Neither Betty Crocker nor Draper
On my unambiguous quest to be the Perfect Housewife
Felix, against his better judgment, has started to get interested in books. You wouldn’t guess it by looking at him, but I think he’s quite intelligent. He listens to everything we say.
Having just turned one, he’s in that wild stage when the entire world is both extremely enticing and extremely dangerous to him. He yearns to hurl himself off of staircases and furniture. He puts everything he finds in his mouth first, to test it, to explore it. He fights you, tooth and nail, whenever you try to put him in a clean diaper. He loves trust-falls and will lately lurch forward, arms askew, believing someone (or something) will stop his fall. He would sail the seven seas if we let him.
Moses, for his part, continues to live like a high-strung thoroughbred: sensitive to the slightest breeze, emotional, inquisitive, eager for companionship, beautiful, charming, capable of world-ending tantrums if he senses the slightest misstep.
He spends about 80% of his day being read to by our lovely summer nanny (she is extremely patient, and also strong, as she pushes the boys, and about 50 library books, up and down the hot summer streets all day). He continues to develop a capacious vocabulary, which he uses to spin strange, horror-adjacent stories. The other day he told me, apropos of nothing, “Mommy, in the morning, I must sterilize your bones.” He’s also decided that he is going to be a paramedic—not a doctor, definitely not an EMT—after a very inspiring book about monsters who drive ambulances.
For my part, I am reinvigorated in my quest to be The Perfect Housewife. It’s a fun game that I play (and am very bad at), as I like picking and choosing what parts of that I want to role-play. I love working, for instance, at a job, with brilliant colleagues, at a desk. Thanks to Guion, I also elect to never cook. (The other night I “made” spaghetti and Moses “helped,” which meant that we barely had anything to eat at all.) But I do really like wearing aprons, doing laundry, vacuuming, gardening, and writing thank-you notes and sealing them with my ever-expanding collection of washi tape.
On this Perfect Housewife business, I am thinking about getting into:
Sewing. Maybe. Such a hard “maybe.” I feel like I should know more about it and be just decent enough at it to hem and repair things. I kind of want a sewing machine. I stitched up a hole in our duvet and it took me forever and looked horrible. This made my inner housewife feel deeply ashamed. But I am also fantastically lazy, and the friends I know who are really talented at sewing (see: Tara) are super-patient, attentive human beings. I’m not sure I have the right spiritual makeup to be good at sewing, in other words. I’m very much on the fence.
Tea. I love tea and drink it all day long, but should I get really into it? Also not sure. See: aforementioned laziness. I do want to know a lot more about it, though: the history of tea, the proper ways to serve and drink it, the numerous varieties and their tastes and benefits, and thus develop a finer palate. Don’t worry; I’ve already put a few books about the history of tea on hold at the library. I will report back.
When my children are older, I look forward to other housewifely pursuits, such as reading novels again, hosting cocktail parties, and having an effete dog (a standard poodle, a silken windhound!) to whom I continually slip cold-cuts under the table.
You think I’m joking, that I’m making light of homemaking, but I’m not. I’m dead serious about all of this stuff. For all of my second-wave feminism, I find the business of keeping a house to be extremely real and extremely life-giving. I lament that it has become something that sounds trivial, that we make fun of women who care about having tidy homes or functional laundry rooms or beautiful meals. It is very real work, and I am devoted to finding joy in it. I will probably write an essay about this later.
Meanwhile Guion—who is the actual perfect housewife, because he can actually do things, whereas I just read about them—remains charming and affable. He grows prodigious quantities of mushrooms at home and sings to the children while he makes all of our meals. He might be Mary Poppins; he might be the next Merlin Sheldrake; who’s to say?