Saturday, June 28, 2008

what's up with that?

So there's this virus going around our homeschool playgroup. The kids are fine, but the moms... well, we're breaking down. Too much laundry, too many bickering kids, too many dishes, too many demands. Nobody, it seems, is finding a way to adequately take care of herself. Me included.

Isn't it an incredibly cruel irony that we take care of the kids, the dinners, the shopping, the vacuuming, and then we're also supposed to be taking care of ourselves? Like if we don't do that, we're failing in a new way, or there's a new layer to our failure. As if there weren't enough opportunity to fail already, as if anyone could ever do this job well enough to call it done. It's not enough that we have to listen to our kids natter on and on about legos and role playing games and the latest skinned knee and everything else. Oh no, we also have to make sure we're taking care of ourselves. Have you noticed that when you talk to a friend about what a difficult time you're having, she invariably asks, "What are you doing to take care of yourself?"

Enough. I'm going to start asking the husbands, "What are you doing to take care of the center of your family's universe?" I'm going to ask the kids, "What have you done to help your mom out lately?"

Really. Enough.


Anonymous said...

Right on! Sometimes it's barely manageable to take care of everybody else...I need to take care of me, too?

I hope you're not feeling too overwhelmed by it all.

Anonymous said...

Good point. Particularly about the husbands. As if somehow they aren't part of this collective called a family, the members of which look after each other.

shaun said...

Oooh, I so agree -- of course you have to take care of yourself, but this whole "self-care" thing does come on like "well it's your own fault."

"Thanks for keeping track of everything in our family's composite and individual lives, feeding us, clothing us, carrying us about. Now why can't you manage your time better and take care of yourself too?"

This morning I am shamelessly bribing the kids to get their help.

Casey said...

At last year's Rethinking Education conference, John Taylor Gatto talked about the concept that children should add value to their families, just as everyone should add value to their families and communities.

We mentioned this to Rocketboy after a particularly difficult stretch with him and he was genuinely stricken by the thought that he was not "adding value."

Since then, I still can't get him to do as much as I'd like, but he does take care of his pet birds, handles his own laundry, and loads the dishwasher when asked. Some progress is better than none!

Tara said...

I'm loving those last two questions.

etakattack said...

Erg. Not to stir up a whole lot of shit but I kind of need to take some issue here-

"center of your family's universe"- it seems to me that if you are choosing to be a stay at home mama than isn't that kind of your job.

I do think that it is irresponsible not to take care of yourself if you have the means and support available to you to do so.

Okay- nuf said.

elsie deluxe said...

Right, it's my job, I've chosen it, and I would choose it again. Doesn't mean it's perfect, and doesn't make it easy. Is your job always easy? Mine isn't either.

I actually agree with you that I do need to take care of myself. I just object to the notion that I should be responsible for EVERYTHING. Including myself. I'm responsible for everyone else's peace, but nobody takes care of mine but me. Them's the breaks, yes, but sometimes it grates.

Anonymous said...

See I'm not sure I agree that no-one should be responsible for a SAHM's peace. That M stands for mom. And you are not your husband's mom. Seems to me that a relationship between two adults should be based on caring for each other. So how come so many women feel that they need to take care of their husbands but not that their husbands need to take care of them? Or that their husbands shouldn't be taking care of the kids when they are not at work. How come he gets a 40 hour a week job (or whatever hours he works) and gets to rest at home, but the SAHM doesn't get a break even when there is another parent around? That's the part I don't get. Why is the "choice" to be a SAHM somehow a choice not to have any needs of your own or any right to ask anyone else to meet them?

Sorry. Raw nerve. Rant. But that comment from etakattack really rubbed me the wrong way.

SabrinaT said...

Well said. I am going to start asking the same questions!

Rex Parker said...

"The center of your family's universe."

Well, there's your problem, lady. Climb down off the cross. This imagined word of heroic, put-upon moms and (implicitly) ungrateful, useless, marginal husbands is tiresome and at least a little self-serving.

Are you really saying that your husband does nothing to "take care of your peace" (whatever that means)? And if so (and I know at least two of you are self-described "feminists") - W T F!? You married the guy(s). I just imagine guys talking about their wives in a similar, lumped-together manner ... and then I of course shudder and cringe and vomit.


Rex Parker said...

Sorry, it's an imagined WORLD, not an imagined "word" ...

elsie deluxe said...

This has touched an interesting nerve, for nearly everyone. I can't really address all of this, or really any of it, at the moment, because I'm away from home with infrequent computer access. I'll write more about it when I get back.

One thing I would say: I know that before I became a SAHM, I believed that having the financial freedom to spend my days with my kids would solve most, if not all, of my problems. This has turned out not to be the case, for me at least. It turns out that life is still life, and there are always struggles and difficulties.

It seems to me that many people who work labor under the same misperception. We (SAHs) don't have to work, we get to be with our kids, what on earth could we possibly have to complain about? SAHMs are supposed to be happy.

This seems alarmingly close to our perceptions/expectations of housewives in the 50s. Many of whom were on Valium just to get through their days, BTW, and most of whom sent their kids off to school every day.

shaun said...

"Rex," I'm sure you meant well in suggesting that women who find themselves musing about a lack of balance in their family lives make you want to vomit, and it's all in their imaginations and their own fault and boring besides so shut yer yap. Wait . . . maybe not?

Anyway, here's my own well-intentioned suggestion that people who consider themselves feminists find it interesting from time to time to wonder why it sometimes seems that every new trend that's supposed to be great for women – sexual "liberation," freedom to work outside the home, "opting out," Oprah -- ends up being a new opportunity for women to find themselves and each other inadequate. At least, that's the question I thought we were talking about.

My husband is awesome -- hell, Michael, even when you're putting your friends' feminism in scare-quotes, you're awesome (tinged slightly with bitter bile). Talking about how women could feel overwhelmed for reasons outside of their own martyr complexes – more awesomeness. All these kinds of awesome can co-exist in a big happy awesome world, right? Please?

MWilmeth said...

Does no one in your household help you, or do anything nice for you? It's hard for me to believe.
I think your peace is really your responsibility, and likewise other's peace is really theirs, too. Even kids. As a pretty new father, there's undoubtedly a lot for me to learn about kids, but I think it's parents' job to provide for their children's needs, to help them, love them, comfort them, guide them — but still, ultimately, they must depend upon themselves for their state of mind, their peace. Trying to be responsible for that is too much.
Many jobs are of a kind that they are never really done, or done well enough, and that is difficult. Please try to take it more lightly all around and accept imperfection.