I have never had the housewife instinct that so many of my female friends seem to have. I wasn’t much of a cook which my bare cupboards and barely stocked fridge more that attested to. I didn’t sew or crochet or knit or do needlepoint. I am not crafty (I think a special gene is needed for that). I can’t decorate. (Colors? They coordinate?) I don’t have collections of anything (and I am sure that notebooks, pens and pencils don’t count – very sure). And grocery shopping was just another chore. But I have noticed things about myself lately that have gotten me to think I may have been hasty in my original, and long-standing, assessment of myself. The house is clean. And getting cleaner and more organized all the time. Laundry is not only done but folded and in drawers and closets. Supper is on the table when Rob gets home every night. And I have a routine that is suspiciously suburbanish. Breakfast. Writing. Gym. Taking Katy to school. Errands. Writing. After-school snack. Supper preparation. Family supper. Bathing, bedding and story-telling. Couple time. You see? I see. I am a housewife. I even have a uniform. Lululemon. (And I look really great in it too, if it is possible to be a housewife and attractive at the same time).
It all came together for me the other afternoon when I was grocery shopping at the Safeway, skinny chai in hand. As I strolled up and down the aisles, making this and that selection, I was actually planning the menu’s for the next two weeks. I was planning! About cooking!! Weeks in advance!!! And the worst thing is how effortless it was and how much I enjoyed being able to do this, as though it were some hard won skill or something and not just a “wife” thing. Just a wife thing? Just a mom thing? Just a woman thing? If I believed in feminism I could count myself a traitor to the movement for sure.
This is not a place I ever pictured myself. Staying at home and really liking it and even being kind of good at it. I was raised in a quasi-feminist way. Sure, women got the heavy lifting of household and family maintenance, but my parents never assumed that any of we girls would have the stay at home life that my mom enjoyed (okay, didn’t enjoy at all) when we kids were small. It was fast becoming a double income world when I was growing up back in the seventies and early eighties and we were raised to expect to share the income load. So, to find myself 26 years later playing Carol Brady – no, Carol had Alice – inhabiting the mother knows best role is a bit afield of where I expected to be.
When I came to Canada, I was hoping to be able to teach eventually to help out while I worked on my writing. In the beginning. But immigration enforced retirement shifted my thoughts to just working on the writing – for which I am told that I have a talent. Now the prospect of going back to live in the States for a time has me thinking about going back to the original plan and not with relish. I like writing. I even like the thought of doing what I am doing now – but in Texas (and having more time to really explore writing as a career because Katy will be in school full-time).
But, there is that tiny Gloria in the back of my head insisting (in a very condescending and irritating way) that I need to pull my own weight and that I am not making a worthwhile contribution if I am not bringing home a bit of bacon to spend, and that even if I am published – somewhere – by the time we leave Canada – it will never be a living like teaching was. What if something were to happen to Rob? That nasty helmet haired harpy shrieks. It’s happened before and look at all those women who blithely ignored the reality of male mortality. Have you taken note of where they are? Except that I was working and supposedly safe before, I think back at her. What about self-fulfillment? Because isn’t that what it supposedly comes down to according to the ERA party line? But I wasn’t really anymore. Even writing this blog fills me with more pride in myself and accomplishments as a writer than teaching did on my best days those last few years.
I decided to discuss this with Rob again as we drove into the city for the hospice grief group. I wanted to hear myself say out loud that I don’t want to teach. I want to just write. And I wanted to hear what he thought because he is the one who goes to a “real” job everyday and brings home “real bacon”. I can teach once we are back in the states and feel that I should from the fairness point of view. Rob pointed out, rightly, that the things I do are things that need to be done by someone. It’s not an empty contribution. He also feels that I haven’t been at writing long enough to know if I can make something out of it and that we won’t go wanting without a second paycheck. But I feel a bit guilty that I am being given this gift of pursuit of a dream and I have nothing like that to give him in return. I worry that if I don’t make a good career of writing I will disappoint Rob and worse, not be able to turn the table around and give him the same freedom to pursue what he loves in terms of work. I guess I am too impatient.
Interesting what the gift of just the pursuit of your dreams can do.
One thought on “What Has Happened to Me?”
I think people tend to underplay the value of having someone managing things on the home front, but it really is an invaluable contribution. As I’ve said before, my husband was very bothered by not being able to work and bring in an income, but what he did at home made our lives run 10,000 times more smoothly. Without him, a school holiday is a child-care crisis, waiting for the cable guy means missing a day of work, all the toilets have hard-water rings, and the laundry is constantly one step away from attaining critical mass. So if you have the chance to focus on your writing in exchange for handling all that, take it from someone who was formerly the “working” half of the working/stay-at-home partner dichotomy — it’s a fair trade.