When I was doing my MA in ‘Camp Frolicking’ at the Central School of Speech and Drama, I was cast as the housewife in the musical ‘Working’. The lyrics to that hateful song have haunted me ever since:
‘All I am is just a housewife, Nothing special, nothing great. What I do is kinda boring, If you’d rather, it can wait. All I am is someone’s mother, All I am is someone’s wife, All of which seems unimportant, All it is, is – Just my life…’
I was determined that I would never feel like that, that my answer to the question, ‘So what do you do?’ would never be, ‘I’m just a housewife’. I was determined that whatever I chose to do, it would be important.
However, there is an element of truth to these lyrics. Aspects of the job of being a mother are insanely boring and repetitive. So far this morning, I have: hung the children’s school uniforms on the radiator, then taken them back off the radiator and put them on my children who are old enough to do it themselves, cleared away the breakfast, got the wash from last night out of the tumble dryer, put another wash on, and made two healthy, fresh, packed lunches, most of which will return home at the end of the day, slightly chewed and spat on. This is a small percentage of the jobs that have to be done every single day of the week, apart from weekends, which have their own set of tasks.
My husband is a very good, kind man, and does his fair share of the tasks when he’s around. But he really isn’t around that much. As far as he’s concerned the single, most difficult, household chore of the day is washing up after the supper that I’ve made for us. He does this massively arduous chore most evenings, and so leaves me to float around all day, doing practically nothing around the house. NOT.
Then, there is the added dimension of competitive housework. All women do this. When first going to someone’s house, you subtly check out their level of ‘acceptable cleanliness’. Once clocked, you then know how clean and tidy your house has to be if and when they come round to yours. In the past I have made joking references to my floor only being cleaned if my daughter happens to wee on it (fairly often actually) and instead of understanding chuckles, have received only horrified stares…
But the truth of the matter is, I’m not a housewife. I love my house and do my best to make it a home, but I married my husband, not a three-bed, end of terrace. The important thing is the people that are in it. And these important people include ME. I am also important, and if I spend all my free time chasing my tail, doing the endless jobs that being a homeowner requires, I would begin to feel, well, a little less like a wife, mother and woman, and a little more like a slave. If and when I do get round to dusting the tops of things, it will be a cause for celebration, and we will re-name the day ‘Clean tops-of-things Day!’ But, up till then, I would much rather sing Noel Coward songs and make myself cry/ help my son make green, sugar-crystals/ randomly decide to move all the furniture in the sitting room, and declare it ‘much better’.
So, is my life unimportant? My family certainly don’t think so. Or at least I hope not.