Crap, Being a Traditional Housewife is Hard!

Posted on July 10, 2011 by

I often envy the Betty Friedan generation of feminists. Being trapped at home with “the problem that has no name” sounds like an absolute paradise compared to my home life, with its twin problems named failure and exhaustion. Nobody ever told me when I signed on that being a post-post-modern, post-secular, traditional Christian housewife would be so blasted difficult.

I blame society. Society never mentioned anything about having to wake up and breastfeed my baby six times in a single night. No child-rearing book suggested that my ten month old would be able to stand up, take a running start and crash through the “child proof” fence around the cat-box in order to eat the contents. Nor was there a whisper of the 45 minutes of uninterrupted crying that would result from my keeping her from putting cat poop in her mouth.

What a magical life those housewives of the 50’s must have had to spend their days thinking “is this all?” instead of “will this ever end?” I still don’t manage to cook and cleaning the house is something that happens in fits and starts contingent on whether my infant is having a growth spurt, a tooth coming in, or both. This isn’t what I thought I had signed up for.

When we got married, my husband and I had planned that I would quit my job and stay home. So I gave notice at the job only to have my boss counter with a raise and the ability to work from home once per week. A few attempts later I found myself working from home 5 days a week for still more money. It was a full three years and five attempts to quit later before I managed to find myself a full time homemaker. I thought I’d spend several months learning the ropes of homemaking and quickly become expert at it. Instead I immediately got pregnant. It turns out that kids won’t let you quit either.

I spent my pregnancy being nauseated, reading birth and traditional homemaking blogs and feeling like crap because I never was taught to sew, can, bake, hem, knit, or any other crafty-fancy stuff like I saw on the blogs and in the homes of the traditional housewives I knew from church. Their homes were spotless, they cooked delicious meals and snacks, and their children were all productive members of society, and they all had very trim figures.

I have a very trim figure, but it’s mostly because I don’t cook anything worth eating. And I don’t just fail at cooking, I have failed at every traditional Christian housewife thing I thought I was supposed to do. I failed at homebirthing (ended up with a c-section), I failed at keeping house (will be hiring a maid this month), I failed at gardening (we planted, I did a little weeding before my pregnancy was well advanced and then my husband did the rest of the weeding and harvesting, but much food was lost to rodents), I failed at childcare (my infant will scream when left with anyone but me or my husband).

I even failed at breastfeeding. I was told that breastfeeding improves parent-child bonding and will prevent behavior problems. My baby resembles nothing so much as a female version of the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage crossed with a bumper car. She’s twice the size of her peers and generally greets them by going straight for the eyes.

In an instant-gratification culture, nobody wants to tell you about the bad parts and hard bits, and everyone wants to pretend that there’s no trick to ‘natural’ or ‘traditional’ ways of doing things. Breastfeeding is hard because your body is making the milk out of your own blood. There’s not much energy left to manage a quarter-acre of raised beds and clean a four bedroom house in the same day, along with cooking meals. And anyone blogging about how they manage it while taking care of three other kids under age five is lying or has paid staff.

If I went back to my old job, it wouldn’t be to find fulfillment in extracting data from a backup file that can only be read by a beta version of ClarisWorks released in 1993. It would be because homemaking is a damned sight harder than being an office geek.

But the thing is, all these failures to do it all and be it all just helped me become more humble in my role as a helpmeet. I was broken of my pride and idolatry of crunchy hippie views of birth. I was broken of my lingering desire to be ‘professional’ and ‘efficient’ in homemaking so career women would be impressed at my transition out of the workforce. I was broken of the notion that just because I quit working, I would suddenly be able to do multiple things that require full-time commitments and do them all perfectly.

I have spent months flailing and failing and tomorrow I’ll probably fail some more. And that’s fine. Part of being a Christian is realizing that God is all and we’re not. The state of my house definitely helps with the latter.

Posted in: Homemaking, Religion