Due partly to circumstance, partly to choice, I am a housewife. No, it’s not what I imagined for myself. It’s not what I went to college for or dreamed of as a young girl. Cleaning up spills and brightening my whites is certainly not contributing to my Roth IRA. But for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, I clean and cook and shop and fold and organize and plan and yada yada yada, blah blah blah. I don’t bring home the bacon, but I do fry it up in the pan. To the shock and horror of my English housewifery compatriots, I don’t iron, but barring the iron, the apron and the Valium, I’m not all that far from the stereotype, just slightly more updated. Housewife Version 5.0.
When I worked full-time, there was nothing more infuriating than putting a lot of effort into a project and getting blanked in return. A ‘thank you’, a ‘job well done’, or a ‘this looks great’ goes a long way in the workplace. It’s the stuff of Management 101 class. Being a housewife is like being blanked all the time. Being a stay at home mother and a housewife is like that on steroids. Imagine doing 6 or 7 mind numbingly boring, thankless projects at once and turning them in for approval just to be sent away with a back of the hand, I’m too busy flick. There’s no feedback, no annual review, no performance analysis, no cost of living increase, no pats on the back, you should be proud, thanks for a great job. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
That’s all fine, well and good. I don’t expect a plaque or a trophy or a gold medal for vacuuming under the sofa. I don’t think I deserve a new pair of shoes every time I make dinner or remember to schedule a doctor’s appointment. But there is one thing that would make my current ‘job’ slightly more tolerable.
Accentuate the positive. No, not me, I know the value in a freshly mopped and pine fresh floor, thank you. I mean you. Yes, you.
Comment on the size of the dust bunny behind the door. Come now, you really should know better. It doesn’t matter if it’s the size of the Easter Dust Bunny. It doesn’t matter if it’s more a dust T-Rex than a dust bunny. Pick the damn thing up and put it in the trash. And then say something about how pine fresh the floor smelled that morning. You see? Accentuate the positive.
Complain there’s no food in the house. Even if you are down to the emergency hurricane rations, the dented tins that came with the house. Instead, the next time the fridge is full, try this: “Wow! Look at all that food! ” And don’t ask if she’s planning on doing something with the wilted celery. Throw it away, without comment.
Use any of the following endearments when talking about the house, the food, or the laundry; honey, dear, sweetie, babe, sugar-buns, lamb-chop et al. Preceding anything to do with the home with a syrupy term of endearment sounds patronizing and is asking for a punch in the throat.
Stomp around looking for something that’s still at the bottom of the laundry pile. The next time she does an extra load after the normal 3 to accommodate the jeans that have to be washed at precisely 18 degrees, accentuate the positive.
Criticize a new meal that doesn’t turn out right. Sure, maybe you will leave the table with a coat of salt on your tongue. Maybe your heartburn will act up or you feel like you could use that piece of meat as a doorstop. There will be time enough down the road to tell the truth. Suck it up and drink extra water to balance out the increased sodium intake.
Start a sentence with “Did you remember to…?” or “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”. There is no quicker way to raise someone’s hackles than to start a sentence that way. Sometimes in the middle of breaking up an argument in the dairy aisle of the grocery store while talking to your mother on the phone and trying to remember whether or not the washer repair man is coming in the next five minutes, things fall through the cracks.
Give unsolicited advice on how to clean the house, cook or wash a load of clothes. It’s boring enough doing all that stuff most days. The only thing that could make that worse is someone who doesn’t do it all the time coming along thinking that they have a way to make it better. If you are male, and you value your testicles in their present state, don’t offer suggestions.
Say things like “You look like you could use some help”. Of course she looks like she could use some help. Everyone could use some help. But by saying that, it implies she’s doing a lousy job. Sure, you mean well, but remember, accentuate the positive.
Ask what she does all day. Ever, ever, ever. (Hint: we don’t meet up in costume in a secret location and plan how to make your lives miserable, I promise)
Belittle or criticize or patronize her hobbies. When you are a woman who used to get validation from your work and now you are at home, sometimes part of your soul gets vacuumed up with the dust bunnies (even the big ones). Finding something to keep your brain occupied, whether it be scrapbooking, book club, macrame or blogging, is crucial. Making snide comments about pin-money and wasted time is just mean.
There are a lot of jobs out there that no one wants to do. But even those workers get weekends off and unemployment benefits and holiday time. If your toddler vomits in bed on a Saturday morning, you can’t call the union and make them pay you overtime. You can’t go on strike or take a real vacation or even a lunch break. So be nice and tell the housewife in your life you appreciate all she does. In fact, do a good deed and spread the word.
Just don’t start with the sentence with “Honey….”