Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I have always known that staying at home and working instead of drawing a paycheck elsewhere is an utterly thankless task. It never occurred to me all those years of being in school what my mother did all day at home. Until I had to do it all day at home myself, I suppose. In fact, the list of things to get done is always so endless, its a wonder anything does get completed. That is why, whenever my husband refers to me as "retired" I really am not very happy. I am actually rather insulted.

When I think of the word retired, I think of my parents, now in their 80s and enjoying their days in Florida together, pursuing activities just for fun, alongside all the daily chores that have to be accomplished (which they do together, by the way.) I don't think of myself as retired in any way, shape, or form, because my husband still works outside our home (and very hard, too) - and we are not at liberty to pursue activities "just for fun" at this point of our lives. TO the contrary, life seems to be about "getting stuff done." It certainly isn't about spending time together, that's for sure.

It is difficult to think that what I do all day has no value to those earning a paycheck. I think of all the tasks I accomplish as important in our day to day family life. My days are comprised of a million small things. Wiping counters, taking in mail and sorting it, taking garbage out, throwing a load of laundry in, folding another load, cleaning out the fridge, making a meal or planning and shopping for other meals, paying bills, putting things in their place, taking mail to the post office or things to a dry cleaners...and so on and so on. What would happen if I suddenly wasn't here? Who would get all this shit done?

When my grandmother was in her 70s (I think), she was hospitalized for several days with some cardiac problems, as I remember. My grandfather was still alive and healthy. He'd make his meals every day, or eat what my mother would bring over to him. Mom thought it was so nice that he kept everthing so clean and neat, particularly in the kitchen while Grandma was recovering. Until Grandma came home from the hospital and went to take a shower the morning after returning to the home and discovered where all those dirty dishes had really gone. The shower! I mean, how funny is this? I have often wondered - would my daughter just keep piling her dirty dishes in the sink or resort to the shower if I suddenly took ill? Who does my family think does everything that needs to be done? It's not the tooth fairy, I can tell you. Retired my patootie.

No, I don't earn a paycheck or benefits. I live off the good graces of my husband and his hard work. Am I to be ashamed of that? Is it so terrible that I am not drawing a paycheck elsewhere? Is that the only way to be seen as valued? If that's how he feels (and I'm not sure he does, exactly), then why would he make comments to business people referring to my "retirement" in a condescending way? It's humiliating and demeaning. It places no value on the hard work and family contribution that I make. And it probably happens to other "housewives" every day.

Raising kids, and keeping up a home (or two homes) is hard work that is never reviewed or evaluated. THere are no pep talks for homemakers. No pats on the back for a job well done. No bonuses other than pride in our homes and children and husbands. Maybe occasionally a family member will compliment a meal, but more often I tend to hear how something was not right, rather than how it was. Surem working in the home is a tenured position - after all who's going to kick the house elf to the curb, anyway? My family has it good, and I think they know it.

Wouldn't hurt them to say thanks every now and again. Or offer to lessen my load. I'd love to get up on a Saturday morning and have others bring me my coffee (or in my case, iced tea or a Diet Coke) and cook for me without having to ask for it. I'd love to come in from work, or working out and know there will be a meal available to me, already planned out and done. I'd love just once coming into the house to find not one dish left in the sink. I'd love one 0f my children to ask, every once in a while, what they can do for me, instead of expecting things to be constantly done for them. How can that be considered retired? I'm perpetually doing for other family members.

I have a new appreciation for what Mom must have been doing all those years I was in school. I've told her I understand now what a thankless task it was, but that I appreciate all those things she did for us. It doesn't take much to make us "housewives" happy. A little recognition, people. A little respect and appreciation. And certainly, not being referred to condescendingly as "retired." I will never again take my mother for granted. It hurts too much to be discounted.

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