Public Radio this morning. Ikea is a company that manufactures furniture you put together. The philosophy of the Ikea Effect is that you love something more when you’ve spent time and effort assembling it, and you love a piece of furniture or craft project more because of the work involved.
. I wondered if this philosophy would apply to care giving but immediately realized it wouldn’t. Bill wasn’t a piece of furniture. He was a man I loved, and although I loved him, I hated the work involved in caring for him. However, I was always rewarded with a smile, a hug, a kiss, and/or a thank you, even when I wiped his butt.
I told him many times, “If you didn’t love me, and I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t be doing this.” When you build a piece of furniture, you can love the work and gain a sense of accomplishment from putting it together, but when it comes to caring for a loved one, you can love the person but hate the work. Bill was worth more to me than any piece of furniture.
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver