You know what I did this weekend? I cleaned my house, cooked for a dinner party, did laundry, took care of my kids, and did some gardening. I planted bulbs. I mulched. In preparation for the dinner party, I ironed napkins. I made my own napkin rings. I baked chocolate chip cookies from scratch. I went to a Zumba class and then watched some prime time network TV before bed.
Oh crap. I am a housewife.
I have a PhD from Stanford. I am wicked smart. Or I used to be. Spending so much time with preschoolers has somewhat dulled my once razor sharp intellect. I now find myself laughing at jokes with the punch line, “Spongebob.” I used to be an intelligent and productive member of society. I was so good at my last full time job that when I moved across the country, they kept paying me to do the job via e-mail. I applied for a job recently. I didn’t get it, which is fine—the commute might have killed me—but the idea of getting up every day and putting on real clothing and working all day long with grown-ups… it felt pretend. When I was in college and would cook meals with friends, we made perfectly acceptable food, but it always felt a little silly, like “playing house.” That’s kind of how I feel about having a job now, like it would be “playing grown-up.” For the past nearly four years, playing house has been my job. I forget what real grown-ups talk about, but I’m pretty sure that children’s bodily functions, stain-fighting sprays, and American Idol are lower on that list than they are on mine.
I have a minivan. I struggle to lose weight. I am on facebook too much, posting pictures of my kids. I send Christmas cards and thank you notes and I know how to get grease stains out of clothing. I sew and mend things. And here’s the thing. I love it. I don’t love it every day. When the kids are fighting non-stop and the potholder slips, depositing dinner all over the floor, and someone just made a deuce in their pants, those days suck. But most of the time, I really love it. I like to garden. I like to bake. I like to make my own napkin rings. I like Zumba. I love my minivan. Oh, and my kids, yeah, I love them too. I love being with them, most of the time. I love this job, being a Mommy, way more than I ever loved any of my “real jobs.” In some ways, I was a housewife and a Mommy before I got married or had kids. At Burning Man, when others were recovering from the cocktails of substances they took the night before, I was spraying them all down with sunscreen and making them eggs. I was always the go-to girl if you needed a hot pink faux fur slipcover for your bike seat.
But here’s the problem. It’s the role, the label, the cliché, the stereotype. Now that I really am a housewife and a Mommy, and no one is asking me to make faux fur bike seat cozies anymore, it feels different. It's harder to settle in when that's all I am. I want to shout from the rooftops, “I am more than this! I worked my butt off for seven years to get a PhD! I danced in public in a coin bra! I have had transcendent experiences that showed me, for brief moments, what it is to be human! I am more than just this!”
So I dye my hair pink. But nope. Still a housewife. What would do it? How about a nose ring? Another tattoo? A tiny black thong? Something that signals (to me, as much as to anyone else) that I am not just a “type.” I am a super smart, super sexy woman, who used to be edgy and interesting and complex. Now I am a housewife, but inside, I’m still that woman. I just do more meal planning and stuff.
It reminds me—a very good thing to remember—that every person, no matter how easily they seem to fit into a box, has stuff beneath the surface that would be a surprise. Like a tiny black thong under size 16 mom jeans.