Guest Post: ‘To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Your Inner Housewife’
(Hydrangea loves getting dirty gardening and trail running. She works as a personal trainer in the D.C. area, and as full time mother of two blued eyed kids.)
The love of a mother is perhaps the most instinctual, binding form of love. From the moment your child is born your life is disrupted, and altered until it barely resembles its previous state. For any sacrifice made as a mother, the rewards are returned exponentially. There is nothing like seeing your child grow and surpass your expectations. There are few moments more precious than holding your little one as they fall asleep or receiving a hug from a little child that thinks you can do no wrong.
On the other hand motherhood is consuming. Women get lost in their responsibilities and neglect themselves. While adoring our children usually comes naturally, the domestic skills associated with being a mother are not innate. For me, trying to make peace with my thankless daily routine of dishes, sweeping, removing stains, and cleaning toilets is a persistent battle. Yes, there is a satisfaction in a nicely groomed, well decorated home, but most days monotonous housework feels like bondage.
We all know, and probably envy to some extent, moms that represent both ends of the career/ domestic spectrum. I resemble the traditional mom, but I can’t say I fit that mold perfectly. Housework makes me feel tied down and under utilized but I simultaneously love HGTV. I am both a paper plates advocate and aspiring foodie. I am a stay at home mom that loves putting on pants and going to work.
I work just a few hours a day and I am blessed to be able to bring my young kids with me to on-site childcare. Using my education and developing my talents in the workplace is not something I am willing to give up. In fact, I would go as far as to generalize that most moms are probably more balanced, and emotionally sound, when they are simultaneously engaged in a reasonable amount of involvement outside the home (and church.)
Lately I’ve been devouring the book To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Your Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan. The book is witty social commentary on the modern wife and mother highlighting topics like the benefits and backlash of the feminist movement, over scheduled children, sex deprived marriages, infertility, childcare, and concludes “hasn’t it all gotten a bit ridiculous?”.
Her writing, while conservatively biased, is directed at neither the career diva nor the domestic wonder. It’s written by a non-feminist mother with, ironically, a high profile writing career, a maid, and nanny. It examines the arguments for both “traditional” motherhood as well as the trap of domestic housework, with its capability to snare ambition and worldly talent.
An excerpt provides some interesting insights:
“There is the deepest conflict about motherhood. Affluent working mothers stubbornly insist that no one question their commitment to their children, while at home mothers demand the world confer upon them the social cachet that comes with working outside the home, But these are mutually exclusive demands.
Few will admit- because it is painful, because it reveals the unpleasant truth that life presents a series of choices, each which precludes a host of other attractive possibilities- is that whichever decision a woman makes, she will lose something of incalculable value. The kind of relationship between a child and a mother who is home all day caring for him is substantively different from that formed between a child and a woman who is gone many hours a week. The former relationship is more intimate, more private, filled with more moments of maternal frustration-and even despair- and with more moments of transcendence that comes only from mothering a small child.
Yet when a woman works outside the home, she uses the best of her mind and education, exerting her influence on the world beyond her doorstep. We respect women who stay at home with their children but it is the ones who work- the ones who spend their days taking part in the commerce and traffic of the adult world- who seem to have retained the most of their former selves.”
Regardless of your opinion on the matter, I believe it is important that as women we live deliberately and are willing to defend our career/parenting choices. We should be aligning our lives with the path that God would have us lead. We should shut out voices in our heads that tell us we need to fit a ridiculously constricting mold. We should stay true to ourselves, loyal to our family, and choose a fulfilling course, one without regrets.
Harmonizing work and family is a chore. What helps you stay balanced? What do you do to get back on track when you find the scale has been tipped? What factors played into your current work/family arrangement?