Housewife: a married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework.
Homemaker: one who manages a household, especially as one’s main daily activity.
Stay at home[parent]: staying at home to take care of a child instead of working somewhere else.
When I was a kid, and admittedly as a young adult, I aspired to be a housewife. I had other careers in mind, such as a doctor, teacher, and back up dancer. But if one asked what my “dream job” would be, my response was, a housewife. I wanted the husband, house and 3 kids. I wanted PTA meetings, school drop off and pick up, going to the grocery store, keeping the house clean, decorating for each holiday, hosting play dates and dinners. I basically wanted the Cleaver life. That is what I envisioned as the perfect life for me.
My mom was a housewife and didn’t work outside of the home until I was in middle school. She cleaned houses, eventually went and got her associates degree, and then found an office job. But, for most of my childhood life, I remember her being at home. All the time. In my mind, she took care of everything. EVERYTHING. All three of us were always dressed, lunch packed, and ready for school. She was home when we got home. We would have snacks and she was always doing something. Ironing my dad’s shirts, cleaning, cooking, sewing, knitting, gardening, grocery shopping, writing checks and paying the bills. Dinner was always on the table when my dad got home at 6pm. It may not seem glamorous to many, but I wanted to be her when I grew up. She was a homemaker. She devoted her life to us and this is what success looked like for me.
So, here I am at 38 years old with a house, a husband, and 2 kids. (After starting the game a little later in life and having 2 kids 15 months apart, I’ve decided having 3 kids would probably send me to the loony bin.) I quit teaching when I had Sarina and became a stay at home mom or SAHM.
I am a housewife, a homemaker, and a SAHM.
Am I content? Most days. Am I happy? Do I have the perfect Leave It to Beaver life I dreamed of?
Well, not exactly.
Besides nothing in life ever actually being perfect, my housewife life is not quite what I dreamed of. This is in no way a complaint about staying home with my children. I know I have the luxury of being with my kids every day. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to stay at home and for my job to be taking care of my children. In a previous life, I was a project manager. Then I became a teacher. Those jobs were fairly satisfactory and I plan on going back to teaching eventually. But, being a SAHM is the best job I could ask for. It is my dream job. So why don’t I feel like I’m living the dream? Why do I feel like something is missing? Because I’ve realized I’m kind of a lousy housewife.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a housewife is a married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework.
[quote]Manages household affairs and does housework.[/quote]
Do I manage household affairs and do housework? Sure, but not as much as I should. And definitely not as well as I should. You could easily ask, “How much is should?” My response is, it’s different for every household. In our household, it’s what is tolerable without causing undue stress and anxiety. And, well, I think both my husband and I are frequently stressed about the house. I definitely feel anxious because things aren’t getting done. I’m not the super organized housewife that I imagined I would be. Our house is rarely as clean as I’d like it to be. Our closets and drawers are not organized into neat Container Store bins with labels like I’d want them to be. I don’t have decorations up for every season and holiday. I’m not great about sending thank you’s or birthday cards to friends and family. I don’t have every meal planned for every day of the month. Our fridge and pantry are not full of healthy foods and neatly sorted like I’d wish them to be. Are all these things that make me a lousy housewife? Not completely. I’m lousy because a housewife also “cares for her family.”
Last I checked, my husband is part of our family. Do I care for my husband? I, of course, have caring feelings for and love him, but do I do things for him to show him I care? Do I take care of him like I do my children? Sadly and embarrassingly, not nearly as much as I should. This is what makes me a lousy housewife.
After giving all my energy to my kids, I barely have any left for my husband, let alone myself. Instead of nicely greeting my husband when he gets home, he’s lucky if I say “hello.” I don’t stay up to watch TV with him, I go upstairs and watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians on my phone in bed. I don’t even eat dinner with him anymore. We used to put the girls to bed and eat together. That was our time to catch up with each other. Now, I eat with the kids and leave him whatever is left. I rarely ask how his day was or how he’s feeling or how his job is going. I schedule moms’ night outs and weekends away with my girlfriends, not him. My contributor profile for this blog says my perfect day would be spent with friends, not him. When he asks me questions or tries to talk to me, I snap at him. When he tries to express care or asks what I need, I act as if I want to tear his head off. I take out all my impatience and frustrations from the day out on him.
I could argue that this is a tough gig, that this is understandable and not to be too hard on myself. That my behavior is typical for any mother of 2 kids 15 months apart. That it’s because I’m so sleep-deprived. I haven’t slept for more than 4-5 consecutive hours for more than 3 years. That I’m the one that stays at home and there isn’t a tougher job out there. That because I’m the “default parent,” I’m more exhausted, more stressed, and more burdened than my husband. But, that’s not the mentality I have with him. I couldn’t do his job and he admits he couldn’t do mine. He’s not a deadbeat dad. After I stopped nursing, he would get up in the middle of the night with the kids. He doesn’t sit on his butt and watch ESPN all weekend. My husband takes care of the bills and manages the outside of the house (lawn, garden, garbage, fixes our cars, replaces our siding, and chimney etc.). I mean, really, there’s not much he can’t do as far as fixing or building things. His job is stressful, too. All of our financial burdens are on him. That’s a lot of weight on his shoulders. He leaves for work at 7:30am and doesn’t get home until 6:30pm. He comes home and is literally attacked by our girls. He plays with them. He puts them to bed. Every. Night. His job is what affords me to stay home. And it is a luxury. We are able to maintain practically the same lifestyle we had before we had kids. Granted, I was a teacher at a charter school and made practically as much as full-time daycare costs. Regardless, I get to stay home. Exactly what I’ve always wanted. My oldest has been in daycare for 2 days a week since my second was born. And we will soon be starting both of them 2 days a week so I may have time to myself, maybe work part-time. So, why am I such a brat to my husband who has helped give me this dream life?
My excuse has been because I’m a great SAHM. The definition of a SAHM is a mom who stays at home to take care of their child instead of working somewhere else. My job is to take care of our children. I take my job very seriously and believe I do it fairly well. I will stay up late and make lesson plans for the week. I will spend hours planning activities for them and creating materials for them to learn and play. We read, bake, paint, draw, sculpt, play make-believe, sing songs, and dance. I will take them out to the park, storytime, the play café, the conservatory, the zoo; even when I haven’t slept, have a migraine and want to crawl up and sleep forever. I make all their meals from scratch; I have never made them boxed mac n cheese or packaged frozen chicken nuggets. I am bright-eyed and smiling when my girls wake up at the butt crack of dawn whining for milk. I will rush to their side when they need something (I actually cracked a rib diving to catch Anya as she jumped off the couch into our coffee table). I am here for them. Every minute of every day, including the weekends. I’m the default parent, day in and day out. I love my job, but it’s mentally and physically exhausting. Don’t I get a release? Don’t I get to take care of myself? The answer is NO. Not like this.
This realization has taken me almost half a year to admit. My mom, who has been such a role model in my life, was recently in town. After spending a few days with us, she told me I was so much like her when we were kids. At first, I thought it was a compliment. I thought I’m as good of a housewife as she was. But, she didn’t mean it in a good way. She reminded me how unhappy she was at times, how often her and my dad, now divorced, fought. How hard it was staying at home with three kids and how she lost herself. She could see my struggle, the way I act towards my husband and said this isn’t like me. I burst into tears. She was right. As if that wasn’t enough confirmation. My younger sister then spent a week with us and told me she’s never seen me act like this towards anyone else in my life. That there’s almost a sound of hatred in the tone of my voice with him. I again burst into tears. She was right, but I don’t hate him. I cried even harder thinking about my girls. Realizing that when Sarina is harsh and mean to her father, she is imitating me. That is the worst of it. That my daughter thinks it’s okay to treat someone like that. My husband and the father of my children doesn’t deserve to be my punching bag.
Finding balance is hard.
Whether your job is to stay at home or not, parenting and being a spouse is hard. I’m really not all that religious, but I think somewhere in the Bible it says to love your husband above your children. If ever in a plane crash, you are supposed to secure your oxygen mask before your child’s. Even though I can’t imagine there being anything in this world I wouldn’t sacrifice for my children’s sake, I need to remember loving my husband isn’t a sacrifice. We are partners and we are in this together. He deserves to be cared for. I deserve to be cared for, too. If we want our children to be kind, compassionate, and respectful people, we need to model that. My sister put it in a relatable way for me, kids go to school and need to learn how to be students.
[quote]We as adults sometimes need to learn how to be spouses and parents.[/quote]
Where and how to start caring for each other again while juggling everything else that’s going on in our lives? I’m going to start by finding another outlet to de-stress and take out my frustrations. Writing and yoga have been helpful. We’ve opened lines of communication again. This is obvious, yet so many of us don’t do it. We don’t communicate. I don’t communicate my needs or wants and turn that against him. We’ve started making a schedule of the weekends with family time and individual time carved out. It has been working so far and helped quite a bit. And we’re going to talk about scheduling regular date nights. We both need to find our connection again. So this is where we are now. We may not have a total solution, but it’s a start.
Knowing where to start is the toughest part, right?