You're not really fooling very many people

Alex's mom hates that I'm not a good housewife. Even back when I worked full time it irked her that I didn't ever really make anything nice to eat and that the linen closet was just a big pile of ripped sheets and beach towels and expired Ibuprofen bottles all mixed together. Now that I'm home with Wally all day, she finds it intolerable.

Last night at dinner Sueli explained to the friends visiting from São Paulo that "Alex cook-ed. That's how it works in this house." He jumped in immediately saying how I work on educational programs for minorities and write books (they're not actual books, more like long magazine articles bound up and propped on a shelf) and do all kinds of things besides taking care of Wally which is a big job in itself. I appreciate him standing up for me. I know it makes absolutely no difference to her. I was a little surprised though, yesterday, because I was feeling so domestic. I shopped for the groceries, did the laundry, cleaned up the living room, made the salad and Sangria, and set the table all while Sueli was here. But it didn't matter. Alex blended the basil and walnuts. He chopped up the garlic. He heated the water. A die-hard Brazilian with pure Spanish blood. As far as she was concerned, he might as well don a house dress and paint his nails pink.

This morning as I ran out on a few errands with Wally in tow I realized I didn't have any actual work (and by that I guess I mean paid, something I "have to" do) due in the next few days, so I'd have Wally's nap time to myself to just -- be a housewife. Lollygag. Pay bills. Clean up dishes. Straighten the linen closet. Cut my nails. Take a shower. Return phone calls. Find overdue library books and put them in my bag to return. Drink tea. Post something on my blog that doesn't sound insane. Something where I'm actually looking at what I type.

I have really only 3 tricks in life. Things not everyone in the entire world can do. 1 -- My arm trick (which I'm not even sure I can do anymore but I'll give it a try after I finish writing this). 2 -- Remember word-for-word things people say and the day and year and the hour that most things--even minor things-- happen. 3 -- Quickly type relatively coherent sentences while talking about or listening to other people talk about unrelated stuff.

So the point is, I'm hopefully going back now to not doing posts in the style of #3 above, where someone says, "What are you doing?" And I say, "Posting on my blog." And he or she says, annoyed, "You're posting right now while we're talking?" And I answer, "Yeah, sorry, I'll be done in a sec."

And I also want to go back to a slightly saner lifestyle than before our vacation. I don't want to be so pell-mell about squeezing work stuff into my daily life with Wally. It's not fair to him and it's just unpleasant overall, always panicking and prodding him awake as he falls asleep in the stroller so he'll take a real nap at home and I can work. It'd also be nice to stop using paper towels for napkins and to fold up the sheets so that someone other than me could, for example, dive into the linen closet and find a pillowcase and make it back out alive. And I don't mean this in -- yeah, it'd be great to have a beautiful house and organic meals and blah blah blah if someone else did it for me. I'd like to do it myself. But to me it does feel like a choice -- nice meals and fluffed up bedspreads and groceries done more than an hour in advance of company coming and presents wrapped before handing them to people -- but no real freelance "career", or the other way around.

As an aside, why didn't my sister and I learn to cook at all? Why is an edible cold pasta salad a triumph for us? And meanwhile my mom is a fabulous cook and baker. She's one of those who can just throw a bunch of stuff together and come out with wildberry pumpkin leek quiche with toasted goat cheese croquettes. I'll never get over nearly melting with embarrassment when on the first night of my college foreign-study in Toulouse the grandmother said, (in French, of course) "If you're not going to eat meat, you'll have to have an egg at least for protein" and then stood there waiting for me to fry an egg to put on top of the ratatouille. How on earth would I know how to do that? I thought, feeling dizzy, what would the first step even be? Which is funny, when thinking about eggs, since high school kids sometimes carry them around pretending they're babies to learn about the responsibilities of adulthood. And that's probably the first thing I said to myself getting home with Wally from the hospital. How on earth would I know how to do this? What should the first step even be?


  1. The girls have been talking about your arm trick, so if you ARE still able to do it, you'll have to show them, because my description of it is not enough for them.

    And I have no idea why neither you nor I learned to cook. :/ If it's not spaghetti, I'm reading a recipe. Even if I've used the same recipe 100 times before. Ridiculous.


  2. I have to say something I rarely say...I really relate to you. I have a bit more organization going on in my home :) as I am a bit of an organization freak, but the whole day as a homemaker identity doesn't suit me. I identify my job as a Mom first and then as a writer for local publications, and I don't want to be Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart and Donna Reed. I want to make a nice home for my family, but I cannot say that spending the day sewing curtains or baking is my idea of a fulfilling life. Watching my son Adam twirl in circles at the parking lot in front of his Dad's office or my daughter Abigail grin her million watt smile when I tickle her belly, that's fulfilling.

    And when I first started writing again last year, I had some of the same struggle...feeling guilty because my son wanted my attention and I was trying to fit in phone calls. I ended up scaling back my commitments.

  3. Inquiring minds want to know. Can you still do the arm trick? Please say yes.

  4. (I practiced a few times and now I can! Will demonstrate at Thanksgiving.)

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