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A return to domestic drudgery

I'm a housewife again. And I'm even worse at this job than I was the first time I did it.

After a three-year stint of manning the home front while he looked for a business, my husband has tossed me the minivan keys and gone back to a paying job.

Turns out I'm not only a bad housewife, but I'm a cranky one, too.

It's just amazing how much there is to do, and how ungrateful people are when you do it.

The kids expect to be picked up from every activity they attend. The one time you forget and leave a middle-schooler waiting for 30 minutes in the gym parking lot, they chastise you like you abandoned them on the highway.

The orthodontist charges after the second missed appointment. Like I'm supposed to see that little card at the bottom of my purse. The bank closes at 4, the dry cleaners don't deliver, the Christmas decorations won't pack themselves away and the milk refuses to multiply.

It's like a bad Mr. Mom movie. Only instead of the clueless husband trying to figure out how to work the washer and dryer, I'm trying to remember where we keep the vacuum and what to do when we run out of plates. Technically, I've always been at home; that's where my office is.

But it's been years since I did any actual work here. Before hubby became head houseman, I sustained the operation with a string of baby sitters, house cleaners and other assorted helpers to take the edge off my domestic pain.

However, now that I'm saddled with the full cornucopia of domesticity, it's obvious that I'm not woman enough for the job.

The worst part is dinner duty. My family seems to think that they should eat something EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Yet when I look in the fridge, there isn't any food for me to cook with. How am I supposed to do this job if no one gives me the proper equipment?

I confess: I've been spoiled.

I married a man who can cook. He not only cooks, he cooks very, very well. As in cooking classes, cookbooks and fancy kitchen gadgets that now sit on the counter in silent judgment, mocking the new chef who has no idea how to use them.

With the old cook spending 12 hours a day getting a business started, the current kitchen manager is struggling to fill his frying pan.

I'm finally being paid back for all those times as a kid when I greeted my mother at the door with, "What's for dinner" or whined about the frequency of Tuna Helper.

I got creative one night and put frozen blueberries on top of cereal, and did my children thank me? No. They whined for Daddy's bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. I served boiled broccoli with my special Tofu Scrambler, and did they appreciate the healthy, home-cooked fare? No. They asked if we could order pizza.

In addition to criticizing my cooking, they also fail to appreciate the usually signed permission slips, the mostly remembered ice cream money, the sometimes given baths and the occasionally tidied TV room.

I know every home needs a backup person, but why does it have to be me?

Most women never get a three-year break. But I've tasted the good life, where someone else picks up your cleaning and all you do for dinner is show up at the table, and I want it back.

I love being a mom, but being chief cook and bottle washer is wearing me out. It's a tough gig when your supervisors have less experience than you do, and no matter how hard you work, you never get a raise or promotion.

In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if being good at this behind-the-scenes job means that no one ever notices your work at all.


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