Housewife from Hell

By Sharon Perpignani

I love my kids to death, but motherhood has undone me. Golden handcuffs is much too polite a description of this state of the union - gentrified slavery would be more like it. Hey, send me back to the factories or the sweat shop, at least there I got to punch out at the end of the day.

I've fallen out of my dirty little closet - now meet the Housewife from Hell. Oops, the h-word isn't PC, but since I have no husband, I am indeed married to this house. If not 'til death do us part, then until the kids are grown, or one of us feels our needs aren't being met. Thank G-d I haven't put the place through med school.

I'm sick to death of the women who care for kids and keep the homefires burning being blamed for doing it so poorly. I'm tired of us having to do it alone, and get jobs, too, and hold entire neighborhoods, school districts and religious communities together, practically singlehandedly. I've had it with living in fear that if I discipline my kids in the way I think appropriate I may wind up in jail. On the other hand, if I don't do a good job and the munchkins go bad, golly, there's talk about moms being thrown in jail for that, too. Fine, I could use a-rrest.

It's no longer cute and funny - a-la-Erma-B. - that the stay-at-home moms I know feel guilty because we're not modeling strong, career women for our daughters, while the "working" moms feel guilty because they're not at home with theirs. It's sick and it's tragic, and it's at least as important as who won the superbowl or boinked the royals last week.

My day starts early, often before I've opened my eyes, with someone who needs something from me and needs it now. If all goes well (hah!) it ends around 9 p.m., and it starts up again the next day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, with no time off for good behavior. And no raises and no promotions and my little bosses are way more demanding than anyone in the work world could ever get away with. And, oh yeah, I can't quit. For twenty years.

You might see me in the store yelling at my kids or giving them "that look" or even (G-d forbid!) spanking them right there. You are so convinced that I'm one of those evil ones, the child abusers. Well, I guess you're right, because I will spank my children before I'll see them grow from greedy, selfish, hedonistic brats to greedy, selfish, hedonistic adults. (Gee, sounds like a recipe for politicians and CEOs doesn't it?) I've read all the damn nicey-nice child-rearing books. Ever known any shrink's kids? 'Nuff said. I finally stopped reading and decided to be in charge of my house.

I used to be such a fantastic parent, back before my kids were born. Like the Bud-sodden armchair quarterback, I couldn't understand why those other idiots didn't do things my way. It was so easy to see that a cranky child needs love, fighting siblings need a gentle word. But what wasn't so easy to see was that the cranky child had worn down the defenses of the exhausted adult, that the fighting siblings were experts at terrorizing the beleaguered parent. It's not pretty here on the front lines.

Now this arrogance has been institutionalized. There is an absolute inability - make that unwillingness - to see that parents have limits. You know, if you take a Mercedes Benz and drive it to death in the city, and don't change the oil and don't tune the engine and don't take good care of it, it's going to fall apart. And, folks, I ain't no Mercedes. I have been driven into the ground, and I call it indentured servitude of the American kind.

So, aside from being disgusted with politicians, corporations, the media and the horse they rode in on, too, I feel disgusted every time I hear progressives talk about the "workers or working people. We know this doesn't mean us. We know this means paid employees. We know you have no more to offer us than the Republicrats or Demicans. We know your successes aren't going to trickle down to us, because at best you don't know us and at worst you just plain don't like us.

To paraphrase Sojourner Truth (however badly), ain't I a worker? Don't I do what so many people don't want to do, just like the immigrants we hate - and-need so much? Don't I cook and clean and shop and schlep and guide and nurture and haven't I given up all my free time for a worthy cause? Don't I endure "backbreaking" stress: endless work, constant interruptions, frequent crises, start, stop, start, stop, wait, wait, wait. Work on the house, work for the school, deal with the kids, meet with the neighborhood. And, yeah, feel guilty because I don't have a job. A real job. An important job. A paying job.

Forgive me, I'm in the throes of bon-bon withdrawal.

By G-d, I'm getting some time off this year. If I have to rob a local convenience store in a freaking ski mask, these kids are going to overnight camp. And when that's over, I think I'll take 'em on up to City Hall and hold the world's first "mayhem-in." Yeah, get a few friends together and just let the animals loose. Make sure they're real hungry and overtired first. See how much work they get done. Now, that'll be some movement.

But I'll tell you what. You just better watch out. 'Cause if all of us enslaved mothers ever do get free, it'll be the bitch heard 'round the world.

Sharon Perpignani is a housewife from Somerville, Mass.

Home Page

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 1997 The Progressive Populist