Thursday, October 15, 2009

But can she bake a cake?

My name is Paula and I am an alcoholic.
OK, so I'm not - I'm actually a housewife but i feel more qualified to be at the former meeting. Don't get me wrong, i don't have bottles of vodka stuffed inside my knicker drawer - I'm just wholly unqualified to be a housewife yet this is my job. I recently had to fill out a form that asked my occupation. Hm. I went back and forth. Do you write what you trained to be/want to be/ or how you actually spend your day? When in New York and asked I used to answer "actress" only if I had recently 'done' something or just booked a job. Why? It is so depressing to hear the disappointment in their voices when they ask you what have i seen you in/what are you in at the moment? Much easier to just lie and tell them that I'm a receptionist- not much scope for conversation there. Oh yes, i can work the shredder....
So...i ummed and i ahhed and then wrote, HOUSEWIFE. Then next to it I wrote, STAY AT HOME MUM. And then I did a little arrow and wrote above it , (slightly larger)- CURRENTLY.
First of all, stay at home mum is the most ridiculous term i have ever heard in my life. SAHM conjures up an image of some sort of shut in. It sounds like we have our curtains closed and we just wander from room to room rocking our child singing about babies falling in cradles. I realise that the term is used as an alternative to mothers that go out to work but can we come up with a less depressing term? Do I need to up my meds? Seriously, can we be known as going in and out of the house mum or sometimes i stay in but often i go out mum....just something. It's enough to make a girl put on her wedding dress and sit in cobwebs.
And then, housewife...well, that just terrifies me. If we were playing mallets mallet - it would go something like: Housewife. Cooking. Cleaning. Ironing, Laundry. Baking. Vomit. OK, so maybe not the last one, but that word would work in my word association game. It's just that I trained to be an actress, people. I'm not lazy but I'm not sure i fit in this club. I don't watch the Food channel and have never bought an ornament in my life. I'm frankly embarrassed at my skills. The other day, my sister in law gave me a knitted piece of material that had the shape of Oregon imprinted into it. Brilliant, i thought. That was enough for me. Turns out it had purpose. It is for cleaning dishes - she informed me...Thank you, Amy (is that a hint?) Sadly, I have put it on the credenza - it's too nice to wash up with. Then, last week my mother just came to stay and before i had finished my morning cup of coffee she asked what we were having for dinner tonight. Early dementia? Do you mean breakfast, i asked? No, she laughed. Dinner. What meat should we get out of the freezer? Good Lord~ that would never cross my mind. My mother, sisters, sisters in law, mother in law and friend Rachel (from my days as a go out to work person) are brilliant people! Imagine knowing what you are having for dinner before noon?

In an effort to earn my keep, I baked my first cake yesterday. was for my husband's birthday as a gift from Olive, I'm not going to be buying Tori Spelling jewelry off the HSN anytime soon. Well...I almost broke a sweat looking for a cake mix. I felt lost in an aisle of vanilla extract, flour and Tupperware. BUT...turns out...piece of cake...wah, wah, wahhhh...
Alright, so it wasn't a chocolate, swiss, embroidered, butterfly, dark forest torte but it did the trick. It was chocolate and edible.
I decided to see my cake and raise myself some housework. I changed the sheets, cooked a marvelous birthday dinner, went grocery shopping and cleaned all the rooms in my 4 room apartment. I also managed to stimulate my daughter to the point of hysteria. I didn't get to take a shower or brush my teeth until noon and olive did cry when i hoovered around her but wowzers, what a day. Now, that felt like the good old days of going to work except...I felt strangely unfulfilled. I suppose I just want to know from other stay at home or go out occasionally this something you get pleasure from? Will it grow on me? Do some people enjoy doing this each day? This is not a slight on people that do more a sad realization that perhaps I don't.

One thing that I am discovering on this crazy ride is that similar to the breastfeeding issue there is a line in the sand drawn between mothers that work out of the house and those that work in the home. Before i continue, let me issue the following disclaimers...I realize that it is a tremendous privilege and gift to have the opportunity to be at home with my daughter. I have huge admiration for mothers wherever they work. Many women do not have a choice. However, with friends sat in both camps I have noticed that there is veiled defense when it comes to this topic. The women that go to work feel attacked for not being good mothers and the stay at home mothers feel the need to prove their role as valid in this day and age. Defensive comments such as, "I would get bored doing that all day" are met with "Why have children if you are not going to raise them?" I suppose the proof of the pudding (you see, one cake and I'm talking shop) is in the children becoming balanced, happy beings. I'm not curing cancer with this blog but I have been surprised at the dichotomy of views that i have encountered. Ultimately, the biggest realization in life as you become an adult is that ALL families are equally dysfunctional no matter who is at home. Right? Before you question that statement - just have a think about your family or the one you married into...there's always one, people...always...

I also wonder what do we 'shut in mums' think of Martha Stewart: the ultimate working housewife?

At the moment I have a foot in both camps and while finances will likely send me over the line and back to work - (i know how to work a shredder, right?) I have discovered that being a mother is my greatest, most cherished role but being a housewife is much like being a wetnurse for me. Messy and sadly i'm not very good at it.


  1. as a working mother who HATES to be a working mother (you know what i mean, at home moms... by working i mean "a paying job outside the home," just want to clarify before my throat is jumped down with comments like "*i* work!") i want to address the part about feeling fulfilled.

    it's hogwash.

    when i have been lucky enough to stay home (and by staying home i mean "not having a paying job outside the home," befor my throat is jumped down with comments like, "what do you think i am, a shut-in?") i have gloried in keeping a clean house (the parts you could see, anyway), always looking put together when the mister got him, greeting him at the door, home cooked meals and all of the rest.

    but my satisfaction NEVER came from being able to serve a meal off the dining room floor because it was soooo clean. never. ever.

    as a matter of fact, it was during one of my stints as a homemaker (and by homemaker, i mean "the wife i always wished i had.") that my anxiety increased the most. to the point that i am now medicated. i take 150% of the required dose of my anti-anxiety meds.

    i learned that i LOVED having a clean house. i LOVED when the wash was done and put away. i LOVED the smell of bread baking (no bread machine, mind) and home made soup. but my fulfillment came from my family.

    the very family that i desired to coat in chicken blood and leave out on the porch for the wolves.

    but it still wasn't enough. i wanted more. i wanted my LIFE back.

    the problem is? i believe to the very core of my being... that life is gone. never to return. i am forever mother, forever wife. i just think that the more complex the person (virgos, say...) the harder it is to reconcile. some women embrace this fact the moment they lay eyes on their child, some kick and scream and fight into their fifties.

    paula, beloved... i think you and i will be kicking and screaming into our seventies. all while cherishing every moment. every bit if spit up, every sleepless night. they will all be gifts to us, all while coveting another time.

  2. i think you are right. i think you nailed it. yes, fellow anxiety ridden Virgo it's a pretty beautiful cross to bear... xx

  3. Relish this time at home, if you can, for it flies by, but when you get time, do what you are best at and that gives you joy, which is writing. This is your job, your new job which will pay you in time, over and over again! You are just amazing, so clever and oh so talented, but you just don't see it yet. But we all do!

  4. In my days as a 'stay at home mum' (I've recently gone back to work) I tried to convince myself that I enjoyed housework, that is gave me a 'buzz' to do the hoovering, clean the bathroom etc. What rubbish. Now I have a cleaner, and when I come home from work on a Thursday to see that, for the same price as a couple of cocktails in a London bar, someone has cleaned my house from top to bottom, changed my sheets, emptied the bins, now that is a serious buzz!! xxx

  5. I quite enjoyed both periods of mat leave (1 year each time) but it had absoluetly nothing to do with housework, and everything to do with lunchdates, playdates and girly shopping trips with baby in tow! When back at work in the office (part time) I found that the duality made me appreciate both parts more. I liked the escapism and grown up company of work after a few days at home with the kids, and I loved being home with them, following a few days in the office. Now I'm self employed and work from home, its even better. I work more, but my kids are there for some of it (at classes, or watching me email!). Ultimately I think there is no right or wrong, and the happiest children are those with the happiest parents, whether they work at home, or away, full or part time. If you do what feels right for you, it will rub off on Olive!

  6. Well said! Your family is just adorable and I love your blog!

  7. Welcome from MBC! Looks like a fun place to come for a visit and a lot of bloggy entertainment :)



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