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.
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