Thursday, March 05, 2015

Thoughts from Behind the Vacuum Cleaner: On Being A Woman and Mother and Housewifery.

One of the most important things that we can do as women, is to strive to better understand and support each other's personal choices, no matter how different they may be.

Career woman or housewife, mother or child-less by choice, breastfeeding or bottle feeding, gray hair or hair dye. Our capacity for empathy, warmth, gentleness, connection and sisterhood is a GIFT! A real gift!

How many times have I felt gratitude for a Mom friend to commiserate with and trudge through the toddler years together? Or a friend to call in tears when I was sad or scared? A girlfriend who would drop everything to pick my child up from school if I was stuck in traffic? A woman who would over the years, become more than a friend, but like sister to me! Many, many times I've been grateful, because that's what we girls do for each other, right!?

Too often though, I've seen things go the other way, (mainly online) where we make unessisary judgement calls about each other's choices or we stand staunchly on the belief that OUR way is the RIGHT way.  Which is not always the case.

I am a housewife.

I have been a housewife for over ten years and I still feel a tiny twinge of embarrassment and guilt every time that I  announce my "occupation" in public. Embarrassment because I worry that career men and and women might think that I am boring or backwards or not complex. And the guilt comes from the place of having the luxury of a choice to stay-at-home and because, well.....have I wasted all that the feminists have fought for?

I love my life though. No amount of toilet scrubbing or towel folding can sway me from my general contentment. I chose this path on purpose.

When I was a little girl, my Mother worked long hours. She started her own company. My Mom worked very hard to provide us with a lovely house in a great neighborhood with the bests schools. My Father, he worked too and  traveled a lot.

We had babysitters, many of them, and when I was a little older, I came home to an empty house after school. I was a latchkey kid. And when I was eleven, my parents divorced.

I remember being a little girl and always dreaming about what it would be like to have a Mother at home. Specifically one who made chocolate chip cookies. I run around to block to friends' houses, and their Moms were always there. One friend in particular, I can not remember her name, as they only lived in our neighborhood for a short while, they were from Poland or Germany I think. I remember vividly though, quite a few times we'd be playing outside, feel hungry, and then run into her house for cookies. Her Mother was very kind, but the tiniest bit stern and would always remind us: "Only two cookies each!" And then she'd send us back out to play.

The first thought I always had was: "Wow, their Mom is strict! Only two cookies at a time?"
And the second thought that I always had was: "Wow, they're so lucky. Their Mom is home to give them cookies."

And so, when I was quite young, I made the decision in my mind to become a Mom and a housewife one day. That's all I really every wanted, to be honest. I mean sure, yes, I also aspired and still aspire to become a writer and a therapist one day, but for what it's worth my heart, my heart wanted to first and foremost be a Mother and a homemaker.

Sometimes I worry that my value as a housewife brings less to my family, then if I were a career woman.  The answer to this, I may never know. Most every choice in life comes with benefits and burdens. Once in a while, sure I dream of having a great job and how proud I would feel to earn a paycheck, but how can you compare the value of extra income to the value of say....being able to pick your child up at 3:30? It's like apples to oranges.

I spend most days all alone, working and thinking, working and thinking. I cherish and personally THRIVE on this solitude, but you tend to get inside your own head. The only thing I really wish I had was the opportunity for an occasional lunchtime conversation with an adult at the coffee shop. Not small talk, not talk about kids or school, but deep, philosophical conversations. I'd like to discuss the meaning of life, debate the existence of God, talk about social issues and politics and art and books. I do tend to feel old beyond my years being housewife. I want to feel connected to others in their 30's and 40's. Be part of something outside of these walls. I do yearn for that.

But here's the beautiful thing about being a Mother, a housewife. (One of the neat things.) I reminded myself today as I was scooping the kitty litter box, that even though as a Mother I might not be able to have it all, that ONLY means that I can not have it all AT ONCE!

The beauty of being a housewife, is that one day, Noah will get a little older and he won't need me around the house as much. I won't be doing everybody's laundry one day, I won't be standing at the sink five-days-a-week trying to come up with a good meal that both a 4th grader and his parents will enjoy. I won't be asked to volunteer at school or drive my child to playdates or birthday parties.

Someday, when Noah goes off to college, or if he's independent, who knows, even before college, I will have the opportunity to reinvent myself! I'll have the freedom and time to drop some of my bigger duties now and explore a career or my writing or head back to school form my MSW. The possibilities are out there and they are endless.

So that's the thing: as women, as mothers, we are incredibly blessed that our lives go in chapters.....before children, during children, when our kids are grown, when we have grandchildren...... I appreciate that.

I love that I am a woman, that I'm part of a tribe. I don't see my gender in this country as a hinderance to personal success, but rather as an opportunity for radically different choices at different times throughout my life.


When I'm cleaning the house, doing something fairly mindless like vacuuming, it is ironic that this is the time when I compose my blog posts most fluidly and effortlessly. I compose them in my head at least. But then, when I later go to sit at my keyboard, like now, it's agonizing writer's block. Why is this so!?

This is only half of my problem.  Half of the problem as to why I am not blogging as often as I'd like to. The other reason is that for the life of me, I just can't seem to find enough time in the day to write.
Not posting to How Bourgeois often enough makes me feel guilty. This is one of my biggest daily stressors, trying to find time to compose something, but never quite getting there.

I make my own suffering. The guilt is self-imposed. I don't even know where my notion came from that I "should" be posting on the blog at the least twice a week. Which, as you've seen, never happens...

Why am I beating myself up over the fact that I can't seem to keep this blog up on a regular basis? It's not like I make an income from How Bourgeois. Every weekday I think to myself: "Ok, as soon as I get done doing this -this-and this, I'll sit down and write." Before I know it though, it's 3:00, and while I might have finished my work around home, there was little time left to compose a post before  leaving to pick up Noah.

Maybe the reason for all of my guilt is because I see other "Mom bloggers" who DO manage to post frequently, and not only that, but their posts are beautiful and clever and they're always doing something precious and perfect with their families. "Why can't I pull that off too?" I think.

I know in recent years there's been a bunch of backlash about "mommy bloggers" and lifestyle blogs. That often times these sites don't show REAL life, that the blog posts are polished up and  only show the good bits. I think that might be true. That or these women are SUPER WOMEN.  They're super women, or they have help or they are putting in many many many hours of overtime.

I have made my opinion known before, that I personally think that women CAN NOT have it all.  "All" being a busy career, children lavished with attention and their own hectic schedules, a perfectly clean home, fresh, healthy meals on the table every night, the laundry hamper empty, not over-flowing, a volunteer position and a perfect marriage. This example of "All" might be a bit extreme, but from what I have seen, there are just not enough hours in a day to TRULY juggle full-time work, full-time-house care, full-time parenting, AND get enough sleep in.

So here's the thought that I came to this morning while vacuuming upstairs: "I love being a housewife. It's ok. My first obligation is my family and house, blog stress is kind of stupid. I need to give myrself a break with the guilt."

Dear blog, I love you. I promise to continue posting just like I always have. Hopefully even more often! But, I'll write when I can, post when the time allows and do it all, however often or far in-between, without guilt or judgment.

I only have once child, one chance, one lifetime in this house. As much as I treasure this online space, I want to be present in the moment.


Ironically, but not surprisingly (because this is how life works)..... today as I was writing about my worries over not having much "value" as a housewife, a small squeaking noise came from our front door. It was the mail slot being opened and a little, square shaped enveloped gently being pushed through and then landing on the floor. I slowly rose from the kitchen table and walked over to the mysterious envelope.

Inside was one of the most thoughtful, wonderful notes I've ever received. It almost made me cry!

You see, I do work hard to make our little house feel warm and homey. I plant flowers in the spring and again in the fall. I like to mow our postage stamp of a lawn with our old-fashioned push mover, I sometimes rake the leaves and sweep the porch and water my garden and shovel the snow!  I try my hardest to decorate the outside of our home for each holiday, just to bring some cheer. And as many long-tome blog readers might know, nearly each and every month, for the past 3 + years, I've come up with paper decorations for our front windows. They often take me days of stop and start work to make and then they always fade in the sun and tear when I take them down. It's kind of too bad. I started when I noticed that the different preschool classes from down the street regularly walk past our house on their way to the park. I made some happy window decorations to make them smile. Then, soon after, church-goes from the church across the street began to tell me how much they liked the decorations, and how they always anticipated the next month's theme. Even more smiles! And that's how it went.

Recently, as life has become busy with the puppy and I'm more committed than every to keeping up with the cleaning and any clutter, I've often found myself wondering if all the hard work on the window decorations is worth it. Sometimes my own family doesn't notice the new "theme" and with it being so cold and snowy, not as many people are walking by.

I spent the end of February trying to come up with decorations for the month of March which were not about St. Patrick's Day.  Jon suggested something to the effect of "March: in like a lion, out like a lamb." I loved it. This is what I made.....

I ended up switching things around and making one window with an "In" sign and two lions walking in, and then the window on the other side of our front door says "out" with two lamb walking out.

The point is, just when I'm doubting the value of my homemaker efforts and feeling like perhaps I'm just being silly and stupid, a note like the one above comes through my door and I'm reminded that the work I do is important in its own small way too.


Until next time, don't vacuum over those strings on the sides of your Persian rugs.
Lauren :)


Lori said...

I can SO relate!
I've been a SAHM since 2008 when I quit my fruitful job, but it is my life's work and dream to be able to do this...and now my littlest one is starting school this fall. I almost feel like "What's next?!" in a panicky way, but I would LOVE to able to still stay home and BE THERE for EVERYthing. I don't want my children to walk into an empty house. We are all so different, so many personalities...I have a sister that thrives at her work place. She absolutely loves it and has two little ones of her own not in school yet. I don't think that type of work would be a good fit for me, I am so content being home doing work at home. Just know that there are others, like me, that are in the same boat :-) I read recently about people's sentiments on their deathbeds...the majority of women wished they'd worked less and been home more. Spent more quality time with their children. I don't how accurate that really is, but I know it won't be one of my regrets.
There's this funny little cartoon I like that you might too...I love routine. Until I'm bored, then I love excitement. Until I'm overwhelmed, then I love routine.
Haha!! My feelings exactly.

I think you update very regular! I always know I'm gonna get CONTENT and not some little 1/2 paragraph, lol! Happy blogging! said...

May we someday meet at lunch or dinner (supper) time at The Adams Sq. deli. You are so many good 'things'!

Lauren said...

Oh Lori, what a great comment! Thank you! :)
I know that you'll figure out what the right "next move" is for your when your littlest goes to school next year. That's the crazy thing, our lives have all these new beginnings, twists and turns!

I'd love to figure out a good way to work from home part-time. I'm like you, I love being home. I have friends though with these amazing careers and I have to imagine they must feel proud. Everything is give and take. No right or wrong, you just do what works for yourself and your family.

Ha! I LOVE your cartoon. Yes, EXACTLY! ;)
Hahahah. Thanks for sharing that and thank you so so soooooo much for your encouragement and sharing. <3
I'm excited to see what's next for you Lori. The world is our oyster! :)

Lauren said...

Margaret, that is SO SWEET!!!!! (>'-')>
Thank you from my heart for your compliment and you super nice invitation! <3

Perhaps someday we could grab lunch! The only thing is, which I didn't talk about in my post, is that I never seem to find much time for socializing either! LOL. There is always some "to do" going on.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You make me smile! :)

Lori D said...

Staying home to raise children is a very important job!! I think it's great that you can do this. I love reading your blog and will wait as long as it takes for the next one :)

Lauren said...

Lori D. , that is just sooooo nice of you! :)
Thank you very much. Sending a hug! (>'-')>

Karon said...

Hi Lauren! Love this post, and I can so relate. I do work part-time, and have to do some work from home on the days I'm not AT work, but the puppy has been making it very difficult, as you can imagine. ;) I read this article a while back and LOVED it. Think about how much we are able to do and handle and manage and lovingly nurture while we are home, and how many, many people it would take to take the place of just one of us! Hugs!

Lauren said...

Hi Karon!

Oh my gosh, I absolutely LOVE this article! Thank you, thank you so so much. What a way to look at things. I was feeling EXACTLY like the author.
Wow, karon, you don't know how much you just helped. :) This is wonderful.
Thank you so much again.
P.S. I know just what you mean about the puppy and getting, or not getting work done. Lol. ;)

Loulou said...

You're a smart and clearly kind-hearted person, and your family is so lucky to have you taking such good care of them. And I'm certain they know and appreciate that!

I'm not a mom (although I wish I was), but am also at home these days, taking a sabbatical from a busy and extremely stressful career. At first I'd only planned to take one year off, and here we are in year 3! Oops. And you're right, there are so very many things that fill a day.

As for your posting here, don't stress about it, because in your case quality trumps quantity, all the way. xo

Lauren said...

Awwwwwww!!!! SUCH A SWEET COMMENT!!! (´▽`ʃƪ)
Thank you my friend! Thank you very much!
I'm glad that your little sabbatical lasted, because I appreciate your beautiful posts and the peek into your day-to-day! What nice words, that was truly lovely. :)

Catrin said...

Thank you so much for this blog post. I am new to the stay at home mom world and am finding that I love it. It is difficult for my friends to understand and I too worry about the 'career' I have given up. But you are right, in the future I will be able to reinvent myself.

I have also been using your blog as a guide for my own grey hair growth. Do you have any pictures of when you had your pixie cut?


Lauren said...

Hi Catrin! It's so nice to meet you!
I'm glad that you're enjoying your new adventure as a sahm. :)

I know, we can always reinvent ourselves. Life is our oyster! \(^-^)/

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't take many pictures of my pixie cut! I so wished that I had. Let's see... you can see one of the only "pixie" cut pics in this post:

I hope that helps. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Unknown said...

Hey Lauren your doing a fantastic job! I also would rather read a blog like yours than just a little bit. Being a Mom is the hardest job in the world!! A stay at home mother is even harder. There will always be time for another job but clearley never one as important as this one. ������

Lauren said...

Awww, Pamela, your words are so sweet! Thank you from my heart. Your comment made me smile. :)
It made me smile that it was you too! Always good to see ya around the internets. I hope you had a great weekend!
Lauren :)