Why I’m Doing Your Laundry (Instead of Teaching) | Blog Post #3

There is a reason that I have labeled this as a wife and husband (and, really, family) business: I have multiple sclerosis and I can’t accomplish this on my own.  

After being a stay-at-home mom (and wife) and getting my kids firmly situated in school, I decided to pursue a career as a teacher. Although I have a bachelor’s degree, it’s not in teaching, so, while working through a certification program, I decided to take a position as a teacher’s assistant at my local elementary school.

This should have been easy, right? With the hope of becoming a teacher, performing an assistant position should obviously be doable. But for me, it wasn’t. 

Multiple sclerosis is hard to describe to people who don’t live with it either personally or as a caregiver. It doesn’t follow the normal rules or predictability of other illnesses. One day I can be completely fine, very energetic with the ability to exercise and accomplish everything on my to-do list. The next day, triggered by allergies, exposure to illness, or even just a bad night’s sleep, I can’t get off the couch without a struggle. 

On these days, I literally can’t walk. Multiple times over the past 20 years, I’ve had relapses (causing damage on my spinal cord) that have affected the ability to lift my left leg (it’s called drop foot). On a “bad day”, my energy level is low due to my immune system dealing with other factors (such as illness or allergies) and my body doesn’t have enough stamina to compensate for the damage done from these previous relapses, so those symptoms come back – I have drop foot, get extremely fatigued, have vision issues, and experience brain fog. 

But I was in a pretty stable state before I took the position as a teaching assistant. I took it as a good sign that my “bad days” were only happening 1 to 2 times a month: I thought that being on effective medication, and being relatively stable in the disease, was enabling a level of health I had rarely before achieved, and I was excited at the idea that I could actually pursue a career (I’ve had periods in the past where my leg was immobile about 50% of the time).

Though it seems obvious now, it didn’t occur to me when I took a position in a school that I would be exposed to constant illnesses. Unlike a person with a healthy immune system, just a normal cold can trigger me to be down for a day or two.  It didn’t take long before I began to have “bad days” 3 to 4 times a week, again making me immobile and weak way too often.

After only three months in the position and my being sick about 50% of the time (ironically, the medicine that makes my MS stable, with no new disease progression, also slightly weakens my immune system, so I catch EVERYTHING to which I am exposed) we decided as a family that teaching was not a career that I could pursue, and that I needed to quit my teaching assistant position. It was a very difficult decision to make after having the hope that I could have a career in education. 

And then, after jokingly (but not really jokingly) throwing around the idea to my husband of a wash and fold business (we heard about the concept on a recent trip to Las Vegas), we decided to start Dusty Cotton Wash and Fold. A good aspect about laundry is that the folding can be done while sitting, so even on a bad day, when my leg is immobile and I have difficulty walking, a wash and fold business is something I can actually accomplish. 

That is why I consider Dusty Cotton to be a wife and husband (and family) business. My wonderful husband and children are ready and willing to do the lifting (and walking) when I’m not capable. They want me to have this business and want to bolster the idea that I can be successful in a career and be something more than my MS has previously allowed me to be.

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