But even though this is something I want, like, expected, grew up with, it is so incredibly surreal sometimes. I feel like I don't even understand it or why my relationship with this role is so strained, paradoxical, even changeable from day to day. I love it, I hate it, I feel powerful, I feel powerless. It is really so strange. In fact, I am so deep IN this life, this housewifey life, that I can't even put my finger on it.
How can I want something but have a hard time with it. How can I be grateful for the opportunity, but still wish for other things? How can I know it is important and still feel so unimportant? How can I describe to YOU what I am even talking about! This is one strange ramble!
Maybe my own confusion goes back to my first paragraph. I would be the mom. Just the mom? What about the rest of me? Is that all I would be? Is being only a mom enough? Is there something wrong, even selfish about me if I am MORE than a mom? My head is spinning already.
But I think there is something to that.
I am a lucky gal. I was able to get a college degree. I have access to information, books, and good things in life. Not only that, I have the opportunity to have my partner mostly pay all the bills. It isn't easy financially but we make it happen. But when you talk about this with people there are so many "ready to boil over" emotions.
"Women who get to stay home with their kids are lucky."
"Women who work outside the home are selfish or obsessed with things."
Ouch. And ouch. I don't really know how true either of these statements are. So lets just talk about....me. Not sure I even understand that, but I can talk about me without insulting anybody else.
Why is this "being a housewife" thing so twisted and emotional when honestly, I can admit that it is a blessing to be able to do it?
What got me thinking about this all was my day today. Spring has sprung and so I am working on getting the garden in. Today I pulled weeds and planted some flowers and some vegetables.
And then I got to thinking about "Little House On The Prairie." Not the show but the books. I read them all when I was a kid, and recently we read the first one with our kids. I realize that it is probably a kind of idealized version of life looking back, but it seemed to me that their lives were very different than ours.
In the first book dad makes a living hunting and trapping and selling the skins. He also provides food for his family with the meat he kills. So technically he is the "bread winner" because he is the only person getting "paid" for "work."
But then little Laura describes what her mom does.
Mom, it turns out is no slouch either.
Mom has a garden. Mom smokes the meats. Mom cares for the animals. Mom makes maple syrup. Mom cooks all the meals, sews all the clothes, prepares food for the winter, teaches her children how to do everything right along with her and it looks like was even the one who taught them to read. Plus she gives birth in a cabin (I assume) and raises kids while she does all that. By the way, she MAKES the bread, not dad. And with wheat her husband threshed and she ground.
So "technically" mom is a housewife. But she is not "just" a housewife. Her role was integral to the family dynamic, even to their survival. It was just as important as her husbands. They needed each other AND the work of their children to make it happen, to eat, to survive the winter, to LIVE. I bet they NEVER had a conversation about how she was lazy because she stayed home with the kids.
And today I tried to plant a six cabbage plants and 12 flowers and you know what- it was difficult. In fact, I felt kind of lame.
The kids kept going towards the street. They bickered. The toddler spent the chilly afternoon peeing in her pants then walking around outside with no pants on. The baby ate grass and whimpered. My four year old DID pull weeds right along with me (but she wanted chocolate in exchange) so there were probably a few teaching moments. But truthfully, I spent too much time wondering what the hell the neighbors thought about me and my four feral kids and hoping nobody called 911 about a loose two year old.
I don't think that happened to Laura's mother in Little House.
There I was, struggling to make a TINY contribution to my family (some food this summer and a little beauty in my front yard) and I felt like I could barely do it. And I KNOW that women way back then did a lot more with their day and they didn't even have electricity.
Did I mention that my house was (wait...IS!) a mess and I pulled something out of the freezer for dinner? (It was something that I made from scratch and froze. I only tell you that because that is how insecure I am about my contribution as a housewife. I wouldn't want you thinking that I am a housewife and I BOUGHT something frozen! GASP!)
The thing is, the more I thought about Laura's mother in the Little House books, the more I thought that she probably never questioned her importance. It was obvious that she worked and provided for her family.
And you know what else, (just making stuff up here) I also don't think she obsessed with motherhood the way we do. I bet she didn't feel guilty constantly about everything under the sun and I bet she was working so hard she didn't have time to obsess over every little thing her children did. I think that motherhood was part of life.
I bet she didn't worry about stretch marks, daycare, when the kids learned to read, reading books about child development, marriage, or orgasm. I bet she just lived every day, worked until she fell asleep, and then got up and did it again.
And I bet she still tried to make some beauty out of it. She made her own clothes, she did her hair on special occasions, she cared for her children and she danced with her husband. And if they were lucky, they even got some happiness out of it.
It made me think a few things too. I should value what I do as a "homemaker." Motherhood does matter. Yes, I should do my best to keep my house in order and my kids happy, but I should also try to create some beauty in the world.
But more than that, it made me think that I probably waste far too much time on guilt. If the mom in Little House got to do creative things and find joy in them, why shouldn't I? I am never going to make an entire quilt by hand because I have blankets, but may it is really OK if I teach a birth class or write a blog post. Maybe that can be MY creativity and I don't need to feel like a bad housewife for spending some time doing something I like.
And maybe I won't feel guilty when I do make some money for my family. And maybe I will even feel like I contribute when I grow a garden or make fresh food or have a happy home. Maybe I will find joy in doing a few creative things for myself AND joy in being a housewife AND joy in the paid work I do outside of my home.
Maybe I will worry a little less and appreciate a little more. Maybe our home lives are less about politics and more about priorities, and people, and reality and even....happiness. (But not always happiness. Because part of me thinks that maybe they were happier because they weren't always expecting life to BE HAPPY. They knew that sometimes bad stuff was part of it.)
And maybe we should all remember that life was never so cut and dry as DAD=MAKE MONEY and MOM=STAY HOME. The role of mother/housewife/wife/provider has always been more complex, diverse, involved and beautiful than that.