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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Guilt and the Working Mother - The Secret Weapon of the Housewife

Before I was lucky enough to be able to stay home and pursue my new career of Retro Housewife, I was what we call a "Working Mother". Meaning I got into my car every morning and drove off to some office somewhere, and periodically, somebody not my husband would deposit money into my checking account, and I would spend evenings and week-ends frantically trying to cram in a weeks worth of mothering.

One of the biggest perks of housewifedom is being able to do the little things for my family that fell by the wayside when I was part of the rat race. Another unexpected perk is the sudden absolute superiority you have over the career woman/mother, which can come in handy in situations when the social pecking order is being established.

I was forced to use this new power on a ghost of my former self while building a fake hedge with the rest of the ladies on the school dance committee. I happened to strike up a conversation with a Mom I had never seen before at any of the meetings, and after we had gotten through the usual formalities concerning the proper way of arranging tree cuttings when building a fake hedge, we got down to some serious pecking and one-upping.

Men have their cars, women, their kids. It really doesn't matter what else a woman does in life, somewhere deep down inside, she will judge herself by how good of a mother she is. Even the thin, rich and beautiful woman becomes pathetic if she fails the motherhood test. (Notice I chose "thin, rich and beautiful" as the standard to envy and not "accomplished career", because that isn't even in the running...or how many girls have you ever heard say "I want to be just like Janet Reno when I grow up." Instead, we think "well at least she got to be attorney general".)

So if you find yourself in such a competition, and want to spare yourself some aggravation, it helps to quickly assess the worthiness of your opponent. If she is June Cleaver, then unless you are June Cleaver's mother, your only options are to quickly admit defeat and flatter her shamelessly until she invites you to join her cooking club, or suddenly spot a seriously neglected part of the hedge on the other side of the room and make like Snagglepuss.

My opponent on this particular day thought she had the upper hand as she casually related her numerous professional achievements to me while stuffing leafy branches into the holes in the chicken wire. I could tell she was quite impressed with herself, and had she not given me that polite but ever so slightly condescending smile when I told her I was a housewife, I would have spared her. It was a little too easy, like taking candy from a baby, and I knew I would feel a bit guilty afterward, but away I pecked.

It didn't take much; my first strike was to ask her, my voice full of amazement, how she "handled all that" (translation: you must neglect your children). Then I got lucky! I just happened to mention that I had taken my daughter to have her hair done for the dance that evening, and how hard it was to get an appointment because all the other girls were going to this particular salon as well.

There it was, the coup de grace.

The capable career woman turned to mush before my eyes. Her daughter had not had her hair done. Guilt oozed out of every pore as she desperately tried to explain to me why she had neglected to take her daughter to the salon. It was too hard to watch, and I did my best to ease her conscience.

It didn't seem to work though, because as I was leaving (after I had put the finishing touches on my part of the hedge), I overheard her frantically trying to explain to a group of three or four puzzled looking ladies, why her daughter had not had a hair appointment.

Use your power responsibly.



Jessie said...

Nicely done. When I mention that Im a housewife, they all dumb down and talk to me like Im little and stupid. "Oh that must be a blessing, dont you want to feel like youre contributing though?"

"Oh I do contribute, my children are well taken care of and not by strangers, my husband is fed and happy after working because the house is nice and clean, and I have time to enjoy my hobbies while sustaining a healthy and strong marriage."

Theyll usually go on about car payments on their Lexus, and I just say "Our car works just fine for being 11 years old, so we havent seen any need to have to work our butts off to make payments on some new car."


Anonymous said...

tee hee hee. stop it.

finance girl said...

great story!

Anonymous said...

That's about the nastiest thing I've ever read. Why do women have to be so hateful towards one a nother?

Retro Housewife said...

Well, it just comes naturally. That's the way we determine the pecking order, and who gets the best mate.