Sarah wrote a great post about chores and other domestic duties, and I started writing an epic comment before I realized I should just write my own damn blog post.
I’ve walked the housewife beat before. Nope, I was never married, but I did stay at home for a year and primarily concern myself with cooking, cleaning, and childcare.
For new readers of this blog, my parents both died during my senior year of college, so after graduating I took a year off to help my older sister take care of our younger brother, who was sixteen at the time. Instead of paying my sister rent I paid for all the groceries, and did most of the cooking and cleaning around the house. And I helped make sure my brother was going to school and not getting into too much trouble after school. The thing that was great about that year was being with my family when we needed each other the most. The thing that sucked about that year was being a housewife.
Which is a damn shame. My dad was a house”wife”1 for most of my childhood, and he was great at it. He made it look easy. I wish I could be like him. I got so much out of having a full-time stay-at-home parent, and I would love my kids to have that luxury too. But even setting aside the near-impossibility of supporting a family on one income these days, it just doesn’t seem like it is in the cards. Because I suck at domesticity.2 I’m not good at cleaning. I get lazy about cooking. I find grocery shopping tortuously tedious. [Do you have any idea how much a teenager eats? IT IS SO MUCH. I can’t imagine how much food you have to buy, and how often you have to buy it, to feed several teenagers at once. I don’t want to imagine it!]
My dad went to the grocery store every single day. Every day. He kept a notepad handy at all times and he’d add items to the daily shopping list, placing them on the page so that the complete list would be in the order of his route through the store. And I think he liked it.
So right now I’m unemployed again, and I find myself feeling inadequate because I’m not always dusting, because I don’t have food ready on the table when Collin gets home from lab, because our living room is so messy that at a time I thought it was unusually tidy my sister-in-law walked in and said, “I guess you guys haven’t had a lot of time for cleaning recently, huh?” I was not particularly good at being a housewife when I had more or less embraced the role, and I’m completely TERRIBLE at it when it is just all there is left to do in the day after hitting my limit job hunting.
But thank GOD and FEMINISM and COLLIN that I really only worry about my shortcomings as a housewife during this period of unemployment. I do not expect that once I have a job/once I am married (hopefully that will come second!), I will still feel like I am a failure of a human being because there are cat hair tumbleweeds on the stairs. In the meantime, god bless Collin for his patience, and whoever invented that stairs attachment for vacuums for her innovation.
1I am all for gender-neutral terms, and you’d think I’d be extra jazzed about it in this case because I grew up being asked “what does your father do for a living?” and “will your mom be picking you up from school?” and getting pissy about it, but just can’t bring myself to use the word “homemaker” because it sounds like construction. I often describe my dad’s role as “stay-at-home parent,” but I want to compare myself to him in the present state of my life where there is no parenting involved.
2Collin has said he is not opposed to the idea of taking time off to raise potential children, which is one of the reasons I consider him prime husband material. But right now his career is looking really good, and my career is making that noise a car makes when the engine won’t turn over, so from our current vantage point it seems if one of us will be a stay-at-home parent, it will be me.