Those who have been paying attention know that The Man and I are attempting a 1-month no-spend challenge, the largest change for us being not eating out at all (excepting Chipotle once a weekend because hey, it’s hungry work shopping for a whole week, and it’s Chipotle). In attempting this, I have gone from cooking less than, on average, 15% of our meals (The Man cooked most of the other 85%, at least of dinners), to cooking rather more than 50%, simply because I’m the one home during the day.
In doing so, I believe I have discovered at least part of why the domestic goddess phenomenon is so popular. (Just to reiterate, I’m all in favor of upping the status of the domestic, and I do stay at home during the day, but there’s a phenomenon I’m not a part of in which staying home and raising the kids and keeping the house is the entirety of what one [a woman, generally] does and takes pride in. I’ve long been confused by it, having been raised by a mostly second-wave feminist WOHM, for all that I travel in the same social spheres as many who embrace the title, and have much in common with them.)
The Man and I have long maintained that in an ideal world, we would both be parenting the Boychick 50/50, even if I did all the milk-giving. Given that we do not live in an ideal world, his job 40 hours a week is to go earn money so we as a family can stay fed and housed, and my job during those 40 hours a week is to keep the Boychick and myself alive and (preferably) sane. Anything on top of that is non-obligatory and not expected. Everything else — the cooking, the cleaning, the house maintenance, the shopping, the getting the fuck out of the house– is stuff we try to do together, or at least split fairly (and him doing most of the cooking and washing the dishes is SO fair, because… it just is!). This has long worked for us.
But here I am, cooking during the day so we eat at home come evening. Chicken makhani with curried veggies, beef stew with garlic croutons, spaghetti with garlic bread, apple chicken with quinoa, no-knead bread with everything, stuffed squash, beans and rice, roast chicken, and more scones and cookies and muffins and bars than one should have in an entire year, all made at home, from scratch (even the croutons), mostly by me. And you know what? My days are kinda easier. I have, for the love of God/dess, something to do.
And I think that’s it. That’s why, when women are handed the vast burden of the childrearing by a society that says children and work can’t mix and men don’t matter in the early years, so many of us turn to being a Good Housewife, or better yet a Domestic Goddess (the good housewife for the new millennium). It gives her something to do other than stare at her (unbelievably beautiful and talented and adorable) child(ren), a purpose — keeping the hearth, 21st century-style — and a standard by which she can measure her success in real-time, not just wait around until her kids are 20, 40, 80, and declare, if they turned out right (whatever the hell that means), that she was a Good Mother, and It Was All Worth It.
Because really, am I doing my kid any favors spending half the day trying not to lose my temper with him, not because he’s bad or is doing anything wrong, but just because I can’t take it any more? I don’t know. I believe so, I believe that fostering attachment and providing milk and giving him the freedom to just run and play and cuddle and be free of time pressures and peer pressures and grow-up pressures is good for him, but I don’t know. What I do know is that in the last month I’ve made food that has sustained and been enjoyed by my family, helped us meet our budget, helped us pay off debt so home and working-car ownership is a possibility somewhere just over the horizon. I know I’ve made something, done something substantial and important, even if it is now nothing more than a memory and a sewage smear somewhere; and it feels pretty darn good.
It’s an awfully seductive proposition, turning that sensation in to a vocation, and I think I have more understanding now for why so many do it.