*[pointlessly obscure reference explained here.]
A week before I proposed to my now-wife, I was sitting on the roof of a ship, talking to her on someone else’s cellphone. I may have also been a little drunk.
We were talking about our dreams for the future, and how neither one of us really had any. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it,” I slurred, Captain Morgan running down my chin, “and it turns out that all I really want out of life is to be a housewife.”
She laughed nervously, as did the guy whose phone I had stolen, but I wasn’t joking. I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile that a “career” could offer me, and I had yet to find any real joy in anything beyond cooking and cleaning and playing with kids. Needless to say, it wasn’t something I was proud to admit, and I didn’t bring it up much, ever again. We were married nine months later, and I embarked on a career in Presbyterian ministry.
And when I got laid off from that, a career in aerospace.
And when I got laid off from that, a career in warehousing.
And when I got laid off from that, a career in teaching.
And when I got laid off from that…
What I’m trying to say is, there have been a lot of layoffs. #ThanksObama.
Seven years, six layoffs, and one unplanned pregnancy later, I find myself finally living the dream. I’m changing diapers, doing laundry, feeding babies, and cooking dinner every day. (I’m also writing full-time, but that’s another thing.) It’s great most days (in part because anything is better than teaching at a public school), but it also has a lot of frustrations.
Mostly really stupid ones. Like…
1. I think I’ve figured out why everyone hates their roommate.
How many times have you heard someone say, “Man, I hate my roommate! She’s such a slob!”? Probably, like, infinity times, right? I think I finally understand why.
The thing is, most people get roommates right around the time they move out of their parents’ places. And suddenly, with no parents to clean up after them, they’re coming home every day to a messy dorm/apartment/whatever. And they immediately think, “Well, I’m not a slob, obviously, because my old [parents’] place never looked like this, so my roommate must be the problem. Man, I hate that guy. I think I’ll leave him a bunch of really passive-aggressive notes.”
But the thing is [SPOILER!], everyone makes messes, just like everyone poops (as that seminal literary classic taught us). And we homemakers are the metaphorical plumbers of the household (not to be confused with the literal plumbers of the household, who are actual plumbers): we let people pretend they don’t poop. And by “poop,” obviously, I mean “make messes.” And just like you never think about your plumber until your toilet starts backing up, no one notices us until we stop cleaning for five minutes and crap starts piling up again.
We’re exactly like plumbers, except with no credentials, and no money, and coin slots that are easier on the eyes. This metaphor is still working, right? Plumbers.
And the other thing is, no matter how much time you put into the housework, there’s always more to do. The other day, I got up early and said to myself, “This house is a sty. I think I’ll just clean all day.” And then I cleaned until evening, at which point the house was sparkling again, and I said to myself, “I think I’ll take a break. I’ve earned it.” So I watched an hour of TV, and when I got up, the house was buried in toys, beer bottles, dirty dishes, and shame.
I still have no idea how that happened. Ghosts, I think.
Ghosts who hate plumbers.
2. I miss my male privilege.
We white, liberal, academicky types really get off on bemoaning our “privilege,” and I’d hate to take that away from anyone, but tragically (both for our lives and for the guilt we enjoy), that privilege doesn’t extend to every corner of the universe. For instance, men are much more likely to be convicted of a crime than women. Men who choose to teach high school for a living are also automatically assumed to be creepers. (Or was that just me? Probably just me.)
And then there are men who choose to be housewives.
To the rest of the world’s credit, most people have been very supportive of my decision to stay home. I often get a shout of “You go, man-friend! Break those stereotypes!” But the weird responses are bad enough (“I’m so sorry to hear that — how’s the job search going?”) that I’ve taken to avoiding the So What Do You Do conversation as much as I can. (Sometimes I tell people I’m a writer, but that’s even more awkward.)
I’m sure I have an easier life than 99% of the people in the world. Still, I honestly feel like women might have it at least a little easier in this particular realm. If you’re a woman who chooses to stay at home, there’s a huge support group waiting for you, and if you’re a woman who chooses to work, you’re “empowered,” or something. If you’re a man, though, you’ve only got one choice: Be a man and provide for your family, son — and if you do that, you’re nothing special. You’re the bare minimum. If you try to stay home and raise kids, you’re just a bum.
We’re all about celebrating “strong women” — which I’m totally on board with — but nobody likes the idea of a nurturing man, except maybe as a boy band archetype.
But at least I still have that white privilege to feel bad about.
3. Economically, I’m worth less than some dude in a Fleshlight factory.
I don’t want to sound like a college freshman who’s just decided that capitalism is evil or anything, because it’s probably the least-terrible economic system mankind has devised so far. I would, however, have a few choice words for the Cult of the Invisible Hand who blindly accept the tenet that a free market will always place the most money in the hands of those who do the most valuable work. Parents are objectively doing the most valuable thing possible for the economy (because, hey, what good is an economy without a steady supply of producers and consumers?), and guess what a professional parent’s take-home pay is.
People who make sex toys for a living make more than I do. Why? Because people actually buy sex toys. All I produce are well-behaved children, and there’s no market for those. (And if you’re reading this, the FBI, I would like to make it clear that I think that’s a very good thing.) There’s no money to be made in raising kids, but there are buttloads of advertising everywhere telling you what a horrible parent you are if you don’t spend thousands of dollars on crap for your kids. Ain’t the free market great?
So that’s it. I’m overworked, I’m a victim of my Y chromosome, and I’m broke. Now excuse me — I have to go play with an adorable baby for a couple hours and then watch Judge Judy all afternoon.
More narcissistic self-flagellation:
A Break-up Letter to Matt Walsh
American Idolatry: Nine Things I Learned as I Was Being Sacrificed on Rupert Murdoch’s Altar
3 thoughts on “Grood* Housekeeping: Three Things I’ve Learned as a Man-Housewife”
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You were sitting on the roof of a ship? Since when do ships have roofs?
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