Saturday, April 22, 2006

the making of a drunken housewife

I never set out to be a housewife, drunken or otherwise. I have always been a feminist, fairly militant (one of my more submissive friends live-in boyfriend once forbade her to hang around me after I discovered that he did no cooking or housework). In my youth, I was insanely ambitious. I went to Stanford for law school and worked as an attorney for some time. People used to ask me if I wanted to have kids, and I said, "I want to make partner, not parent."

As an urban, foulmouthed, hard-working professional, I hated babies. Really loathed them. When people asked me if I wanted to hold their baby, I'd say, "No, thank you" and try not to grimace. Those sticky, gross little hands, shudder.

So right around the time I filed for divorce from my first husband, I gave my phone number to someone who turned out to be obsessed with kids. On our first date, he asked me if I wanted to have children. The next morning, he said to me with inordinate seriousness, "You are perfect for me for the short haul and the the medium haul, but not for the long haul, because I've got to have kids." At the time, I freaked out at this intensity and wondered if he was going to be a stalker. But as the years went on, he grew on me, and all his pressure paid off.

When we got married, we agreed to try for a baby. I didn't expect to stay home with the child. I set myself the goals of breastfeeding for one year and staying home with the baby for that first year. Always an overachiever, six and a half years later I'm still taking care of the children (but not still breastfeeding; thankfully, they have weaned themselves). So now I bring my unique blend of overachieving intensity and laziness to the field of mothering.

My biggest personal problem is a bourgeois one: I get so sick of not being taken seriously by people as a stay-at-home parent. When I was an attorney, people treated me with respect (and sometimes a bit of fear, maybe a touch of loathing, often a sprinkling of lust). Now if people meet me, they aren't interested in talking to me after they've categorized me as "just" a mother. Sometimes I say something, and someone's ears will perk up and the question will follow: "What did you do before you had kids?" Feh.

I'm happiest hanging out with other overeducated stay-at-home parents, who understand my angst at not being in the workplace but my absolute commitment and joy in my children.

When my first was just about to turn one year old, I looked at her perfect face and could not bear to put her in daycare. My husband was thrilled when I told him that (he has a bit of chauvinist in him, and it's an ego booster for him to have a traditional family). I hate the whole working-mothers-vs.-stay-at-home-parents conflict (where are the fathers in that fight? I'm for more stay-at-home-dads). But my personal viewpoint was that I don't want to put my child in daycare until she can tell me, articulately, what happened during her day. That has ended up, in our case, meaning a bit of preschool, but no real daycare before kindergarten.

So where does the drunkenness come in? The other day I was hanging out with another stay-at-home mom friend, an accomplished writer, and we were jonesing for a cocktail. "It's Mother's Little Helper," we told the waitron. You spend the day with little children, and the crying will drive you to drink. All that crying, my god, it can eat away at your soul and shred your last nerve. I used to have a glass of wine every day when "Arthur" came on in the afternoon; pack the children off for a refreshing half hour of PBS and pour myself a glass of Two Buck Chuck, and we could all take a deep breath and continue on.


Anonymous said...

Dear Drunken Housewife,

May I recommend to you an Australian book entitled 'Motherhood, How Should We Care For Our Children?' written by Anne Manne, published by Allen & Unwin.
I feel sure your American 'Amazon' system will be able to provide it for you. It is very well researched and heart felt.
With high esteem,
Housewife in search of a career.

Anonymous said...

Dear Drunken Housewife,

It's very uncouth to drink during the day. It's smelly and it will make you fat. I say this not to be cruel but to be helpful.

I recommend calling Dr. Feelgood (don't worry if you're white and reasonably articulate you'll have a Dr. Feelgood accessible to you) and get a prescription for Xanax. There's also no need to work out or feel guilty about it.

You can take your Xanax and wobble your way into Dr. SuckTheFatOut's office and have anything you want taken care of.

Should you decide to take this advice I wish you well.

Should you decline my loving words I can only offer you this, "Cheers" *the sound of glasses clinking* and, "the next round's on me."

With great admiration,

Richard said...

Dear Drunken Housewife,

I was a stay at home Dad... talk about not being taken seriously... blech! However, I took what my children read very seriously, and had an idea.

You might be interested in my struggling new web site: It is designed to help parents find the best new or old children's books quickly. Over time I want the site will bring attention to really worthwhile older books, and maybe even bring some back into print (even if ValuedMinds Inc. has to set that up).

With a few helpers, I review and rank children's books for Story quality, writer’s Craft, and how they introduce young readers to Ideas about morality, sense of life, mankind and the world. I spent many weeks working out the ranking system, so that it could be consistently applied to books in both Fiction and Discovery (a.k.a. non-Fiction —I dislike categorizing things by negatives).

The About Us, Literary Approach and Articles explain the above in greater detail.

I think parents will find my reviews, especially of some titles, to be extraordinarily penetrating compared to anything on the Internet (or elsewhere for that matter). I have tried to include as many top titles as I could obtain, so you might be able to find a review of one you know... perhaps Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.* If you have a title that you think fits the standards of the site, please e-mail us in the manner suggested on the Contact Us page.

Of course, any way I can get parents to visit and consider my site is a value. I am hoping you will take a serious look, include a ValuedMinds link on your site, and perhaps even blog about it.

*type "giving tree" into the search line, choose "Title" from the drop down box and click "Search".

Anonymous said...

Dear drunken housewife:
I think I love you! I'm also a drunken housewife (drunk at this very minute) living in the Deep South, possessing a Ph.d. and a mind, God forbid, and wondering what the hell to do with myself every day while the kids are at school. I've written a lot of bad novels so far. What do you DO with yourself? Are you familiar with the Russian notion of the "lyshnii Chelovek" -- read Eugene Onegin. That's who I am. I'm the Russian aristocracy only I have no land . . . .

Anonymous said...

Hello Dear Lady- I am also like you, but tend to save my booze for the evening when the children are in bed. Mt Doctor thinks I am mad and wants to send me to Alchoholics Anonymous just because I drink a bottle of wine every night.
I spend my free time trying to remember who I am and posting troubled pictures and models on my Myspace page.
All the very best to you, you are an inspiration!
Mrs Floweryapron,

Anonymous said...

I'm a college educated stay at home mom. Love my child fiercely and yes, I'm getting drunk as I write this right now! (dear daughter is at school). I'll be able to drive safely by school pick-up time, but the drink sure helps get me through the day of loneliness and housework (or feeling guilty for not getting the house spotless and cooking a great meal). Actually, I'm a natural and happy loner, but I did enjoy SOME social contact as an employed worker pre-baby days. I'm also stressed out about the social activities I increasingly feel pressured to take on as my daughter grows - her clubs (Girl Scouts, 4-H, etc.) Not comfortable with the "kid stuff", etc. Don't want my daughter to grow up too fast, but I think I might just "get a life" of my own choosing once again when she's grown. So glad I have her though and she'll be a great daughter/friend when she's adult and I'm old! Until then, the wine helps me get through. I read a lot too and get outside. What a life, not too bad all in all! But glad to know that others also imbibe to get through!

Anonymous said...

What I can't understand is why you are all so confused about what to do with your free time during the day. There are so many non-profits in need of volunteers and board members out there in your communities. Go help them or someone else instead of sitting home getting drunk wondering what should you do?
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE a good drink and have been known to drink too many but it sounds like you are drinking because there is "nothing else to do" when there is actually lot's of things you can do. You just have to care about something other than yourselves, and your children, of course. Good Luck.

patty said...

As a stay at home mother of three and working on a thesis (I mention this because I see the work DH puts in to her blog) I will tell you I do not break open a bottle because there is nothing better to do. Though I wait to have my glass until the evening, I have on occasion gone for that glass much earlier. It is far less addictive and the effects wear off far quicker than some prescription. So I raise a glass to you DH, we are a rare breed caught between idealogues on each end.

the Drunken Housewife said...

I like you too, Jola!

Cat said...

I like you, too, Drunken Housewife!

not a housewife, not a mother, but a freestylin' somewhat rich booze appreciater possessing that very familiar sounding unique blend of overachieving intensity and laziness, too! :)
Volunteer my behind! (Well, today at least.)