One morning, I battered the hell out of an old, plastic toy that nobody played with anymore.
I slammed it down, over and over like a maniacal fiend. Shards of plastic blasted from it, piece by piece, slicing open one of my fingers. A blood-smeared massacre of my fury lay shattered on the floor, alongside 40 seconds worth of my pride.
And then I carried on cleaning. It’d been a while since my motherly angst had reared her ugly face. I guess I was due a meltdown of some kind, and I felt both better and worse for having given into such a childish tantrum.
The seed of my rage had been planted the night before. My husband had wanted to have a shower and was on the hunt for a clean towel. A large pile of dirty ones was mounting up in the laundry hamper. All that was left in the linen closet were beach towels.
I was on the couch, typing away on my laptop. You see, in my mind, I’m a writer. But the fact is, due to a complete lack of income, I’m actually a housewife with a hobby. I used to be a teacher and then I was a stay-at-home mom, but the kids are in school now, so . . . I’m a housewife. I’m a housewife who likes to write.
Anyway, as a housewife (who likes to write), my husband’s lack of towel is my responsibility. It’s my job to make clean towels happen and any failure to do so means I’m not living up to the expectations of my title.
Now, I’ll be upfront and say it; yes, I’m a housewife, but this doesn’t mean that I aspire to housekeeping excellence. Sure, the kids are all in school now, but I won’t be dedicating entire days to creating clever storage solutions and perfectly folding never-ending piles of fluffy, clean towels. Nope. My goal, domestically speaking, is to fall somewhere within the bounds of acceptability. I seek a comfortable middle ground, somewhere between order and chaos, with random glimmers of greatness and occasional bouts of inadequacy. Because, quite frankly, I have other things to do.
I like to write. And I also spend time online, connecting with my readers and fellow writers. I do other things with my time, too, but I certainly indulge myself when it comes to my blog and all that goes with it.
Anyway, back to the roots of my fury . . .
Beach towel in hand, my disgruntled hubby interrupted my writing to ask a few questions. Questions that I translated with wifely expertise into their intended meaning:
“How many towels do we have?” You’ve been home all day. How hard is it to get some clean towels into the cupboard?
“Why aren’t there any clean towels?” You should be washing towels instead of sitting there on your laptop.
Does my husband deserve a clean towel? Yes.
Will I answer to him as to why there isn’t one? Apparently. But I’ll do so begrudgingly and with a few expletives. Because, as much as our current roles are old fashioned by nature, my nature won’t allow me to respond well to being questioned about incomplete domestic duties.
OK, yes the towel situation is a bit backed up. Would it kill you to use a fucking beach towel?
So we argued.
And then we went to bed mad.
The next morning (the morning of the toy beating), I dropped the kids off at school and quickly returned home where I embarked upon some rage-fuelled cleaning.
I was angry. Angry that I’m the only one in charge of all the dirt and mess. Angry that he was right, I wasn’t keeping up my end of the bargain.
I was frustrated. Frustrated that our chosen dynamic means that I’m less powerful. Because no matter how much fire I have, no matter how strong willed I am or how tightly I hold onto my feminist heart, without my own money I am, ultimately, the one in the relationship with less power.
Sure, my husband shares “the power” with me, and likely better than I would if I were the money maker. He uses inclusive language; everything is “ours.” Most of the time, this dynamic works. My husband travels a lot. Often with little notice. We don’t have family or support in the city that we live in. I am the constant in my kids’ lives. I am the one who is always there for them. His work is high pressure and requires a lot of his time. I have chosen to be at home. I have chosen to be the one to take them to their lessons and activities. It’s convenient and it’s practical.
But sometimes it just doesn’t sit well knowing that I am the keeper of the towels. Sometimes it feels daunting, degrading even, that all the dirt and the mess that happens on and all around my family members is there waiting for me.
So I battered the shit out of a plastic toy, and then I cleaned up the mess.
Sure, it was an undignified, first-world-problem induced display. But my mind felt clearer…
I will not find fulfillment at the bottom of an empty laundry basket. But I do find it when I put fingers to keyboard. Writing feeds my soul. I will hold onto it and I will prioritize it. I’m not going to win a Pulitzer Prize writing stories about how my husband hot boxes our living room with his farts or why I think giving out invisible trophies in the best way to deal with a know-it-all. But I am part of something that’s important to me. There’s a whole sisterhood of moms out there and I am a member of that vast community. And I’m also one of the voices within it.
If only it paid better…
I guess what I need to do is write a masterpiece. Ya. That’s what I’ll do! I’ll hit the big time and then I’ll be like: “Hun, I’m really busy with work so you and I are gonna need to divvy up these cleaning duties. How does that sound?”
Personally, I like the idea very much.
So, I’d best get started on that masterpiece! But before I do, I’ve got some towels to fold…
Related post: The Stay At Home Mom Challenge
This piece first ran on Blunt Moms.