Not Just A Housewife
PLAIN HOUSEWIFE. How many times have you seen that silly term? Only in the Philippines, I fear. Occupation: Plain Housewife. I always felt it was a bit off but it was only when my too-funny uncle, Pato, made it the subject of our comedic Sunday lunch discourse that I gave it a second look. “Plain as opposed to what?” he challenged. “Chocolate covered?” Now that I am a housewife, the label truly grates. Ruffled, maybe, pleated, rubberised, mercerised, striped, with cheese, stuffed, powdered, cubed even. Anything but plain. Plain Housewife. Know what bothers me most about that? It reeks of unwarranted apology.
Truth be told, the term “housewife” — without the punishing “plain”–already gets my goat. It inspires depressing images of a life-robbed woman—one who absently reaches into your plate to bite-size your food or morphs into a vase when the conversation shifts from diaper bargains to other, potentially brain-stretching subjects. The label flashes images of dreariness: a body irreversibly swayed by a hip that has become a toddler’s ride, the permanent scent of fried food on cabin fevered flesh, water-heavy, varicose-vein sprayed legs under faded, shapeless housedresses, nowhere-to-go hair wrapped around pink curlers. The housewife label connotes such an unproductive, sorry life that every woman who has taken it on has died a little bit of embarrassment, struggled and fidgeted in search of fit or worse, allowed herself to be reduced to wear it.
I am home 90% of the time, run the household, raise my children. I don’t own a single caftan or ratty housedress. I do have curlers in a drawer somewhere but at the rate my hair resists them, I might as well throw them out. At the tips of my hands are fingers, not kitchen implements. I’m pretty handy with a screwdriver and wrench and am totally anal about reading manuals. I don’t have seizures when my husband discusses business. Not only am I interested, I can hold my own. In this house, my opinion counts. I am wife, mother, partner, woman. My brain is not swimming in a jar somewhere. If anything, staying home and raising my kids have awakened the best parts of me. Nothing about me resembles a house, so “housewife” just doesn’t cut it. “Homemaker” is a little too woman-in-an-apron for me. “Stay-at-home mom”, okay, but not quite. “Domestic Goddess”…now that feels a little closer to the truth! Staying home to consciously raise your kids is one tough job so don’t “plain housewife” me! We are much, much more than that.
I will never forget an “Oprah” episode I watched years ago. After introducing herself, a guest proceeded to say, “I’m just a housewife”. Before she could continue, Oprah said, “Whoa! Whoa! Don’t you ever say that. What you are doing is the noblest thing in the world.” Applause. Naturally. Oprah is right. Raising your kids to be productive, compassionate, loving, happy, and whole is no easy task. The future of a sane, human world depends on it.
Full-time motherhood is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. You want to talk 24/7? This is it. Every second of your life, you are on. Moments of pure, unadulterated love and joy mingle with frustration, hurt, guilt, exhaustion and anger. Each second is a balancing act. You try to handle every situation with an eye towards your child’s well-being, body soul and spirit. You strive to live by example, with authenticity, with a loving yet firm hand. You realize that to be a good parent, you must first work on yourself, but when was the last time you paid real attention to that self? At home, everyday, you push yourself away for later. And we haven’t even discussed your marriage–another 24/7 occupation. You are wife, mother, teacher, lover, cosmically appointed guardian of precious lives. There are no vacations, days off, sick leaves. Housewife? I think not.
Ours is the heat you seek when you are most man; the silent, unquestioning mother- warmth you run to when you despair that you have become this man. Ours is the heart that quivers at the sight of chubby, wobbly legs, striving for inherent uprightness. Ours is the soul that extends, folding over and away to weave patterns of love against pain, betrayal and disappointment. Ours is the spirit that lifts the squalid home from hopelessness to light. Ours is the will that faces the harsh, incongruous reality of a diaper that needs to be changed minutes after a foreign lipstick trail on an unwashed collar announces an unwelcome intruder.
Housewife? Magician feels more like it. Warrior. Survivor. Artist Supreme. Mother Miracle. Wife Divine. Imperfect Woman On The Verge Of An Affair. Domestic Goddess On The Edge Of A Nervous Breakdown. Beauteous Baby-Carrying Bombshell. Get the idea? Don’t let anyone reduce you to a word you don’t even get. Don’t let anyone call you something you are not. And for heaven’s sake, don’t diminish who you are. Celebrate it!
Oh, and if you are happy being called a housewife, clap your hands, stomp your feet, wear it with dignity but please, whatever you do, steer clear of “plain”. You are many things. Plain is not one of them. This is what I would love to see—Occupation: Chocolate-Covered, Cream-Filled, Home-Loving, Husband-Lusting, Child-Adoring Babe. Anything, please, but plain.