It’s Sunday, and I’m doing what seems to be my normal Sunday routine now, doing what only can be described as the duties of a homemaker: doing the laundry, changing the sheets on the bed, making muffins, preparing for dinner, setting the table, doing dishes, cleaning the kitchen, and ironing the collection of shirts that have piled up in the front hall closet. I’m home alone, it’s gray and cloudy outside, and these simple tasks associated with keeping a home feel oddly soothing.
Thirty years ago, I would have bristled if anyone had called me a homemaker or a housewife. I had worked hard to compete for my job at IBM and my new management position. Women were battling against a glass ceiling and I felt any reference to a role other than my corporate career was in some way a put down or insult.
It didn’t mean that I didn’t do any of the things traditionally associated with being a homemaker. I shopped and cooked and did laundry and ironed for our family of five. I was happy my mom had taught me how to sew and I regularly made curtains or pillows or Halloween costumes, and I hemmed more than my share of pants over the years.
I just didn’t talk about those tasks publicly, not wanting them to define me.
But I’m older, hopefully wiser, and I no longer feel the same way. I no longer worry that the other roles in my life – partner, mother, homemaker – will in any way diminish the success I’ve achieved in my career(s).
Actually, at this point in my life, I relish the idea of being a renaissance woman of sorts. People seem surprised that I have a wide array of interests and talents in areas they might not have guessed I would. Contrary to how I felt at thirty, I now take pride in my “domestic goddess” skills as much as I do my business skills.
But it’s more than just confidence and the inevitable self-esteem that comes with age and experience. After losing my husband, I spent a couple of years doing all of these tasks just for myself. And the reality, at least for me, is that it’s just not as pleasant taking on these chores for myself as it is doing them for someone who is important to me.
So today I’ll iron – both my own clothes and his shirts. I’ll prepare dinner – something I want but something I hope pleases him too. I’ll sweep up the dog hair – because it starts to bother me after a while but also because I know he’s sensitive to it. I’ll set the table – because we enjoy the ritual of sitting down to dinner together. I’ll do these things and more around the house today, and as I work, I’ll hold on to the gratitude that I have someone to do them for other than just myself.