Confessions of a Terrible Housewife
A few months ago Democratic strategist and working mom Hilary Rosen said that Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, a stay-at-home mom, "never worked a day in her life." The backlash was immediate. Never worked a day in her life? The woman raised five boys! That's a major accomplishment, nannies or not.
Rosen ought to be darn thankful she didn't say something like that to me. I work hard at homemaking and I will have respect. Recently, when my husband dared to eat my lovingly home-cooked dinner without praising it effusively, I threw the entire roast chicken across the kitchen in a fit of rage. But more on that later.
Bottom line, Rosen's comment touched off yet another round of the Mommy Wars: working moms versus stay-at-home moms. And as always, emotions -- and sometimes chickens -- are flying fast and furious. I've done the mom thing both ways and I'm here to say that being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job ever.
I went over to the stay-at-home side a few months ago, when I got laid off. No biggie, my husband consoled. We'll get rid of the childcare costs and we'll manage on one paycheck. You'll spend more time with Will (our 6-year-old). You'll cook more (good-bye take-out bills!). You'll take care of the house (good-bye cleaning lady!). What he actually said was, "You'll be a domestic goddess and make our home an oasis of calm and order."
Who knew oasis-building was such a soul-sucking endeavor? Cleaning is beyond boring, of course, but it's more than that -- I don't like doing things I'm not very good at. I'm not a great cook. I'm not crafty. I don't have a green thumb. Entertaining frays my nerves. And my idea of organizing is making sure there are no pizza boxes on the floor. Basically, I just don't have the skill set for this line of work. I miss my office job!
Yes, I'm thrilled to do the school run every day and to be able to spend more than just quality time with Will, but that is one of the few upsides of my new life. I miss working with other adults. I liked having a desk full of papers and memos and spending my days thinking about how to solve office-related problems, no baking required. That's where I excel. As a homemaker, I suck.
It's stressing me out, big-time. "What did you do today?" my husband asks. It's an innocent question, I guess, but I snap: "Why? Do you want me to fill out a time sheet?" (Count to 10. Breathe.) "Oh, you know, I shopped and cleaned and picked Will up from school and took him to tae kwon do and made him do his homework and gave him a bath and fixed his dinner and threatened him about veggies and, well, that's about it. Oh, and I forgot to eat lunch. How was your day?"
Expectations are higher when you're a SAHM. If you are not running on all cylinders -- raising the happiest, most accomplished, nicest kids, feeding them the healthiest, most delicious food, providing the family an oasis to come home to -- then you're a failure. I mean, that's your job. Plus, this new division of labor means I've suddenly become my husband's assistant. "You've really got to get Will's room in order." (Okay, that's fair.) "You've really got to get him to do his homework." (Well, you could help.) "You've really got to get him to bed earlier. (Again, could use some help here. I'm pooped.) "You've really got to put things away!" (I know! Shut up!) And, believe it or not: "You really ought to get a pedicure."
He probably means, "Pamper yourself. You deserve it." But what I hear is: "You really ought to make yourself more attractive for your husband." (Hey, maybe then he'll run away with me -- his secretary.)