But I’m Not a Housewife!

Domestic Bliss, Eventually

Archive for Housework

Happy Housewives: A Book Review

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“Girls are afraid to say, ‘You know, I am happy to be home,’ ” she says. “I took it upon myself to lead this movement and say, ‘You know what? We are taking back the power. We’re happy. It’s time to admit it and be proud of it.’ “

To those who complain and act embarrassed about their stay-at-home lives, she says: “Snap out of it. Shut up and stop whining.”  

‘Happy’ housewives finally get their due, By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY, Posted 10/19/2005

Okay, I’ve said it before, I’m obsessed with all things housewife, woman, and, mom-related even though I’m not yet a mom. (Yes, I’ve said that before, too. Oh, and working woman or working mom related too, to be honest.) This must be why I feel it’s my duty to check out every housekeeping, homemaking and housewife related book from the library, to share my opinions about said books with my readers.

And so, back to Happy Housewives, by Darla Shine, which I promised several weeks ago to review here. And whew! If you check out the reviews on Amazon.com, which I like to do, there are some Darla-haters out there!

Usually, I am firmly  with the ditractors or the supporters, but I find myself agreeing with all of the reviews. I have a love-hate relationship with this book. To mention the most positive side of the book, in the words of one reviewer:

Her message, however you may feel about the packaging, is inspiring and all about self-empowerment.

So, what this book offered me was a kick in the pants, the view that nobody is perfect, and that one should simplify, simplify, simplify, stop making excuses, and make it a priority to find uncomplicated routines that work.

Great ideas I took away from the book: 

  • With respect to cleaning: If you think it, do it! (I love that!)
  • Be intimate with your husband (though, not because you want to manipulate him as Shine suggests, but because it brings you closer together — and because this man, who has agreed to spend his life with only you, deserves to have sex!)
  • Bond with your home: clean it (yourself), cook, and create a place of beauty for your family (Sooo, hard!).
  • Take time for yourself: It’s okay to put your baby in a jumper or crib while you shower and put on make-up, or relax for a few minutes with a cup of tea and a magazine.

But the book fails on so many levels. Jen Lawrence, an MBA, mother, blogger and writer, (who wrote a much better book review than I could ever hope to write, over at Literarymama.com) shares my suspicion that it was Darla’s editors trying to garner a more sensational and selling tone for the book, that mucked everything up, not Darla herself. I like to think that this is true, and there are, as Lawrence notes, hints of another Darla underneath all the vitriol. She really does want to empower stay-at-home moms and to encourage them to feel in control and proud of themselves for their seemingly unpopular choice.

The caveat: Shine is not able to create an empowering book for stay-at-home mothers that is inclusive of all mothers. It is so confrontational, one-sided, and unwittingly classist that it’s hard to stomach! What’s more, it is sloppily written, disorganized, slapped together, and full of contradictions, straw-man arguments, and acerbic language — which was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but fails to be funny.

There is an uncomfortable (and much criticized) scene in a supermarket where she admits feeling angry at an obese woman buying junk food in front of her, because she is raising an overweight son.

I was so angry that I wanted to smash my cart into her big fat ass. But then I thought to myself, is it possible that she just doesn’t know about nutrition? Is it possible that she was raised to eat this way, and now she’s passing on her bad habits to her son? As her food moved down the conveyor belt, I began to load my fresh organic lettuce, tomatoes, apples, bananas, spinach, broccoli, wild salmon, bottled water, kettle chips, and tofu ice cream onto the belt. I hoped she would look over and that it would inspire her to eat healthier. She didn’t seem to notice; she just paid and left the store. 

Shine doesn’t seem to realize that much of America cannot afford to eat like that, especially if they are choosing survive on one income. According to her, all women can afford to stay home with their children as well: 

If you made the choice to get pregnant, you should make the choice to stay home with that baby if you can afford to, and I think most of you could afford to.

I know I’m making a lot of women angry. How dare I call career moms selfish? How dare I say women belong at home with the kids? How dare I suggest moms who are at home with their kids are better mothers than moms who work full time outside of the home. Well, sorry….

So, maybe you’ll have to give something up. Maybe this year you won’t buy a big-screen TV. Maybe you won’t go to Bermuda. Maybe you’ll have to downsize your home. Things might get tight. But isn’t your baby worth it?” p. 20 (Emphasis mine.)

I did feel that there were some helpful hints that I hadn’t thought of in this book, unfortunately, I had to dig through a lot of disorganized, hateful content, that I just didn’t agree with, to find them. I’ve also realized that many of the hints which which I was filing away in my mind for future use, “Ooh, that sounds like a good idea, yes, keep foods simple and appealing to the kids – Noted,”  only appeal to me because I’m not yet a mother. And these, according to Lawrence, are ideas which can be found ubiquitously in women’s magazines already.  The only reason they fool me as being helpful, is because I have not yet had to deal with motherhood. 

Finally, if it wasn’t so chock full of us-versus-them dichotomies (or Darla versus everyone else), and spiteful comments about men, husbands, women who work, “feminists,” fat women, unfashionable mothers, and sisters who fail at holding it all together; if it wasn’t such a manifesto to get all women back in the home so that the author could finally be justified in her decision to leave a high-powered job, I would like it much, much more.

Size Matters, Part One: The Living Room

Today I’m posting some candid photos that cen help to explain my recent discouragement with keeping my house clean. Below is a picture of the townhouse I lived in last year. That was the giant living room. To the left of the photo was the front door, the TV surounded by built in cabinets and a fireplace. I got used to keeping it clean when our landlords put the house up for sale and started showing it regularly. There was so much storage in that house and it was brand new so it was easy to hide all of the junk and keep it sparkling clean.

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There was enough room, not only for coffee tables, but for the dining room table as well! (Don’t fret too much, we do have small dining room now.)

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But we weren’t ready to buy when they put it on the market (and didn’t really want to buy in that neighborhood anyway), so we had to move out. We decided to move across town to an older neighborhood instead of staying in the suburb that we were in. We fell in love with this older neighborhood with it’s Victorian houses, and loved it so much that we were willing to give up space, storage, and most difficult of all – a dishwasher! We gave up a dishwasher to live in a real neighborhood! So we moved into this charming Victorian row house and now look at the size of my living room:

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Notice the old bathroom rug on the floor. My twelve year old dog needs it to sooth his old joints when he’s chewing bones, and also to jump up on the couches because his paws slip on the wood. Notice how I’m so apathetic about the state of the house right now that I didn’t even bother to straighten the rug or to fold up the blankets before I took the photos. 

So there you have it. I was willing to give up a few things in order to leave the sterile suburbs for an older part of town that has more character and culture, and shops and restaurants that we can walk to. And, because we moved, we randomly ran into some old friends that we had lost touch with who are living right here! So our blessings are great, but my life as the designated homemaker for this family has become much more difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thankful every day that we live in the neighborhood that we do, I just wish I could adapt to this tiny, old house so that we could live in an organized, comfortable, and nurturing environment again.