In The return of the washerwoman, I made the following point:
I know women who clean four bathrooms twice a week, as opposed to my 1.5 baths, and cleaning the floors takes them hours and involves lugging a vacuum cleaner up and down stairs to clean their wall-to-wall carpeting. The truth is, anyone who had a house larger than mine “back in the day” also had a cleaning lady or shared the house with other women who could help her.
Wives used to have more domestic help and smaller houses. Also, contrary to popular belief, a lot of women worked outside of the home. What changed was the advent of middle-class women working outside of the home, but once we’d removed all of the adult social interaction from the home, it made perfect sense for the women to follow the interaction to where it had moved: the workplace.
Lots of SAHMs are deciding to give up social interactions in order to spend more time with their children, but let’s not kid ourselves: this is not a healthy arrangement or an ideal model of home life. Wives spending all day alone with nothing but young children for company are often miserable, and the stress of it can strain their marriages.
Since the Second Wave of feminism, women have been attempting to solve that problem by either going to work outside of the home, having their husband help with the housekeeping, or both. But traditionally, women had help from other women, not from their husbands. We’re essentially trying to turn our husbands into our aunts, and then we’re all disappointed when we end up married to the kitchen bitch.
But… I know. Crazy idea. Women helping women. That would never fly.
Trust me, I was that lonely, isolated homemaker for years, and if it hadn’t been for blogging and occasional visits from my mother, I’d have completely lost my mind. Neither of my children could even form full sentences until they were four years old, so you can imagine the years and years of spending all day, day after long, miserable day, without a single conversation other than *point at hot dog and scream for it*. Not only is this not a traditional lifestyle, it’s insane. I mean… who thought this up and figured it was a good idea? Let’s take that person out and beat them.
I wasn’t supposed to hire in help because I was a homemaker and that would be proof that I was lazy. I wasn’t raised with that mentality, and it hadn’t really been an issue in Germany because I had so many female relatives around to help me there, but it’s so pervasive in America — home of the Induhvidual — that I didn’t even consider it, even when my husband started to be sent on multi-week business trips and I didn’t have an adult conversation for days on end. I was going to stick it out. I didn’t need human contact because I was going to “do it myself”, like a Real ‘Murican.
America is the land of DIY. We’re all bowling alone around here. Americans do everything by themselves. They even have sex by themselves! They live their lives on the internet. They’re shuttered in to their crappily-built single family homes that they repair and maintain alone, and they eat their supersize fast food alone in their supersize automobiles. They sit in office “cubicles”, where they can spend an entire day in a roomful of people without even seeing another person’s face. They don’t have friends, or if they do have “friends”, they’re actually just people they meet up to chit-chat with, rather than an actual practical resource and adopted extended family. And extended family is reeeeeaaaally extended here. Like, extended to the other end of the continent.
Most Americans don’t even realize how outright bizarre and unnatural it is for them to be so physically and emotionally isolated from other adult human beings for so much of their day. They call it “the pioneering spirit”, forgetting the fact that most pioneers were batshit crazy. Living alone will do that to you, which is why solitary confinement is considered a form of torture.
Please don’t torture yourself. It’s mean.