I was searching Google, to try and find my worth tonight (as you do) as a stay at home mother and housewife…and during my search I came across a blog that resembled that 1950s “The Good Wife’s Guide.” You know that article that floats around Facebook every year or so and we laugh and guffah at it.
Well this blog wasnt so funny to me, I mean at first I laughed and thought “this has to be a joke right? She’s going to get to the punchline any minute now…” or “haha – a man must have wrote this” But NO! It was dead, 100%, completely and utterly serious.
Now, I am not one to rain on another woman’s parade, life or blog so my goal here isn’t to tear it apart but this kinda infuriated me. As I fell down this rabbit hole I found out that there are more and more blogs out there promoting this way of life. Today in 2020! You might wonder why I am having such an emotional response to this? Well let me tell you, my defenses are up on this issue and they have been for the past 10 years that I have been a stay at home wife and mother. AND HERE IS WHY……
People will tell you, “WOW being a stay at home mother is such a hard and rewarding job”. They will pass comments of “Oh I dont know how you do what you do” or “I could never do what you do” “It’s a full time job” But being a stay-at-home mother still garners very little respect in society. It is still somewhat looked down upon as a “vacation”, “a fun time”, “the dream”: “She gets to stay home and do whatever she wants while her poor husband slaves away all day.”
And I dont know a single Housewife who hasnt heard from her darling husband at some point in their marriage “What exactly is it that you do all day?”
There is a fine line between being a respected and admired Homemaker, SAHM, Housepartner and being a taken advantage of, looked down upon, walked over, servant to your family.
The Housewife life is NEVER what I planned. I was so unbelievably career driven that being a homemaker was never what I ever had in mind. My mother was a full time working mother and I was so focused on my career of performing I could see nothing else. My life plan was…. 1. Become a Star. 2. Be Wildly Successful. 3. Become a Philanthropist. 4. Write a Book. 5. Become an Entrepreneur. 6. Buy a House. 7. Get Married. 8. Have Kids……
Well Life had other plans and when I got “knocked up” at 24 my list then went from that to …. 1. Have Kids. 2. Get Married. 3. Go to School/Be a SAHM. 4. Buy a House… (Im still waiting on becoming a star, being widely successful and all the rest…)
Housewife life was so off my radar that I remember having a conversation with a friend once and I asked her “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and her answer was “Be a Mummy” I responded with “That’s not a Job…what do you actually want to do?” Ironically she is now as CEO of a major company and here I am, The 10 year SAHM…. life is hilarious sometimes.
I was first introduced to the Housewife (I guess girlfriend) life in 2010, while pregnant and I immediately HATED it. It was issolating, I felt so alone, so bored and the mundane chore of waiting on a man was gross to me…. yuck. Each day, I felt like a puppy waiting for my master to come home to play. I was begrudgingly, respectful that he was supporting us and I did my “duty” and struggled my way through trying to be fair to him as much as I coulld. I was grateful for all that he was providing for me, but it was a challenge.
See I believe in that as a Housepartner; fairness and mutual respect. But I still didn’t enjoy it.
Then the babies came along and man I was hooked. This life became a dream and 100 times more wonderful than performing had ever been for me. I fell IN LOVE with being a stay at home mom. Being their mother was my whole world and I couldnt ever imagine not being around these precious little beings (other than taking occassional much needed breaks – more on that later)
Over the 5 years that I was solely a Stay at home mother – I had a lot of struggles. Ebbs and flows of doing well with the house and balance of life and then at other times completely “FAILING” by the standards of “Perfect Housewife” “Good Housewife” “Ideal Housewife”. At one point I had a cleaner, I sent laundry out to a service (In my defense we lived in a walk up, Brooklyn apartment, with no laundry). Dishes would pile up in the sink, toys would be all over the place, Dinner would be take-out a LOT of the time – We survived!!!
But boy did I feel like a failure when I needed that help. When I couldn’t manage the dishes, when laundry piled up. Women balanced careers and motherhood and I couldnt even balance mother and wifehood. I certainly did NOT focus on making my house “pristine and comfortable” for my husband’s arrival each night. I did not “create a haven” for my husband and family. Heck some days I didnt get out of my pajamas – some days I still dont! But there was love and they were taken care of as best I could and there was joy and happiness and beautiful memories were made and none of it was perfect.
Here I am ten years later with another new baby, and here I am, once again, trying to find validation as a ‘Stay At Home Mother’. I have felt like a failure, a number of times, recently and I have fallen back into the trap on focusing on everything that I dont do, and ignoring everything that I actually do.
I have also noticed my overworked husband becoming increasingly concerned that I am never going to actually graduate college and leave the home. He is exhausted and needs the workload taken off of him, I am exhausted because he is working so much and I never get a break from the home. We are exhausted and completely overwhelmed. We are also older now and have even less time and energy for each other…. it’s not a good path to be on.
I want to be a good and fair housewife, partner, income pooler – But I can not sign up to this 1950’s ideal of “serving my husband”. I can not buy into this maschoistic, chauvinistic way of life and additional pressure that so many women put on themselves, when they are already doing so much. You can be an amazing wife and still not be a servant.
Even without darning his socks, ironing his uniform and even getting up to make him breakfast in the morning every day (before him). I am insanely busy and have the 24/7 never ending responsibility of motherhood. AND let me tell you, I do love being at home, but I’d be lying if I didnt admit that his life somedays looks like a dream to me – even when he does work 80 hours a week. I’d love to occassionally be in an office bantering with friends, being allowed to hear my own thoughts, hearing about the latest gossip, just wish I could have my little minnions right there with me at the same time.
Right now we are finding our way again with this latest addition. She is 6 months old and I think I am now past the expiration date of “the new baby” excuse. Laundry is a bigger mountain than ever before. The girls are being homeschooled. I am trying to do online school. The house is even more of a MESS because we are all home… but I think I am finally starting to figure it out. I think I have finally figured out “How to Be a Goodish Housepartner and not go Insane”
For my Director’s Course this semester I was assigned to read Twyla Tharp’s book “The Creative Habit, Learn it and use it for life” Now this book is more directed at creativity as an artist however in one chapter Ms Tharp talked about “Scratching”. She discusses scratching in a way- similar to a woodworker chiseling at his work. Just starting small, picking away until you finally achieve something. ““scratching” is about moving away from the proposition of finding that one ‘big’ idea, and “scratching” for those ‘little’ ideas that invoke momentum and action.”
Now you might wonder what relevance this has to being a housewife, but this inspired me and I started “Scratching” at everything that was overwhelming me in my life and through that I actually started to make progress and had fun in the process.
I had a MOUNTAIN of laundry that had been haunting me, I think actually since Saoirse had been born *cough 6 months ago* I could not get through it and I would every day move that mountain from my bed to the floor each night then back on the bed in the morning. It was haunting me, It was haunting Chris it became the 6th member of our family.
I also had outstanding essays for school, that just kept piling up and up and up ….. but I couldn’t get to them, I would sit down and be so overwhelmed I would close my laptop and say – “I’ll do that tomorrow”
The house was a mess, dishes constantly remained in the sink, the floor started to look like a strip club floor… it was gross.
I did everything not to face it, I worked on the yard making a playscape for the girls, I made tiktok videos, I went to a llama farm, I took a voice lesson…. I had a LOT of fun…. but that stuff wasnt dissappearing when I came back to it, it was still there and piling up more and more. I wasnt being a “fair” partner any more.
But I was also so overwhelmed I didnt know where to start.
So I started to scratch, little by little. I first scratched one of my essays – wrote a couple of pages then stepped away.
I then brought Savannah (my ten year old ) in as a “scratch” and gave her the responsibility of emptying the dishwasher. This somehow made me feel like I was being less “walked over” in this house and made washing and putting the dishes into the dishwasher that much better.
I would then scratch at the floor, brushing and mopping it then rewarding myself with a cup of tea.
I then scratched at vacumming, then rewarding myself with a walk outside with the baby and girls (which usually means naptime for baby and then time for myself or time to actually be able to focus on the girls and their work)
Sienna (7) I gave the responsibility of picking up dirty laundry in her room (Since she is the only one who seems to forget we have a hamper) – That was another scratch.
Then became the mountain of unfolded Laundry – this was my beast…. but I didnt think it was fair that I alone had to put it all away. So this became a family scratch and a game. I told the girls to run upstairs and take 10 pieces and fold/hang them away. They went up and did it, NBD – I then set an alarm for 30 minutes later and did the same again. Again NBD…. By the time I got upstairs, after doing everything else I needed to do… all that was left in this pile was my husband and I’s clothes and some towels and It was now 95% less overwhelming. I did my own “scratching and within 20 minute it was all put away. For the first time in months; The laundry was done!
Now me time, playtime and self care time is incredibly important as any type of mother – be it working or stay at home. Sometimes you NEED to be a little selfish in order to be the best person you can be for your family and that includes: Girls Nights, Girls Trips, Date Nights, Spa Days, Bubble Baths, Pour it out Nights, Llama Farms, Axe Throwing, Kickboxing – whatever it is you need to let your hair down and relax and find that bit of you!!!!
But you need balance and by heading straight into ‘playtime” more and more I was actually overwhelming myself ‘more and more’ by just putting those responsibilities off. As I scratched and rewarded myself in the process it became fun. I was bonding with my children through our chores and feeling a sense of accomplishment in the process.
I am still not that “Perfect housewife” I also have a cleaning lady again right now, because I need the help and that is OKAY!!! I also dropped one of my classes this semester today and that is okay too…. I may not be the “Perfect Housewife” That any man dreams of and thats okay too, because my children are loved, my husband is loved and they are taken care of and we are healthy and happy and are making beautiful and great memories.
One day soon, I will graduate college and become a working mother and I wonder if both my husband and I will look back on this time and see it as a wonderful period in our life or will be glad we are not here anymore. I’m sure he will be grateful for the financial assisstance but I wonder if he will miss the flexibility he has now, because I am always there with the children. I wonder if he will miss coming home to arts and craft time and his children making fairy crowns and having tea parties… I wonder if we will miss the mess and chaos and all of the fun that comes along with it. I wonder if I will fall in love with having financial independence, a social life, my own life again or will I miss that mountain of laundry?
Only time will tell on that one, but here are my top tips on:
“Scratching Away at Life & Having Fun While Doing It – This Housewife’s advice on staying sane!”
Be Kind to yourself, Dishes in the sink will never be remembered but all of these beautiful moments with your children will be held in your heart forever.
When your husband says “If you are home all day how is this house still a mess?” please respond with “If you work all day how come we dont have more money?”
Scratch – tackle overwhelming jobs little by little, giving yourself breaks and fun rewards in between – these dont have to be giant, miserable chores, pace yourself and pick away as you can. But dont get too distracted with too much playtime, because you will pay for that later!
Me time – do stuff for you, find yourself within motherhood/parenthood. Every now and again put yourself first.
Respect your working partner and be fair to them. Understand that when they provide they are exhausted too and find ways you can help each other. Whether that’s through budgetting, limiting spending, asking for help with the dishes, laundry etc. Support, respect and encourage one another.
Dont be walked over, if your kids are able to help; teach them how to help. If your partner leaves trash out or dumps laundry, be vocal about it. It is your job to take care of your family but not to be walked over or taken advantage of.
Take unneccessary things off of your plate whenever you can. Dont try to do too much and know when to say No!
Know that what you are doing is HARD work and it is not for everyone. Your brain never shuts off, it is a lot! You are doing a great job even on those days that you think you aren’t.
Take help when you need it and dont feel ashamed for that. Cleaning ladies, laundry service, take-out – if you can budget it in, take that help. It takes a village and some people dont have friends and family that can help them.
Enjoy it – One day you are going to miss for all of this chaos.
Know that 1950 housewife ideals are the pitts… you will destroy yourself by trying to live up to those unrealistic standards.