Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Homemaker's Manifesto

I am a homemaker. A helpmeet. A housewife. A stay-at-home-mom.

I'm also an artist, an avid reader, a joker, a (bad) movie buff, a mental poet, a Tom Robbins groupie, and an archipelago. Outside, i'm jeans and a fitted t-shirt, but inside, i'm a howling, snorting, barefoot Amazon covered in paint and cupcake crumbs, howling at the moon and laughing at the mirror and dancing the samba and taking up more space than my atoms can hold. Sometimes I think I look boring compared to who I actually am in my head. I once painted a little painting of me, in my cream sweater and ruby necklace, screaming. It's called "Despite Domestication, I am Fierce." For some reason, it's important to me to retain some sort of wacky, chaotic aloofness, like a cat that runs away every now and then, just to prove it's possible.

I never really thought about it until I was in Customs and they asked my profession. My jaw dropped. What was I supposed to say? Part-time artist? Ex Project Manager? Dormant Gallery Director? Proposed Arts Supervisor I? Did I tell them what I used to be, what I wanted to be, what I studied to be, what I actually do all day, or, heaven help us all, what I was expected to be back when I was high school Valedictorian? The word that came out of my very surprised mouth was "homemaker". And then my husband and I had a good laugh for about 15 minutes, imagining me in a beehive, apron, and heels like Mrs. Cunningham from Happy Days.

I have never had much ambition. I've never wanted power, or bazillions or dollars, or fancy clothes and shoes. I never had a passion for business or a flair for numbers or a call to heal. All I've ever wanted, as my 3rd grade scrapbook will attest, are three things: to paint, to own a horse, and to speak Italian. My Italian is rusty, and I had to sell my horse, but I have to admit that staying home with my daughter all day (and painting while she naps) is a pretty good life.

Do I clean? Not as much or as well as I should. Do I cook? Again, probably not as much or as well as I should. Do I greet my husband at the door with his slippers and newspaper? No, but I do wash his sweaty gis for him and pack his lunch. I live in the suburbs, less than 10 miles from the house where I grew up. I sometimes get together with friends to knit and drink non-caffeinated beverages. But I don't have an apron or a picket fence or a golden retriever. And thank goodness, because that's just one more thing to clean up.

I like who I am. I like what I do. So why is there such a negative connotation in my head to the word "homemaker"?

Every day of my youth, when my mom finally got home from work after 6pm, she apologized and told me she wished more than anything that she could be there when I got off the bus and bake cookies on my birthday and come with us for field trips. She was part of that bewildered generation who were told that a powerful, liberated, fulfilled woman went to work, and when they got there, they learned that they were going to be paid half as much as the men for working twice the time in menial positions riddled with sexism and harassment. It was a pretty cruel bait and switch, if you ask me. Part of that cultural elan is still with us, telling women that staying home is a waste of time and intelligence, that a career teaches our daughters how to be real women in the real world.

Personally, I want my daughter to know that the real world is a malleable concept, that she creates her own reality. I want her to know that being with and supporting the people you love is never a worthless task. I want her to see that I can give my time to her and still be myself, a real person with depth and feelings and passions. I may have had jobs, but I never found a passion outside of art, and I can do art anywhere. Being a homemaker isn't about how great your homemade cookies are, or how few dust bunnies are under your couch, or how cute the embroidery on your mom jeans is; it's about making your house a home, whatever sort of home you want.

I want my home to be a place where the walls are covered in art, the shelves are filled with books, and where my children know that i'm here because I WANT to be here. Not because i'd feel guilty for working, not because society or church or family expects me to, not because I want an excuse to sit around and eat bonbons all day while she's glue to SpongeBob ThingyPants. Staying home is a privilege and a choice, and i'm glad i'm able to make that choice.

Sometimes, I get wistful. I'll yearn to make a really tidy spreadsheet, or i'll see a determined woman tappy-tap by in her snappy office casual, and i'll remember the feeling of being busy, meeting deadlines, traveling to interesting places, having a box of business cards in my desk telling everyone exactly how important I am. Then I remember what it felt like to spend my days in a tiny gray cube, taking orders from idiots, trading my time in the sun for sustenance, and I just get this big, stupid grin on my face.

I have everything I need and want. I fall asleep at night holding the hand of the person I like most in the world. I wake up in the morning to the sound of my child's voice. And each day, I get to decide exactly what I want to do and what wonderful facet of living I get to share with my child. And I get to do it all on my terms, with my own style, in my own time, continuing to grow as a person while helping my children to grow.

I'm damned proud to be a homemaker. And i'm still fierce, is all i'm saying.


Cranky Mama said...

A-fucking-men, sistah!

stinestrain said...


but my cookies ARE very tasty you know :P