Monday, September 25, 2006

Mom - Her Very Own Last Priority

All three of the kids are asleep by 8:30 p.m. Not bad. How shall I fritter away my child-free evening?

a) Endlessly grinding pine nuts for a long-promised batch of pesto from our neglected, untamed basil patch.
b) Dutifully ironing (As if I actually iron .... Do we own an iron?) and folding a twice fluffed, twice ignored crinkled heap of school uniform laundry.
c) Chiseling the hardened taco meat grease spattered oven and sour cream smeared kitchen chairs. (Damn taco night. So tasty but such a bitch to clean up.)
d) Exclaim, "Screw it!" and gleefully blow off all my viscid nightly chores and indulge in a little mindless TV zoning. (At the moment, NBC's new Heroes show. Not a keeper.)

Hmm... Tough choice. I'll take option "d". Screw chores tonight. Screw lunch packing and all the rest. Everything can wait until morning, when finger-licking children will laminate my kitchen table in Candadian maple syrup and apple juice.

Except there's something sticky already coming over me. An inconvenient, aggravating feeling setting in. Something holding me back from my abandoned chore contentment.


What good mom would blow off oiling the wheels that keep her family in motion just take care of herself? Oh, snap. You're looking at 'er. Domestic Slackstress herself. I admit it. I take care of myself all the time. Probably too much. Can you take care off yourself too much? Can you love your children too much? Can you love yourself too much?

You know what I'm talking about ladies. Guilt is no stranger to mothers. Do any of you ever take a break from the endless care of house, home and husband to take care of yourselves, perhaps by doing absolutely nothing at all like me tonight?

Go ahead. Blow off your chores and RELAX, mama! Perhaps by simply deepening your butt impression on the couch, without building a fortress of folded laundry stacks all around your tired self? Perhaps by sneaking off to the yoga studio to relax while self-consciously trying to shield your cracked, calloused flip-flop feet in bound angle pose? Maybe that last one is just me.

Moments ago (while smuggly shirking chores) I read about infamous mother guilt in a Bitch (feminist response to pop culture) article titled "The Shame Game - Marketing the Guilty Pleasure" by Jessica Jernigan. While I kick off my severely abridged chore list from the slouching comfort of my over poofed couch, take a chore-free moment to chew on Jernigan's ideas about maternal guilt, evil guilt:

"Eloise's guilt is predicated upon the idea that a woman's pleasure should always be her very last priority." This quote refers to a video blogger on ABC's Desperate Housewives web site feature that highlights the lives of real-life desperate housewives.

Without knowing much about poor desperate vlogger Eloise or the show, I relate to the unfortunate, outdated notion that we mothers and housewives are selfish if we demand the time to care for ourselves when we have a house/apartment, kids and a husband/partner to care for and clean up after.

How dare we value ourselves and our precious sanity! Excuse me, but don't we have to be happy and healthy first in order to raise happy and healthy children? How can we possibly nurture our young from a well that's perpetually dry?

I didn't mean to leave single moms out. Not at all. I can't imagine how much harder it must be for them to schedule me-time. I babysit for my single mom friends as often as I can. Often we're lucky enough to go out on the town together while my husband cares for my kids and theirs.

Bitch writer Jernigan goes on to say, "And if a woman's work is never done, a woman's pleasure will be eternally deferred. Thus, in order to take pleasure, a woman must transgress the rules that keep her endlessly working. Self-care -- in the form of relaxation, recreation, downtime -- becomes selfishness."

Jernigan takes her stance on maternal self-care much, much further than my basic suggestion that mothers take care of themselves first and foremost by concluding her article with this:

"Guilty pleasure is fleeting and, ultimately, counter-productive. A closer look at the lives of real desperate housewives -- of real American women generally -- might reveal that they don't need a spa day so much as they need things like subsidized childcare, rewarding jobs for themselves and their husbands that don't preclude family life, and schedules that allow for a little personal time and adult socializing. They need a society in which the pursuit of pleasure -- of joyful self-expression and honest self-actualization -- is nothing to feel guilty about."


At 5:34 AM, Blogger Busy Mom said...

Wow, I may have to take a look at that book!

Sadly though, it's gotten to where my guilty pleasure is folding laundr while watching something other than the Disney Channel on TV.

At 7:29 AM, Blogger Domestic Slackstress said...

Let it wrinkle sometimes, sister! Besides, isn't the disheveled look "in"?

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Kristen said...

Everything feels more relaxing if you do it while drinking wine, including folding laundry. I know this because apparently I'm a lush.

At 7:05 PM, Anonymous lily said...

Hi Kim, Hope you can really kick your feet up sometime & say the heck with everything after a long day with the kids but not without guilt. When they're grown up, you'll get to do that alot & it's great too. But all your sacrifice & tiredness will payoff when you see how good they turn out just like you. Look how proud you make us! Good work! Love, your maman

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Busy Mom said...

I neglected to mention the fact that I fold when it gets to the point that the 4 year old notices we are way in tune with the "disheveled" look.

At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Kate said...

You need to know that neglecting the housework is good for your entire family's health.

But really, one clean room is all you need to hide in so you don't lose your mind.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Dena said...

It's hard to not feel guilty when you have 50 markers scattered between the living room & kitchen & laundry all over the couch. I want to relax & try real hard but in the back of my mind I'm worrying about what it will look like if someone comes to the door!
So, how can we block out the nagging feeling of unfinished business when there are reminders that we have to step over all around the house? Tough one!

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