Let’s go back several weeks to when I began telling my family about my exciting New Year’s resolution/project: No More Cooking or Cleaning for Anyone But Me! The Take Care Of Myself Project! Reactions ranged from the teenaged half-lidded who-cares shrug, to the middle-aged deer-in-the-headlights-lest-I-blow-us-all-up, to the earnest cry of one of my ten-year-old twins.
T: Mom, no! How will we eat??
Me: Your father can cook.
T: He doesn’t do the dinners like you. He only makes certain things. Mom, you can’t! This isn’t fair!
He was right, of course.
But that’s what happens when you’re the youngest child. Shit falls away. Rules. Dinners. Curfews. Pretty soon, you’re raising yourself. That’s why youngest children are so chill. They’ve learned to let go of the small stuff and be content with the basics. Food, Shelter, Love? Good enough for me, thanks! Unlike those fussy oldest children, or singletons, whose every fart is celebrated with streamers, applause, and six posts to social media. It doesn’t set them up with the most realistic expectations in life. Who in the world will ever pay that much attention to us again?
Here’s an actual entry from Volume One, of seven, of The First Child series I kept when our oldest was born: Discovered left leg in the bathtub! Genius! (crying!!!)
We make a lot of mistakes on the first child which we try to correct on the second child, and maybe even a third, but, usually, by then we’ve given up. I mean, who has the time?
It’s estimated that moms spend more than four hours a day toiling in what is referred to as The Second Shift, the work that comes after work, the endless, inescapable heap of domestic bullshit that goes with the business of running a family. (I see you, stay-at-home dads, but you’ll have to lead your own futile revolution just as we moms have been doing since the Stone Age, or at least the 1960s.) Apparently, moms do more Second Shift work than dads. I’m being funny when I use the word apparently – as if this is news, as if it’s not been thoroughly researched for years on end, as if to not bog you down with data (here, here, here, and here), so’s to bring it back to me, and my anecdotes.
From the next room, I could feel the weight of my husband’s silence. Using my most reassuring voice, I called out to him.
Me: I’ll still do everything else. School, doctors, food shopping, driving, playdates, birthdays, holidays, dentist appointments, travel, calendaring, medications, Costco. None of that will change.
Me: I’m thinking of reviving my blog. Maybe even doing a vlog! Like the kids!
I went to the kitchen to see if he was wearing earbuds. He wasn’t. He stared at me, expressionless, from the sink.
Me: Gosh. You don’t seem very enthusiastic or supportive about this project.
Anthony: Well… ah… yeah, no, I mean… (pause, snort), what can I say?
Anthony: Pff! Right.
He walked off laughing. A jittery laugh tinged with fear, with potential lunacy.
Many women I admire, women with families and careers, women writers who value their private time, creativity, emotional well being, have said their lives were greatly improved once they gave up housekeeping. Everyone was happier, they said.
Today is the first day of 2019, the day I’m supposed to refrain from cooking and cleaning for the hubs and the kids, also known as my five roommates. Some, or all, of my five roommates have been known to go without toothpaste for entire weekend, to use tissues or napkins in lieu of toilet paper, to step over dog vomit on the living room rug, to never sweep a floor, to place clean folded clothes in the dirty laundry rather than putting them away. I could go on.
As of today, I’ve already failed.
By eleven this morning, without even thinking about it, I made avocado toast for two, emptied and filled the dishwasher, organized the recycling, and replaced a roll of toilet paper.
The effort it would take for me to not do the things my five roommates hardly notice, or care about, say, picking a slimy black banana peel off of the floor and placing it four inches to the right, directly into the little compost bin, might not be worth the energy. It would require so much brain power, or Xanax that I don’t have, it’d be less stressful, and less drug dependent, for me to just keep doing the housework like I always do.
See the dilemma?
Got any Xanax?