Stay-at-home-sometimes-solo Mom

Am I a “Housewife”?!

I have a confession.

I’m not one of those women who has a schedule for chores. Back in my pre-child days, I would clean just before people came over (or pay someone to do it from time to time) and do laundry when I was out of a key element of my work wardrobe. When my husband was deployed, I’d mow the lawn when I couldn’t stand looking at it any more. (Until I was pregnant and hired someone to do it for me. Thanks, Will!)

Meal planning? As if. I might pick up some staples to make dinner a couple of nights a week, fully expecting to go out to dinner at least twice a week and bring home something deliciously terrible (mmmm, Chipotle…) another time. I did enjoy spending a weekend afternoon and evening cooking elaborate recipes with food I picked up at the Farmers Market. But cooking under pressure? Gah!

It was a terribly inefficient and wasteful system. But it didn’t seem to matter with two incomes and limited time away from work.

Then 19 1/2 months ago I left my job, thinking I would spend time at home with my baby for a little while, at least until he didn’t seem to be such a helpless infant. I would nurse him all day, the house would clean itself and cooking dinner would be a fun thing we would do together.

Well, none of that worked out and then we moved to England.

We have been here a full year! And I’m just now starting to understand: I’m the “housewife.” I had a hard enough time embracing the stay-at-home mom thing (I have a masters degree in advertising, not early childhood development!), but at least Pinterest has given me hope that I’m not entirely clueless about what to do with a toddler all day. I just seemed to overlook the fact that, since I’m home all day, why wouldn’t I be the one to take care of all of the household crap. The dishes, the meals, the laundry, the mopping (ugh, the MOPPING!), the car maintenance.

I know my attitude is really in need of an adjustment about this. I understand why women try to create corporate-sounding titles for themselves in this role. My generation was raised to be empowered young women – who could go TO THE MOON if they wanted – and learned that “housewife” sounds rather belittling. Plus, my mom is a career-woman and it never occurred to me that I would be here, at this roadblock to embracing my “housewife”-ness. (Is home maker a better word? What on earth do we call us?)

Of course, all of that Girl Power talk has me feeling completely inadequate for not being able to come to grips with this job that millions of women conquer.

Meal planning feels totally overwhelming.

A cleaning schedule feels like I’m taking all of the fun out of being a stay-at-home mom (you know, nap time).

At least I keep up with the laundry? (I simply can’t understand why the other moms I meet are always talking about all the ironing they have to do.)

It’s all fine, in that we eat each day and my house isn’t disgusting. But the meals stress me out and there’s so much more house to clean in this new place! There’s also this glimmer of hope that I’ll have slightly more time to myself if I can get my shit together.

Of course, I’d probably have the same feelings as a working mom, trying to cram all of this into my evenings and weekends. Y’all working moms are really phenomenal! And/or dads. However it shakes out.

So, I’m developing a course of action for wrangling this whole “household manager” gig.

  1. Tackle meal planning.
  2. Carve out reasonable time for cleaning.
  3. Give in. Decide to be really good at it, like I would any job.
  4. List out all of the “big” maintenance stuff and get it in the planner.
  5. Blog about it so it feels like a project and not a chore. (So this is how blogging can change one’s life!)

Phew! It feels good to have this off my chest. Now I feel like I’ll be held accountable. Are you in the same boat? Do you have any tips for running a household? Are there any resources you recommend?

8 thoughts on “Am I a “Housewife”?!

  1. I went through this for many years. Andrew would come home and while I cleaned and cooked, it looked like I had nothing to offer our happy little home. If I’m being honest, though, a bit ago El told someone that what I like to do is clean. Really!? I was just trying to make things nice for us. But that’s not what my kids want. They want to play and make crafts and learn to do things with me. I haven’t been doing them a favor by picking up after them, either. They crave responsibility. So, that’s where I’m at right now. We clean up two days a week, and enjoy our time together more. My kids are older, though, so maybe it’s just being in a different stage. Like I said, I spent many years where you are.

  2. Lynn,
    When I quit my job last January, I thought being at home with the kids was going to be a breeze. Boy what I wrong! While it is absolutely 100 times harder working outside the home and having kids at home, it’s harder from a physical standpoint for me to be at home 100 percent of the time now. I never stop moving at home. There is always something that needs to be done and the kids always are asking for something. My house was cleaner when I worked outside the home. I quickly learned I can never keep it clean and just try to clean a little as I go every day. Then collapse on the couch at 9:00pm every night!

  3. Lynn,
    I absolutely love “household manager!” You rock! Great read. I was just telling someone the other day how good I had it when I worked. But as I sit here and read this in Crete, I again think, how good I have it!
    Someday, 2 or so years from now? I will “have” to work again. Sigh.
    Enjoy very minute with the kiddo! He is your number one supporter of you being a household manager! :)

  4. this reminds of a story about one of my best friends. One day not long after her first was born she called me to tell me that she was sorry. Sorry for literally assuming I wasted away my days, because what could I possibly be doing all day. She apologized for thinking that I had it easy. She apologized for thinking that I was sending women back to the 1950s. She apologized for thinking that I was wasting my degree and all my training. It was probably the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. I felt truly appreciated at that point! It really is hard!!! Now granted there is down time, but everyone has down time, where things aren’t as busy during the day. I’m lucky to have a hubby that tries to give me a “day off” when he can. But you know how that goes. anyway, you are amazing and you do rock. and you are not alone!!!!!

  5. This is a great post, Lynn. Indeed, though my immediate and extended family is happy that I work from home an will be at home when I have kids, I feel that pressure that I’ve let women down somehow or that I’m not good enough. I love how you’ve decided to give staying at home 100% just like an outside job-what great advice that I need to take and thank goodness for blogging-it is my free therapy while I go through changes.

  6. Yes! I never found a “career” necessarily, but I did enjoy my work as a barista before leaving the “work” realm and becoming a housewife. I have never been one for chores or housework, honestly, but it’s has made my life much easier to meal plan (even lightly. We’re not strict adherents to ours at all.) and have a flexible cleaning schedule. If I don’t have some sort of checklist for the chores, they don’t get done. It does seem to feel oppressive at first, when you think about it – you’re at home with your fun little toddler all day, and it sucks to have to think about the “busy work”. But I have to remind myself regularly that this *is* my job, even if I don’t get monetary compensation for my time.

    So, listing out all of the things that I need to do weekly helps (and being forgiving of myself if I slack a little. Or if BOTH bathrooms don’t get clean this week. We’ll survive.). I also have a monthly list as well. Stuff like dusting or mopping or whatever goes on that. There are a lot of pins on pinterest that I’ve found useful over the last 2 years. Some women are CLEAN FREAKS, and I am the opposite, so their lists seem like “whoa, all I’ll ever do is clean”, so I just take what I like and ignore what I don’t.

    I’m learning to love google calendar for these things, too.

    Good luck! Ease into it. And don’t worry about “perfection”. Just worry about “better than last week.” And forget about living up to that vision of what an “empowered young woman” is. If you’re doing what you want to do right now, it doesn’t matter if it’s a “business” track or at home, you’re doing what’s right for you, and that sounds empowered to me.

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