The Bad Wife

image from The Brooklyn Paper

I bought some fruit at this store this morning. So what?

Recently I was on the phone with a friend of mine who is also pregnant and also the mother of a young toddler. We were talking about how tired we are all the time, among other things, and while we were on the phone her husband came home from work. “Hi honey,” she called out, “Could you please give [child’s name here] dinner? And then get the bath ready?” — then, to me, “– the apartment is a mess and we’re sitting on the couch watching Wonderpets–” then to her husband again — “I’m sorry, honey! I’ll be a good wife tomorrow, I promise!”

We were laughing about it, in that “ho ho we don’t really buy into that 50s housewife expectation stuff” way. But I also kind of can’t stop thinking about it. “I’ll be a good wife tomorrow!” I think this every night!

When I was pregnant with Harper it took us about ten seconds to figure out which one of us should stay home — and despite the pecuniary impossibility, which we circumvent by ignoring, we really did want one of us to be home with the baby. Adam has a career that interests him, not to mention providing a good salary and health insurance, and I was a freelancer at a magazine that, in the end, conveniently folded a couple months before Harper was born.  Decision made! We figured I’d make some money doing little freelance projects from home and teaching online and in the evenings, which has turned out to be slightly true, depending on your definition of “money.” And of course I’d finish my second book which is obviously going to be one of those smashhitbestseller literary novels you hear so much about these days.  In other words, here I am…a housewife!

A helpful illustration from the 1952 cookbook Holidays Goodies and How to Make Them.

I don’t really care. I’m not one of those stay-at-home moms who feels a real loss of identity. Actually, I love not working! It’s awesome!  I hang out at  playgrounds, take naps when Harper does, and change into comfy pants at will! (At Harper’s will, that is.  “Mama — comfy!”) And it’s been amazing watching Harper grow from peanut to big girl and never missing a minute. Yes yes. But try as we might to ignore it– after all, we’re called stay-at-home moms nowadays, not housewives! And after all, Harper’s social calendar keeps me really busy all day!– there is still the wifey question.

Mary Bailey: Best Wife Ever.

By this I mean, I feel really guilty if, when my husband comes home from work, the apartment isn’t clean(ish), the dog unwalked, dinner unready.  Am I the only one?  What really are the responsibilities of the stay-at-home spouse nowadays?  I’m no Mary Bailey, wallpapering our home, volunteering for the community, caring for four children, and cheerily welcoming my husband home every night, all while decked out in a cute tailored dress and curled hair no less.  I mean, she not be a “real” “person” but you know what I mean.

I know it sounds kind of sexist and throw-backy.  But then again, a little while back I  — get this — WORKED A FULL DAY, teaching an all-day writing class on a Saturday.  And when I got home, Mama was tired.  I didn’t want to deal with walking the dog or dinner or even, sorry, baby bedtime.  I wanted to sit on the couch and watch PRIMETIME TELEVISION and unbutton my pants and belch and have someone rub my feet.  Unrealistic, maybe, but true.

I think maybe the only good solution is for Adam and I to obtain a third partner.  Not in a kinky way — please! — but like maybe a housekeeper robot who could take care of all the boring household chores and things while we tend to more important matters.  Like blogging.

Our new wife.

4 responses to “The Bad Wife

  1. What do you mean Mary Bailey wasn’t real? Who made you “grinch in chief?”

  2. I mean, those of us who really believe in the spirit of Christmas know Mary Bailey is real. Of course!

  3. My mother told me she sometimes “wet mopped” (meaning a quick once-over with a damp mop) the kitchen floor when my father was on his way in from work to create the impression of cleaning having been done in his absence. A friend told me her mother advised throwing some onions into a pan and frying them as a way of creating the smell (if not the actual act) of dinner being made. Then my generation put a political power-struggle interpretation on relationships between men and women. I’m not sure how this all shakes out, I am sure that pregnant women should be treated as goddesses and waited on hand and foot.

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