Thursday, February 4, 2010

On Making Peace with Being a Homemaker in the 21st Century

When I pictured myself in a job in the future, after an array of less than glamorous professions, I said I wanted to work in an office. I've always liked the feel of offices, the scent of toner, the bland sounds of printers and phones buzzing in the distance. And after coming home every night smelling of a deep fryer, officey jobs became a shining post-graduation aspiration for me. What more could one ask for than a quiet, clean job?

I've now had three office jobs, and I now realise that the fantasy I had was not at all founded in reality. Office work is a net of bitchy power dynamics, a ruthless maintenance of the status quo. Not only did I not fit in, I was miserable. While before I had one boss, I now had five with different spheres of influence. And due to my lack of postgraduate education, and a certain part of male anatomy, I was perpetually The Secretary.

The Secretary is sometimes called an assistant, or an executive assistant, or an administrative assistant. This is to distract you from the fact that you are a secretary, just like the secretaries that went before you that got slapped on the ass as they wiggled out of the boardroom in pencil skirts. Except, instead of getting slapped on the ass, you are given performance evaluations which serve no other purpose than to remind you that you are low on the power scale, and very replaceable. The Secretary's job is to go down with the ship. If your boss makes a mistake, it was your fault that you didn't catch it. It is also The Secretary's job to have no opinion. Even if you side with your boss, you will be quickly reminded that you have no education or place to be making statements on such matters.

Finally, it is The Secretary's duty to always be in a good mood. You may weather your boss's bad mood, but never, ever may you portray that you have actual emotions. This, they tell you, should be kept at home. And as I perused the cubicles, with children's drawings posted next to every happy corporate drone's little nameplate, I felt as alien as could be. I also felt damn under appreciated, and had a serious superiority complex. And so, I am no longer The Secretary, and never again shall I be.

This is all to preface the fact that I was not prepared to be a homemaker. I had a picture in my mind of what it would be. That I would take care of the house and the child, and Mike would go to work and do his thing, and then when he came home I'd have dinner ready and we'd all recant the details of my day.


First of all, I have no details to my day that I see as worth recanting. Secondly, I rarely have time to stop what I'm doing for dinner. Yes, I make dinner. But I usually spend dinner trying to feed spinach to a very reluctant baby boy, bitching about the dishes. It would seem that I am still human, you see. As much as I don't look like the homemakers that went before me, with my fire engine red hair and piercing scars, I also do not act like one. I can not cheerfully go about my housework, deal with a fussy baby, and watch my husband read the newspaper. No way, no how. I'm a homemaker, not a doormat.

There is also no way that I can get all of this housework done on my own. I am constantly reminded of this, and somehow it makes me feel severely inferior. For the first time I am my own boss, and I can't get it all done. I can't pass the buck and say it's due to the fact that I'm a woman, or that I'm overqualified. I'm just tired, overwhelmed, and I need help. I need an army of caregivers, for this to be as easy as I pictured it would be.

But unlike being The Secretary, being a homemaker is rewarding. I love being able to be at home with my baby boy, even if it means that there are no more nights out at the bar, or ordering takeout. There is no more shopping trips when I'm in a bad mood, only sticky kisses from my number one fan.

So while it's not what I expected it to be, it's a lot better than everything else.

An aside: My damn mother has been sending my blog address to parenting magazines, getting my hopes up that one day I could be published. After allowing myself a moment to blissfully fantasize about what that would entail (mostly fuzzy bunny slippers and martinis), I am reminded of why I never send my work anywhere: Disappointment. I am terrified of rejection. But still, she's got a point. This is the best portfolio of work that I've ever compiled. And I can certainly rant on (and on, and on) about being a mom. Maybe I should start sending off my blog address myself...



  1. Your best blog yet!

    Your Damn Mother

  2. It's lovely to hear some honesty amidst all the 'you can have it all!' nonsense.

    Bravely said and well put.

    BTW I went through exactly the same thing and I suspect we're not alone...

    Well done for managing to see the silver linings (even if they do get swamped with housework!)

    Danielle (Fellow Undomestic Goddess)