The trouble with this lies in the fact that I am a fairly traditional stay-at-home mom. I do all of the cooking and cleaning around the house. My husband does the yard work. The roles in our house are very traditional. While this works for us, I do not want my boys to grow up expecting this. I have a feeling by the time they get married it will be even more rare than today.
The moment I realized this might be more of a challenge than I had expected was on a beautiful spring day. I was sitting outside while Jack and Luke were playing in their cars. Jack came over to me, looked me in the face and said, "Get up out of that chair and bring me my food." The only thing missing from the statement was the word "woman" tacked on the end. I just about fell out of my chair with laughter, but it also caught my attention. Where had he learned to talk to me in such a way? I guarantee it was not from his Daddy!
In defense of Jack's manners, he is usually very good with please and thank you. He always asks to be excused from the dinner table and says, "Thank you for dinner, Mommy!" Although his comment was out-of-character, it was a little insight into the way his mind works.
A few weeks later we saw a woman doing yard work. Jack, in his very serious way, looked at me and said, "Women can't use weed eaters!" and gave a little chuckle like it was the funniest thing he had seen all day. It was then I realized that children pick up on roles in society from a very early age.
One more funny story to demonstrate how my little boys view the world. I was talking to Jack and Luke about what they want to be when they grow up. Luke said to me, "I want to be a firefighter, a police officer, a mailman and a doctor." I said, "Wow! If you do all of those jobs then you might not have time to be a daddy." He replied, "I can do all of those jobs and you can be the mommy." Translation: You take care of me and the kids while I go off to my super-cool jobs.
So, it is my job, from here on out, to make sure that my boys learn about all the roles women can play. Women can be mommies, doctors, firefighters, teachers, and even yard workers. Although I play the mommy role at our house, I could be out taking the corporate world by storm. And, no matter what role somebody plays they should be treated with respect.
Many of you have seen "The Good Wife's Guide," which was published in Housekeeping Monthly in 1955. If you haven't, it is a must-read.
I remember the first time I read the guide. I was taking a Marriage and Family class at OSU-Tulsa, and the professor handed it out and everybody began to laugh. What crazy ideas!? I remember laughing myself, but at the same time thinking how wonderful it would be to live that kind of picture-perfect life. At the time, I was due to get married in about 6 weeks. I was 21 and ready to be the perfect bride and even more perfect wife! This would be my guide, with a few updates.
I thought I would follow these guidelines:
- Have dinner ready. Easy enough. I am still pretty good at this one, even with three small children. I usually have dinner ready by 6:15- and I make his favorite meal regularly (probably because it is Jack's favorite meal too). Step one to being the perfect housewife- check!
- Prepare Yourself. This sounds so wonderful, and I do put on makeup or a spritz of perfume occasionally. Although these days it is more like- "Get dressed so he doesn't know you stayed in pajamas all day." Maybe I will aspire to do this more often.
- Clear away the clutter. This also sounds easy enough and ideal. Everyone likes to come home to a clean house, right? Well... between accomplishing step 1- having dinner ready- and having 2 toddlers running around (and an infant) this one is a definite failure these days. Maybe someday (like when the kids are in college).
- Make him comfortable. While I never planned on fluffing a pillow and helping him take off his shoes, I did have the picture in my head of greeting him at the door with a drink and sitting down for a few minutes. This comes from tales of my mom's parents. My grandmother would greet my grandfather with a drink and they would have at least 15 minutes alone together (without kids) in the living room. If she could do it with 6 kids, why couldn't I? Well... my grandmother had full-time help. Maybe if I had a maid who cooked my family 3 meals a day and cleaned the house I would greet J.P. with his favorite drink everyday too. Another big, fat failure!
I knew, even then, that I would never follow these guidelines:
- Make the evening his. Yes, my husband goes to work all day. I know work is stressful, and it is nice to come home and unwind. But, the fact-of-the-matter is, I have been home with 3 kids all day and the minute he walks in the door means I finally have some help.
- Don't complain if he comes home late... even if he stays out all night. This one if just ridiculous, even in 1955. They still had phones, didn't they? Really!?
- He is the master of the house. No, I don't think so. Enough said.
- A good wife always knows her place. In my case, my place is the same as the women of 1955- barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen! J
I started out with the intentions of being the perfect wife, mother and housewife. I would love to be able to do all of the things I envisioned, but it just isn't going to happen. Maybe someday I will be able to have a few minutes of peace and quiet with my husband when he gets home from work. In the meantime I will do my best to merge these ideals with the realities of the 21st century.