At Home

A Failed Housewife

“Do you like to cook?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t really love to cook though I enjoy taking care of people. I only like to cook things that use one pot,” I said. “To make as little mess as possible.”

“Oh, so you’re lazy!” he proclaimed over the phone. It was the first time I had talked to this man. Ever.

“Um, no …” I began. “Not lazy … just as efficient as possible with my time.”

“Ah, you value your time,” he said. “Like me.”

This was one of the many exhaustions of dating people you’ve never met in person. The time spent sifting through myriad false assumptions. I was irked by his first assessment, even after his second. But here it is a few hours later and I wonder if he was right. Maybe I am lazy. There are unwashed dishes in my kitchen sink. And not from today. I have stacks of unread mail and bills on my tiny little desk. There are two days worth of newspapers spread out around me. I am in bed. It is 3:00 in the afternoon. Isn’t this lazy?

Housework, or guilt at failing to do it well, has long plagued me. I was a stay at home mom for eight years. I was technically a housewife, too, but I refused that term. It implied something that didn’t describe me. I hate housework. I love making home, welcoming people, caring for them, hosting parties, feeding family and friends … but I am no Martha Stewart. I keep house enough to avoid embarrassment or a call from social services, but no more than that.

When my children were small, my sons both suffered bouts of asthma and eczema. My mom called me one morning with news of a new study.

“They have found a link between children who suffer allergies and not enough early exposure to germs,” she said. “Congratulations! You must keep a really clean house!” We both laughed at the irony of it.

I admire my friends, and I’ve had a few, who have immaculate homes. Their organizational skills and endless energy amaze me. They know who they are. I wish I could be more like them. But I’m not.

I come from a line of women who don’t enjoy housework. My mom and her mom before her worked outside the home. My grandmother’s house was a study in intellectual chaos when she died. And my mom hired someone to help with the housework so she could be out building community through politics, business development, or non-profit work. They weren’t lazy for it.

I choose to do a lot of things over housework. Going out with friends. Writing. designing. Corresponding. Planning. Knitting. Drawing. Biking. Walking. Talking. Even cooking … in one pot … making as little mess as possible. Housewife? No … not even a wife for a long time now. But, lazy? I don’t think so.