But I’m Not a Housewife!

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Marriage Monday: Do I Spend Too Much Time With My Husband?

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First of all, don’t laugh at this picture! I’ve been meaning to start writing a marriage column on Mondays for weeks now and I was dying to have a sort of logo for it. Not wanting to worry about copyright laws, I decided to use a picture of my husband and me, and this was the only one I could find on short notice. It was the first photo ever taken of the two of us, when we were dating. It was also the onset of us spending all of our time together.

On with the post. Some people, such as Darla Shine in her book Happy Housewives, suggest that it is unhealthy to spend all your time with your husband. I suppose some couples would go insane if they didn’t have their “guy time” and “girl time” respectively. But that type of genderization of activities is something my husband and I don’t really buy into. Well, to a certain extent. Yes I do enjoy sewing and knitting and watching “Chick flicks” (that even I roll my eyes at but still want to watch) but my husband doesn’t really do much that requires that he hang out with “the guys” without their spouses. He doesn’t hunt, fish, camp, mountain climb, watch or play sports, or even really get into video games, (and he doesn’t need to be out at bars trying to feel like a single guy and flirting with other women). Besides, on the occasions he does do any of those things, he would rather have me there too! 

The only time we really go out is with our favorite local couple. We either have dinner and play cards at their house or we actually go to a bar where we compete in a weekly pub quiz. (We often place in the top three, sometimes even get first place. Yes, I guess we’re dorks.) The husband in that couple watches March Madness, but he doesn’t do it with my husband, he does it at home with his wife, who is probably making jewelry in the same room. Meanwhile we are at our own house watching DVDs we’ve rented from the library, such as Globe Trekker and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Sometimes I’m knitting and he’s reading the Sunday or Wednesay New York Times. We make dinner together. We eat together. We used to go to the gym together, but I’ve stopped going. See? We do have some “girl things” and “guy things” that we enjoy, but we can usually be together while doing them.

Then there are weekends. The particular day that I conceived of this post, we had spent the entire day exploring Denver together. We had brunch somewhere, roamed some old book and antique stores for hours, got some amazing deals on work-pants at Goodwill (seriously), ate ate a fun bar, while looking at some of the books we bought, went to a movie, and went home to do lie on the couch together. It was right after this lovely day that I read the segment in Darla Shine’s book about being closer with your girlfriends than your husband. Now, she didn’t write it without a lot of thought:

I’ve been sitting here thinking for a few minutes about how I should write this step. I think it’s a very important step, and I want to make sure you don’t take it the wrong way…so, here it goes…

Your husband should not be your best friend. He’s your husband, and obviously you should have a very deep bond with him, but you absolutely must have another outlet in your life. You’ll never be a happy housewife if you wrap your identity entirely around your husband and children. 

(And somewhere in the book she says the only thing she really needs her husband for is sex and that’s about it. When I find it I’ll edit it into this post.)

I know my regular readers must think I really have it out for Darla, and I don’t! It’s just that I’m a very critical thinker and I don’t like over simplified generalizations that are not thought through. 

Some of what she said above is true, we should maintain and nurture our female friendships, especially when we become mothers, but what if your husband is your best friend? What if you really do enjoy doing everything together? My sister recently told me that on Saturdays the whole family likes to go grocery shopping together. She, her husband and all four kids. And they really enjoy it, gasp! Now, I do believe that if you spend 24 hours a day with anybody, you’re going to get fed up with them for a bit, but the truth is, I can stand my husband a lot longer than I can stand most other people, and he has said the same thing about me. 

Now, a couple of weeks ago, I did have a girl’s night. One of the girls’ husband and daughter were away for the night, so we stayed up late and had a kitchen dance party. We played disco and hip hop and danced like crazy (while drinking a few cocktails) and we marveled about how this was more fun that we ever had as single women out at bars. But, the truth is, we often have dance parties when our husbands are around, after we get fed up with playing cards. Sometimes we can get them to join us in the kitchen, being silly and dancing, other times they are in the living room playing Wii

I know this type of life isn’t for everyone, and if you bicker a lot with your husband, you may need some time apart. (But, I think all that bickering is a separate issue.) And, if you are spending that time with your girlfriends trashing your husband, you are doing your relationship more harm than good.

Okay, I have tons more to say about this subject. but I’ll leave it here for now. 

Tell me, do I spend too much time with my spouse? Do you?

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.

Valentine’s Day Reflections: Do Something Nice For Your Man

Vintage Images

I just finished a video interview with a good friend of mine who is putting together a mini-documentary about Valetine’s Day and Love and peoples’s thoughts on such things. I had some revelations while talking to her that I feel obligated to share with my readers. 

My husband and I are just not big into Valentine’s Day – And that must be because I’m not big into it! One of the things we decided during the interview was that it is a day which is much more important to women and that many men would be happy to forget it. I had trouble voicing why I don’t care much about it, except that I think it’s too commercial and I don’t like to be told when to give and receive love from my husband.

We also came to the conclusion through our discussion that it is a useful holiday for many people and for some men especially. This is the reason why: Many men (and therefore many couples) have trouble expressing their feelings. No big surprise there, right? But by developing these packaged symbols of love: flowers, candy, hearts, romantic cards, and designating one day a year in which  all  men are expected to use these symbols to show their love, we make it socially acceptable, and doable for them. 

It doesn’t work for my husband and I though, because we are always demonstrating our love for each other. When you regularly do special things for each other and tell each other how important you are to each other, being forced to do it on Valentine’s Day just seems too contrived and artificial.

But this made me think as well, we women give our men a hard time several times a year when we require them to do special things for us, on Valentine’s Day, on our birthdays, on our anniversaries. But what are you doing for your man every day to show you love and appreciate him? It is often easier for us women to express our feelings in words. With that in mind, when was the last time you put your hand on your husbands shoulder, face, or hand and looked into his eyes and said, “I’m so lucky to have you. I really appreciate everything you do for me.”?  I actually learned to do this from my husband. Many of you have experienced this: he comes up behind you and gives you some kind of squeeze, kiss, or hug while you are doing dishes. How many of you have shrugged him away because you have so much to do “right now!”? I’ve learned to stop and enjoy that moment, that is his gift to me, his way to show his appreciation for me. 

I’m also lucky enough to have what many women don’t, a man who can use words to tell me how he feels – sometimes. And sometimes those at-the-sink-after-he-gets-home-from-work-hugs are accompanied by him telling me that he is so grateful that he has me to come home to after a long day at work. It was hearing that a few times that made me realize that I need to tell him that sometimes too. And when I do, it really does make him feel good. He thanks me for telling him that!

Those are the overt ways we tell each other we love each other. Some of our other personal ways follow:

  • I bring his pajamas down stairs for him so he doesn’t have to climb the stairs after a long day at work until he is ready to get into bed.
  • I let him watch what he wants most of the time. I’m usually knitting or doing something else anyway, and really, I don’t want to watch him suffer through some of the girlie stuff I like.
  • I make coffee for him 50-80% of the time. That’s about as much as I’m able to muster, I’m just not that perfect, but I appreciates it when I do.
  • I try to keep him in clean underwear, socks, and work shirts. This is a challenge at times!
  • I don’t nag him to pick his socks of the floor – I just do it – it takes two seconds! (although I do sometimes marvel at the fact that garbage seems to spontaneously collect in places he’s been).
  • I sometimes ask him, “What can I do to help you today?”

Most of all, I always try to think of him and what I can do that will make his day better. He seems to do the same for me too.

What do you like to do for your man to show him you love and appreciate him?

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Vintage Valentine Image courtesy of FreeVintageImages.com

Victorian clip art courtesy of Averyl’s Attic

United States of Tara: I Love Toni Colette

I just watched a the first episode of Showtime’s new series in which Toni Colette plays a mom with multiple personalities. John Corbett plays her simpathetic and understanding husband. Honestly, the first episode presents as strong a marriage as anybody could hope for in today’s mixed-up world. According to Bust Magazine,

the crux of the story seems to be a modern woman trying to deal with shifting expectations of women – something we can all relate to, even with only a single personality.

It’s an interesting premiss for a show because Dissociative Identity Disorder is so controversial and reputedly not an actual disease. It’s best to take the approach of the commenter DebbieS, who responded,

As a Psych PhD myself, I’d go with the idea that this disorder does not really exist. So, in the show, I just accept it as a literary construct, a way for Diablo to tell this story and deal with particular issues, just like some scripts use vampires to get certain ideas across. (Emphasis mine.)

Or as Kimmy Gibbler responded,

I’m loving this in the way that I love House and Weeds: just ignore the silly premise of the show and love the characters. (Yes!)

I find both observations to be very true. The bright minds and talented actors behind this show are not at all asserting that it is a real disease, or that this is how Dissociative Identity Disorder is. But it is a provacative look at family relationships and the ways that women are expected to behave. It makes you think: and that’s just good TV.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

more about “United States of Tara: I Love Toni Co…“, posted with vodpod

A ‘Lil Sugar for Your Coffee This Morning: A Post in Two Parts

Part One

Having studied Linguistics, I’m not often offended by any single word. Words simply exist. And yet, context and history often do combine to load words with unpleasant connotations. Take the word housewife. I have put it in the title of my blog and still, I cringe when I hear it. Perhaps I feel I can claim this word  because I also work part-time in and out of the home and feel that I use it ironically in this new millennium.  I’m not yet a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), I’m not a very good homemaker, and somehow, SAHW (stay-at-home-wife) bothers me most of all. I think there will always be debates over these words.

For commentary on the use of housewife vs. SAHM vs. homemaker, check out lilsugar.com – Tell Mommy: Does the Term “Housewife” Offend You?

Part Two

Image via themediansib.com

Image via The Median Sib

In my last post, I wrote the first of many posts on marriage. For a fun article on “Marrying One’s Self” check out Sexy in Van City, a blog by several 30-something gals living in Vancouver, BC. Enjoy yesterday’s post by Kittyn:  A la French Maid! 1950s House Wife Cleans The Home… the sexy way, in which she describes her transition from dating herself in 2008, to marrying herself in 2009. Gone will be the cluttered home, piles of clothes, rotting leftovers, (sinks full of dishes, if she’s anything like me) as she uses healthy, homemade cleaning products (baking soda, vinegar, and lavender oil) and gets dressed up in a fun, feminine costume, turning on the tunes and considering it a workout. 

I enjoyed Kittyn’s post immensely and it has provoked a lot of self-reflection. I find it a wise revelation in many ways. First, one must value herself before she can expect to be valued by a man (or partner). And second, it echos the sentiment of of homemaking in general. When we “nest,” or “home-make,” or “play house,” we are creating a pleasant environment for our loved ones (spouse, children, family) and for our selves to live happily and stress free in a hectic world.

10 Tips for a “Smart Marriage”

Image via TImes.com PhotosImage of Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward via Time.com Photos

Marriage came suddenly and surprisingly into my life. My parents were separated and divorced shortly after I was born and I was always  very skeptical about the institution despite seeing many successful marriages in my friends’ families.

I never, ever dreamt about my ideal wedding! 

Then I met my husband and tied the knot! And, you know what? I love being married! It is an amazing and rewarding experience. I think part of what makes it so great is that I inherently knew that marriages are hard work and avoided developing misconceptions or undue expectations about what it should be like. 

I always pity people who have bad relationships and I truly wonder why some people get together. I have many pet peeves about the way other couples treat each other. I watch my friends get caught up in the fireworks of love and get sad when it fizzles. 

I feel that I have a very healthy marriage and I often wish there was some way I could teach others how to have a happy and perfect partnership. And by perfect, I mean perfectly imperfect. I think people set themselves up for failure when they assume that their marriage won’t have its ups and its downs!

Because these things have been on my mind so much lately, I’ve decided to reprint an article about helpful marriage tips:

Ten Tips for having a Smart Marriage@ from the Smart Marriages Conferences: 

1. Marriage matters. Married people & their kids do better on all measures of health, wealth, happiness, & success. And, married folks report having more & better sex than single or divorced people. 

2. It’s not the differences but how we handle them that separate successful marriages from the failures. Disagreeing doesn’t predict divorce. Stonewalling, avoidance, contempt, criticism, and the silent treatment predict divorce. Learn how to disagree in ways that help you fall more in love. 

3. All happily married couples have approximately ten irreconcilable differences – ten issues they will never resolve. If we switch partners, we just get ten new issues that are likely to be even more annoying and complicated. Sadly, if there are children from an earlier marriage or relationship, disagreements about them go to the top of the list. What’s important is to discuss our own set of issues just as we would discuss how to manage living with a chronic bad back or trick knee. We wish they weren’t there, but what’s important is to keep talking about how to manage them and still do the marriage “dance”. 

4. Love is not an absolute (a yes or no situation) and it’s not limited substance. It’s a feeling and feelings ebb and flow depending on how we treat each other. We can learn new ways to interact and the feelings “of being in love” can come flowing back, often stronger than before.

5. Marital satisfaction often dips with the birth of a baby. That’s normal. Marital satisfaction is at its lowest when there are kids in the house between 11 and 16. That’s normal. We need to know what to expect, appreciate our parenting partner – and hang in. It makes good sense to stay married for the sake of the kids – and for our own sake. Even with the challenges, it’s a lot easier to be a parenting team than to be a single, divorced, or remarried parent. Plus there is a silver lining: satisfaction goes back up with the empty nest. The final stage of marriage – with a job well done – is the real honeymoon period. 

6. Sex ebbs and flows. It comes and goes. That’s normal. Plan for & make time for more “flows”. 

7. Creating good marital sex is not about putting the sizzle BACK INTO your sex life. Early marital sex is sex between strangers – we don’t yet know our partner or ourselves. The most passionate sex is intimate sex based on knowing our partner and letting them know us. One of the most important tasks of marriage is to develop a satisfying marital sex style. It’s not about going BACK; it’s about going FORWARD, together.

8. Repair attempts are crucial and are highly predictive of marital happiness. They can be clumsy or funny, even sarcastic, but the willingness to make up after an argument, is central to every happy marriage.

9. Learn to welcome, embrace and integrate change
 – to discuss and update your wishes, hopes & dreams – on a regular basis. We often “interview” each other before marriage and then think “that’s it.” The marriage vow is a promise to stay married, not to stay the same. (Thank goodness!) Keep up-to-date with changes in your partner. Don’t fear changes, celebrate them! 

10. Try several different marriage education courses.
 Become informed consumers – rate the courses, discuss what you liked best – which ideas were most helpful. Decide which courses to recommend to your kids, friends and family – which to give as wedding, anniversary and new baby gifts. The courses don’t tell you what kind of marriage to have. That’s up to you. They give you the tools – the hammers, screwdrivers, and levels – so you can build the kind of marriage that suits you, one which can help you to negotiate, and renegotiate, your own values, meaning, and goals.
Find a class at www.smartmarriages.com Strengthen your own marriage and/or learn how to become a Marriage Educator and teach the courses in your community.

Diane Sollee, founder director, www.SmartMarriages.com®
Copyright® CMFCE