Image Source: Getty / Hulton Archive
I saw some life insurance policy paperwork laying out on the counter the other day that caught my eye. Looking at it made me a little ticked. It wasn't the sad realization that my husband is readying things for our financial future should something happen to him that made me so upset. Nope, it was one little word on the bottom of a questionnaire that sent me into a sh*t fit.
The form offered a short line in which to write "spouse's occupation," and my husband wrote: HOMEMAKER.
OK, aside from the fact that it's not 1955 and I'm sure that word doesn't even exist anymore, I'm aggravated, hurt, and offended that this is the one word my husband chose to describe what I do every day of my life. No, I'm not saying my husband is a chauvinistic brute. He knows better — his mother and sisters are nurses, and his youngest sister is a teacher. His grandmother inherited and ran a successful grocery store chain after her husband died. So I feel it necessary to explain to my husband why this description of me just isn't going to cut it.
You see, I worked really hard to get my degree from a prestigious women's college 20 years ago . . . a college that for more than 170 years has been trying to break down and shatter stereotypes that women are just here to cook and have babies — to "homemake." It is a highly decorated and esteemed higher-learning institution where women have come to learn the same things that men are learning, to play the same sports that men are playing, to be the best at whatever they dream. I'll admit I was never great at math or science (I may have bribed a biology lab partner to do all the pig dissecting sophomore year), but I could read and write like hell and it's the only thing that put a diploma in my hand, and I'm damn proud of it.
For years, I worked as a writer and editor at newspapers in the Midwest. People picked up their newspapers and read stories I crafted (probably crafted in less than an hour because this old girl loves a deadline), and they may have even shared those stories with their family or friends — probably printed or saved them, too. I walked into a local restaurant the other day to find framed on its wall a feature story I wrote years ago about the owner. Every once in a while, I get an email from a man whose son was killed in car crash years ago in a Memorial Day motorcycle accident that I covered when I was a reporter. A total stranger who I've never met gets my prayers most every Memorial Day. A column I wrote years ago was published in a textbook to teach feature writing. Some college kids could be reading my sh*t for homework, so that's pretty cool for me. I spent a good chunk of time after my babies were born freelance writing for the local daily paper, doing phone interviews, and writing between naps, diaper changes, or breastfeeding. Even then, I still considered myself more of a writer than I ever did a homemaker/wife/mother of three kids under age 3.
I'm Miss Andrea to 50 preschoolers who trust me, who give me hugs, who tell me stories each day about butterflies they caught, where they saw a fox, or how they lost a tooth.
I work part time at my daughter's preschool now as a one-woman media/publicity department. I write press releases and stories for publication, take pictures, update its website, and create and send out direct media. But, more importantly, I'm Miss Andrea to 50 preschoolers who trust me, who give me hugs, and who tell me stories each day about butterflies they caught, where they saw a fox, or how they lost a tooth. They trust and come to me when they are crying on the playground, want to tell a secret, or have an accident on the floor.
Image Source: Bettmann / Hulton Archive
For the past couple of years, I've volunteered at the grade school cafeteria. This is not a pretty job, people, as I'm sure some of you may already know. It's like helping hungry, angry little people in a ketchup-splattered, Jell-O-stained, stale bread-smelling, windowless room for two hours a day. And none of them ever say "please." But I go anyway because I love my kids. I love the smile on their faces when they get to see Mom standing there with gloves and an apron on, cleaning spilled peaches from their lunch table.
Yes, I am home most days with four kids. I'm dealing with a lot of laundry, a lot of missed pee in toilets, a lot of fights over Barbie dolls, and a few piles of dog poop the new puppy might have left for me. I'm trying not to piss myself jumping on the trampoline with the twins. I'm singing Ariana Grande songs out loud in the car with a 5-year-old who doesn't care that I have the suckiest voice ever. I'm failing at way too many Pinterest recipes that my kids won't eat and constantly wiping fingerprints from every glass surface in this house. I'm coordinating play dates for my kids at the park when all I really want to do is watch Grey's Anatomy on Netflix with a glass of wine. I'm taxiing the kids to and from practices and games and friends' houses like I'm some 1980s Tony Danza.
I'm not the homemaking robot you think I am.
But here's the thing: yes, all that "homemaking" takes a lot of my time, but in no way does it define me. Don't get me wrong; I love being able to see my kids more than I would if I had a full-time job. I love that I'm able to drop everything to come and get them when I get that barf call from the school secretary. I love that they can come home from school and ask me for homework help instead of some babysitter ("love" is probably too strong a word here). But I'm letting you know I'm not the homemaking robot you think I am. I'm more than just Mom-Cleaner. I'm more than just Wife-Cleaner. I'm more than just Dog-Cleaner. I'm more than just House-Cleaner.
I have beautiful, creative — sometimes twisted — thoughts that I love to write down. I have dreams and aspirations of doing something great for the literary world (says the lady who for one hour stood in the Target toy aisle contemplating the purchase of a fart gun). I want to teach my kids a love for reading and writing and the art of communicating honestly and completely uninhibited — without reservation. I am a storyteller. I am a friend who will listen (and probably give a painfully honest opinion, too). I am a lover of four messy, stinky people. I am a believer in a god who somehow has got to have a purpose for me. I am a juggler of life. I am all this and more.
I ask you, dear husband: can you fit all that on one line of your questionnaire?