The housewife doldrums

It’s a fuzzy pressure behind my eyes when Cal, Jo and I pad downstairs in the morning. It’s a weight pulling my shoulders forward and down after I sing “Happy Birthday pancake” (long story) and close Cal’s door for naptime.

I go there every Monday, Wednesday and Friday when I’m home with the boys.

Ah, the housewife doldrums. Where many have dangled their feet in the warm, slow waters and pondered the pots and brooms and dustpans that await them.

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Photo by me_maya

The air is thick and sleepy here. It suspends the forward march that keeps clothes folded in their drawers and pots bubbling tappity-tap-tap.

Perhaps you’ve been here too, this sort of relaxing and depressing place, where you start to become Her. The Woman you didn’t want to be.

She lives here, in the sway between doing and un-doing that is my weeks work. Washing clothes and dishes so they can get dirty, buying and growing food so it can get eaten, holding safe boundaries until strong, capable legs trample them down as they’re meant to.

In this hypnotic back and forth and back again, I forget the shape of my desires. I become The Woman who does the work that’s needed. She stares off into the distance, waiting until a small, urgent voice calls for her again.

I hate her.

She was inside that humorless, late-afternoon look my mother used to get, her slender fingers deftly dicing yet another onion for yet another meal.

Back then, I vowed never to be her. But I didn’t give her enough credit. She’s a skillful shape shifter. Why should she keep clearing space for herself when it gets filled with everyone else’s needs and wants? Conserving energy feels safer than trying.

I need to sit her down. Pour her some iced tea and rub her feet for a while. Perhaps then she might remember how to stop waiting. How to move forward with her whole self. Dustpan, desires and all.

21 thoughts on “The housewife doldrums

  1. The whole endless cycle of eating and excreting. The vigilance against squalor when we’re all going to rot in the end. I’ve had many existential crises while clutching a mop or the handle of a shopping cart.

    But sometimes I remember this quote: “Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” – Wu Li

  2. I love your description, really captures the feeling I get sometimes on my days home…. really love this post.

  3. I have this same feeling anytime I come back to the sink–and there’s more. Always more. Where do they all come from? The constant rinsing, cleaning, putting away, pulling them out, adorning them for a short while, and then back in they go.

  4. Sometimes you read something that just speaks to you, and as I sit here, surrounded by the aftermath of a free-range toddler morning, procrastinating todays round of cook, clean, survive, what you have said rings true. Lovely piece. Now, I should probably do something about that peanut butter sandwich that is face down, smushed into the carpet…

  5. I absolutely love this!!! And oh how true! I’m a first time mom and I’m struggling with it . We wear so many hats and I’m exhausted while doing it . Sometimes I have to take a moment and breathe.

  6. I totally relate to this. I was a stay at home mom for a while. That ended, fortunately. But then I had much of this summer off with my son, and it all came back to me. It’s lazy, but exhausting. It’s a complete contradiction, and hands down the hardest day job I’ve ever had.

    This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing. I always appreciate reading honesty; I spend too much time on frivolous Facebook where every mommy seems to have the perfect life. I know it’s not true, but as a 37-year old woman who wants to have kids (but husband is ambivalent, and I’m working to put him through a PhD degree after finishing four years of doing a Master’s), sometimes I think that I would love all the things that you describe as being not-so-likeable. But truth be told, my life is still overbooked with responsibilities that take me away from what I want from life, even without kids, and I also “forget the shape of my desires”. Thank you for giving voice to something we all can relate to, whether a “mommy” or not. 🙂

    1. I can assure you, Taciturn, that those Facebook mommies are posting sweet chubby baby pictures with 3 day old clothes on, or hopped up on caffeine so they can handle the long hours till bedtime or to try to convince themselves of how shiny and lovely their lives are. Thank you for this comment! It reminds me that kids or not, we can lose the spark that keeps us sparky. I was lamenting about the pain and sorrow in constantly comparing myself to other people–people without kids, people with more money, more time, less crap–and a good friend reminded me yesterday that the trouble is less about comparing and more about settling into the fact that we can’t be happy all the time. None. Of. Us. Blonde, brunette, laden with children or childless, we all have crappy times, foul moods, deep sadness. There’s just no damn way to avoid it. And I find again and again that just acknowledging it, and letting it take up some space is a medicine in and of itself.

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