Monday, April 16, 2012

Central Conflicts of Womanity

Brace yourselves, friends, this one's going to be behemoth.  It also covers a touch-stone topic, so I'll open with a disclaimer: This post dabbles in philosophical intellectualism and is also an exploration of how I want to live; it is NOT a condemnation of anyone else's choices.  You have (not that you need it) my express permission to guiltlessly be whatever kind of woman, wife, mother, household manager fits your fancy.  Now then, let us begin...

I recently read an article reporting some $90K-odd as the replacement cost for hiring professional help to do the tasks done by stay-at-home moms.  You know, things like grocery shopping, food prep, child-care.  While acknowledging that such a quantification couldn't totally explain the worth of a woman, the article's writer urged readers to value the SAHMs in their lives more.  I agree.  Except I don't.  The principle, yes, the numbered justification, no.  For so many reasons.  First (and this one's a bit painful), in order for a SAHM to claim that "salary," her performance would have to be on par with professional performance of the same duties.  I'll grant that it's impossible to stress enough the value of an engaged mother, so let's leave childcare out of it for a minute.  How many of the homes that you visit (mine included) look like they've been professionally cleaned?  How many of the meals served are of a chef's quality?  And, oh, all right, I'll say it: being home with your kids isn't an automatic guarantee that you're engaged with them.  Ladies, before we get all self-righteous and demand our due, are we really earning it?  Second, if the purpose of the SAHM "salary" is to put her work into competitive perspective, it must also be acknowledged that many working women take on the same tasks as their SAHM counterparts.  When I was making a whopping $42K annually as a teacher, the dishes weren't doing themselves!  So according to the formula this study used, my actual earnings during that time should have been well over $100K.  Thus that monetary competitive edge for the SAHM disappears.  Third, I find the idea that value is best expressed in terms of money to be so much pig swill.  It's repugnant to me to consider that in order to have worth as a woman I need a dollar sign.  Fourth, I think that if we women revered what we do more, we wouldn't be so worried about making other people appreciate it.  Whatever happened to good old self-realization?             

 Now, wait just a second!  I'm sounding decidedly unfriendly to SAHMs for a lady who just made the choice to become one.  Is that regret you hear in my voice?  Um, no.  Not at all. I LOVE what I do.  And I earnestly believe it to be of great worth.  All of it, from helping Eden learn a new skill to folding the zillionth load of her laundry.  Because it's not just the laundry, it's the total package.  Creating for her a home that is warm and neat and desirable, a place where she can develop to be the fullest expression of herself...that is sacred business.  And it requires a ton of diligent work, drawing on the diverse skill sets of wife, mother, household manager and woman.  I really believe that my success will depend in part on how I choose to sharpen and implement those skills. It's not enough to be a SAHM...I think I owe it to myself to be great at it.

I'll fail.  I know I will.  Over and over again, in ways both small and large. My house will be a wreck some days, the chicken charred, Eden neglected in favor of Pinterest.  I accept that my human frailties prevent perfection.  I see no reason why that should prevent the attempt.  Which is why I'm so bugged by a sign I've seen on Pinterest (since we were speaking of the devil): it says something about the best moms having messy homes and happy kids.  So...? If my house is clean is my kid unhappy?  Is unfolded laundry and a dirty floor really the goal here?  I'm all for being kind to ourselves and realizing that the process of becoming an excellent SAHM (or working mom...or wife...or woman) is a messy one. I just think I'm over the idea that sheer existence is it's own justification.  That being a SAHM is the hardest job in the world and impossible to do well.  Aren't all jobs hard if you're striving to be the best that you can be at them? (I don't think admitting that diminishes what I do.)  It's far kinder to say, "You make mistakes, but they don't define you.  Keep going, keep working, you can be better!"  A striving existence...that's the ticket. 

I hear the more experienced among you snickering a bit.  After all, I only have one little friend (whose latest nickname, by the way, is "The Angle of Destruction") unfolding my laundry piles.  And she's not old enough to need soccer registration or demand a ride to the mall.  I know I'm only beginning to wet my toes here.  I guess I'm just hoping that I can grow with the need.  That I can learn and earn the skills necessary to be the woman I want to be.  That Eden and I can make huge messes with finger paints...and then clean them up.  That I can run to Walmart in my pjs when necessary... but also still know how to put some shine on so Kris doesn't think he married a lumberjack.  In short, I think I want my cake and to eat it too.  After all...I baked it, and I can always make more!

Whew.  I think I'm done.  Dare I ask what you think?  What you struggle with as a woman?  What you want to be?  What I'm missing?  How I'm wrong?  Let me have it, if you want to. In the meantime, Eden just woke up...I'm off to scramble some eggs!           

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Scone of Destiny

When I was 13, I got to tag along with an awesome aunt and uncle on their trip to EUROPE.  My official capacity was "nanny" to my 3-year-old cousin, but I'm pretty sure that was just a generous excuse (thanks again, guys!).  It was marvelous.  Italy, Austria, Germany!  Cathedrals, castles, torture chambers, art worth more than my entire life!  Pounds of pasta, cream-topped hot chocolate, veal and gelato and cheeses I can't pronounce!  Trains and planes and aquarium-floored restaurants!  Airplane food!  What an experience.

Wait! you say.  Airplane food?  Did that really make my rushed list of the wonders of three countries? A stand-out in a host of life-altering experiences?  Yes.  Yes it did.  How? you inquire.  Simple: British tea scones, first introduced to me as breakfast in our dawn-break British Airways arrival from LA to London.  One lick of the clotted cream accompaniment, and I was sold! 

When I got home, there was so much of that trip I could only bring back as memory.  But scones?  Those I could replicate. Which I learned to do not long thereafter and have been doing ever since.  And today, it just seemed like the perfect way to spend a rainy evening.  Alas, clotted cream isn't too readily available outside of Britain, but homemade lemon curd and whipped cream turn out to be pretty amazing too!      

P.S. This was this week's photography practice...I think I'm improving!