On Housewifery and Muscles

Hi. I don’t have an official job right now. Somebody in an email recently asked if I was still a “housewife extraordinaire,” which kind of sucked.  So here’s my add-on to the entire stay-at-home girlfriend conversation. Never say never. And, if you’re avidly looking for a job (sending out resumes, etc.) are you really stay-at-home, or just at-home? Because as somebody at-home, it felt kind of shitty to read opinions by women with awesome jobs (jobs I lust after), telling me that I was being an idiot for not working while my partner works.

The deal: I had a job that was the academic version of catering.

My dude got an amazing job, so amazing that it made my paycheck look tiny (it was always tiny, but now tiny wasn’t half our expenses as much as a drop in a big money bucket). Like it made my paycheck look like I was doing my job because it was fun. And it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t even as much fun as catering.

And my job sucked so hard. There was no chance of promotion, and I’m pretty sure adjuncting  was actually hurting my long-term earning potential, and since universities are falling apart and tenure is a ghost of Christmas past, I’m betting my crap job will be there for me if I need it again, or at least something else crappy like it. Seriously, catering is the world’s second oldest profession.

So I quit.

And here’s my guide to survival.

  1. Wake up after your partner goes to work. That way, when you wake up, the house is all yours and you feel like you live alone. You don’t have to start the day with conversation. You can approach your day in a mindset that only serves you. Really, this is a huge luxury, and increases overall productivity by a billion pounds of productivity.
  2. Don’t clean the house unless you want to procrastinate.
  3. Whatever domestic science existed in the house before your stay-at-homedom shall continue. There is no reason to spend more energy on things that you were both comfortable with beforehand. Meaning there are still long stretches between bathtub cleanings, etc.
  4. Feel no guilt about undone dishes, unless you haven’t cleaned the kitchen in about two years.
  5. Do take on the errands that only you can do because of your flexible schedule (like go to the DMV), not because you’re a girl or at home, but because you’re a decent human being.
  6. If you’re feeling generous, make generous offers (like, don’t worry about dinner, I’ll cook! or, hey, don’t worry about that thing we had made plans for if you’re tired), but recognize that generosity is not a part of daily living (if it is for you, awesome!), and expected generosity becomes demanded taking.
  7. It’s stressful to work, and it’s stressful to be un or underemployed, so both parties are doing heavy lifting.
  8. Don’t feel bad about being pissed off if partner comes home early and disrupts your sense of time. If you showed up at his or her workplace s/he wouldn’t have as much headspace available for you, either.
  9. Sex is harder when one person in a relationship is tired but satisfied, and the other person is wound-up but unsatisfied with their daily output.  Conversation can be harder, too.

And, then there are the things you can’t say out loud:

  1. It’s awesome to work on my own schedule and develop projects that I find REALLY exciting! It’s like I won a writing fellowship from myself, though unfortunately one that won’t make my CV sparkle.
  2. Financial security is astounding! I’ve never had it as an adult, and now I can do things like donate $5 to the Awl trip to Wisconsin and not freak-out about whether or not that $5 should really go to my credit debt first.
  3. I always thought I would be the one to rake in the big bucks.  When we married, the conversation we had was that I was the one who wanted a standard career. We assumed I would be the one to land us health insurance. But it didn’t work out that way, yet.
  4. People would approve more of what I was doing if I had a baby. CV gap explained, maternity wiping my slate clean, parents relieved that I was doing something.
  5. Some people are relieved that I’m not working.  They are relieved to see me on my man’s dime, especially since I am always spouting off about feminist things.
  6. I sometimes don’t know what day of the week it is, and say things like “do people who work have today off?”
  7. Every time I don’t get a job I applied for, I feel like I have all this use that is not being used.
  8. I’m really jealous of my partner, and it’s not because I am bored at home. It’s because he has his dream job, hell, my dream job, and he gets externally validated all day long.  It’s hard to watch somebody else eat the exact meal you’ve been craving.
  9. I am afraid of being relegated to the role of wife. As in, the funny wife who can say smart things and charm when necessary, but nobody ever considers her for a job.
  10. I take an exercise class that is me and a bunch of rich wives at 12:30 in the afternoon. The good part? I have muscles now, and they are serious. The bad part? I got ashamed of my 1998 Corolla, and nobody puts Rolla in a corner.
  11. This is a lucky, if complicated, place to be.
  12. “I need to keep working my crappy job in case I find out you gave me your mistress’ syphilis one day” is not the easiest of sentences.  Safeguarding against divorce is really scary, and I get it, necessary, but again, I am not burning my life away right now by being at home. I’m not stupid, I’m not getting stupider, and the idea of keeping my crap job for fear of divorce feels like the 10 o’clock news telling me how my belt is the most dangerous part of my day. Hopefully all spouses know their shit, and knows their finances in case of a divorce.
  13. I’m not satisfied, but do feel like I have an actual chance (my lottery ticket, arriving from my partner’s lottery win) to make satisfaction (and it ain’t found in the home, the home is just where our stuff is, it’s where I take baths and pee.). My domestic place right now, at-home, might be the best shot I have at actually developing a career with financial potential, with retirement, with anti-soul-killing properties.  It might not work, but I wasn’t going to get it at all with what I was doing before.  And, I’m trying to use the opportunity to its fullest, to live that rare dream: to be like a non-guilty creative person with a full bank account. Pretty much, to live like all the people I have hated and been jealous of and discounted for every year besides this one.

Yours,

CF

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