Going Domestic

Photo: Johanna Goodyear

"I’m working on spreadsheets; you just have to wash some pots."

This from my husband, Ryan, after I asked him why he no longer did his share of the chores around the house. What set us off was my request, put ever so gently, to please wash the dishes from the dinner that took me an hour and a half to cook (thanks to numerous interruptions from my 2-year old to read stories and serve him a completely separate meal).

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Filled with rage, I sputtered and spewed, while not my best stuff, fragments of my thoughts, "I’m raising our son! Cooking ! Cleaning! Taking care of the details of our lives! You think this is fun?!!!"

I outlined my day for him: 6:30 am to 7:30 pm with no breaks now that Nicholas has given up his nap. Not to mention being on call for any middle of the night crises. Then there are the constant struggles—to get Nicholas to put on his clothes, take his vitamins, get in his car seat, keep his shoes on, eat his dinner. And the housework, don’t get me started on the housework.

The sad truth is that my day with Nicholas is fun for a small percentage of the time—laughing over something silly, listening to him talk with his ever expanding vocabulary, "Mommy, I’m cooperating;" acting out stories together based on his favorite Sesame Street characters; cuddles. The rest of my day is filled with relentlessly repetitive work which I do in near complete isolation with no family nearby to trade off with and a husband who works long hours with a long commute. (Ryan later apologized and insisted that he did believe my work at home was just as important as his work in the office).

Our argument made me realize just how much I hate my work here at home. Well, not all of it. I love being a mother. Every time Nicholas says, "I love you Mommy. You’re my best friend," I just melt. But I hate being a housewife. It’s not something I signed up for, certainly not something I envisioned for my future while I was working on my degree in Math and Physics or climbing the corporate ladder as a benefits consultant.

When I dreamed of becoming a mother, I envisioned lots of hugs and kisses for my sweet child, reading stories, playing together, and teaching important skills like using a fork and spoon, getting dressed, and tying shoes. At no time did a washing machine enter the picture. Somehow in becoming a mother, the housewife part just fell into my lap. After all I was home all day, so why shouldn’t I be the one to take care of things here?

For one thing, I hate cooking and cleaning. And yet, I spend about five hours a day in the kitchen, cooking and then cleaning up five meals. In the time it takes me to wash, dry, fold, and put away the laundry, the hamper is full again. Same thing with the dishes, there’s always another big pile. It’s like working at the post office, the mail just keeps coming and you’re never finished. No wonder people go postal; I’m going to go domestic! And not in a Martha Stewart way either, more like laundry overflowing the hampers, piles of dirty dishes in the sink, an empty refrigerator, a minefield of toys in every room, the unopened mail taking over the kitchen table. I think the message will be clear enough—the housewife has quit!

I need a chef and a maid.

I’ll never be a domestic goddess; I find it strange that people aspire to it. With all my complaining, you would think the house was neat and organized, like I have high standards that keep me working so hard. Not at all, I keep a basic level of hygiene in the kitchen and bathroom. In the kitchen, the food is put away and obvious spills are wiped up. There are dried bits of Play-Doh and Kix stuck to the floor, a pile of mail on the counter, and dishes in the sink. The bathroom sink gets a once over, and all used cotton balls are in the vicinity of the overflowing trash can.

I miss having a lunch break, coffee break, cool job title, raises (or salary for that matter), annual reviews, sick days, and vacation. Can I just get a certificate of merit? Some honorable mention that says, "You are a good mother. Your house is livable. Your efforts are greatly appreciated." I’d accept my award tiara in my hair, flowers clutched to my chest, and sob, "I did it! I did it! Thank you! I’ll do it all again tomorrow!"

No job has ever required so much of me both physically and emotionally. It’s like running a marathon and some days it takes more stamina than I’ve got.

I need a clone.

My clone would be just as loving a mother as I am because we would share the same DNA. She would take over the middle of the night crises, temper tantrums, potty training, and any readings of Maisy Goes to School numbering over 20.

I study other moms, especially those that have more than one child under five. How do they do it? Do they have it all together? I used to be in awe of one mom in our playgroup who had three boys under the age of four. Her boys were always well groomed and wore coordinating outfits. Her house was clean whenever we arrived for playgroup, and she had always baked cookies. I was so relieved when she finally let slip that she had a nanny for five hours a day, every day. I’d like help for just one day. Okay, maybe five.

I need a nanny.

My nanny would pick up the slack whenever I sent my clone out to run the errands. They say it takes a village. Since I don’t live in a village, I’ll create my own.

Ryan has agreed to help out more around the house, which is great, but since I don’t anticipate his hours or commute changing much, the reality is I’m still very much taking care of things around here. Although I’d like to say that I got that staff I needed, in fact Human Resources says it’s just not in the budget. So this Director of Childcare, Cooking, Cleaning, and Errands will be lowering household productivity, particularly in the kitchen area. I’m thinking frozen pizza night, leftover night, and take-out night. Cleaning and errands will also see a slight decrease as childcare remains at established levels.

I’ve also delegated some childcare in order to implement the new Mommy Needs a Break program. This program is made possible due to generous support from the daddy who takes Nicholas out on Sunday afternoons. Ryan and Nicholas are connecting over Chicken McNuggets, the local toy store, and the children’s section of Barnes & Noble. And I’m reconnecting with the person I used to be before I was swallowed up by domesticity.

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