Sunday, January 18, 2009

In Defense of Housewifery

If I'm being completely honest then I will admit that being a stay-at-home mom was never on my list of things to do in this lifetime. My mom stayed at home while I was growing up and I could never figure out just what she was doing. My dad had a clear title and job and then there was the fact that he actually made money. Money equalled value. My parents raised me to be anything--teacher, lawyer, accountant, artist. They never mentioned housewife. As a military spouse I met women who didn't bother getting jobs. Their husbands were moving around frequently and the pickings are pretty slim in many base towns. Again, I couldn't figure out what the heck they did with their time.

Charlie and my brother on a trip to the zoo.

Even before Charlie was born, I wasn't real keen on the idea of staying home with him. His birth changed things significantly, however, and I decided that nobody could teach and care for him better than I could--at least no business could. So, home I was, but a part of me hated that and felt that I'd wasn't doing enough.

This past week opened my eyes a little.

Tuesday my mom called a friend of hers and told her, "my dad died last night--do you wanna go to lunch?" The friend of course went to lunch, and then she didn't leave my mom's side for the next three days. She went with her to the funeral home and helped with arrangements. She came over and ate pizza and just sat. She went with my mom to meet a Methodist minister. The day of the funeral mini-king cake pastries appeared in the kitchen and after the funeral she brought ham, cheese, rolls, and carrot cake for the people who gathered at the house. When everyone left, she cleaned up.

This is a woman who has never had a job. She has no resume and doesn't even know how to write one. She's a smart woman with a college degree in engineering, but she dedicated her life to her family. As long as I've known her, she's volunteered at her children's schools and with other civic organizations. She brings the perfect food for a party, throws many parties herself, and shuttles elderly relatives to and from their appointments. Her life is far from glamorous and isn't even really a life that I would choose for myself.

I can't deny that it has value, though. Many people have benefited from her generosity of spirit and her devotion to those around her. I've been short-sighted; there is value to caring for others, to keeping a home and a family. There's no money in the deal, but at my advanced age I think it's about time I realized that money and value aren't necessarily one and the same.

So, I'm trying to change the way I look at my current situation. Rather than bemoaning the drudgery of housework, I'm going to try to look at it a little differently. I'm part of a great tradition, and maybe I should try to live up to that a little bit better.

A picture of my grandpa, his older brother, and his father in Galveston, Texas, in 1920. I love the outfits.