What's for Dinner?
I’ve been on a bit of a spiritual, self actualization journey the last few months- like, I started Googling yoga classes in my area, have been talking about the universe like an old friend and find myself wanting to buy a gaggle of healing crystals. So much of a journey, in fact, that every interaction or occurrence in my life has started to feel like it could hold a little extra significance. A benign comment could transform into a revolutionary idea. A serendipitous coincidence? Must be the result of some positive manifestation.
As I was cooking dinner tonight, I realized the amount of hours in a day that I spend on solely traditionally wife like duties was disproportionately high in relation to how I spend the rest of my time. In my household, my labor accounts for roughly 95% (scientifically* rendered, of course) of the total household labor and a disproportionate amount of the financial labor as well. I am responsible for every single cleaning task imaginable in a household of two, save for the taking out of the trashcans and the occasional load of laundry (usually when my husband needs something specific washed in a specific time frame). I am the only one who cooks, except for the infrequent BBQing that’s just begun now that the temperatures have warmed. When a plate is served, it’s me who cleans it, and puts it away. When the dog’s registration is due, a doctor's appointment needs to be made, or there’s a trip to be planned, I know it’s mine to take care of. I suppose this is natural in a society that peddles toy vacuums and kitchen sets to little girls, and later, requires us to do it all with a smile on our faces. In any case, while none of this was necessarily news to me, there was a newfound weight to this realization that was kind of jarring.
Aside from gender norms being kind of ridiculous, there’s also the inconvenient fact that women comprise more of the workforce now than ever before. In 1950, women comprised less than 30% of the workforce, compared to 47% of the workforce as of 2015. Perhaps women were (ridiculously) expected to singularly keep a home in 1950, and now more of them are spending their time working-- but somehow, the societal expectation of female labor in the household has not evolved as quickly. Now we’re somehow expected to do both.
Which is not to say that this is all men’s fault, or that they’re the bad guy here- it’s simply to say, as a society, we haven’t really questioned this whole household labor thing enough, me thinks. Part of my dedication to domestic duty is self imposed- if I'm being honest with myself, it's a whole lot of it, actually. My husband is a proud feminist, and has never demanded I do a single solitary dish or mop a dirty floor. For reasons I was less aware of prior to tonight, I just always did it.
As I chopped and boiled and baked and sauteed this evening, after washing and feeding and tidying and decluttering, my husband was at his rented practice studio writing a new song for his band. While I’ve lamented my lack of creative outlets lately, I always seem to find ways to avoid opening up the old laptop and putting the proverbial pen to paper. And here I am with this golden opportunity, home alone and done with work for the day, and what do I choose to with that time? Clean some shit, and start making an elaborate dinner.
When dinner was just about ready, I texted my husband to ask him when he’d be home, and the banality of the message annoyed even me. So archaic, so basic. And when my husband texted he would be a while, I started to feel the messy, complicated feelings rise but this time, they felt distinctly messy and complicated, and not like the slam dunk case against him I’d habitually started building. “Why do I waste my time slaving away? Why doesn't he appreciate me?” The usual questions faded, and in their place appeared “Why don’t you have anything BETTER to do with your time? Why do you define yourself as your role and not what's in your soul?” Boom. See, I told you. Extra significant. I began conceptually understanding that my insistence upon a clean house, an organized junk drawer, and a balanced bank account, while worthy and fulfilling endeavors, were merely safe and inarguable distractions from doing the grueling work of self discovery.
It got me thinking about how I heard somewhere that you’re not ready to be a wife until you can cook a pot of rice. On some level, I actually believed that shit. When I fucked up my first pot of rice years ago, I felt a twinge of shame. Because I couldn’t cook rice. And in attempting to perfect and attain domesticity these past 13, extremely formative years of my life, I’ve lost my imperfect wildness. I've lost me. I’ve begun scoring my household and my life on an antiquated set of external characteristics and roles rather than haphazardly attempting to uncover my soul's own characteristics and seek my own joy. Being a perfect wife says nothing about who I am at my core. It doesn’t tell me what I’d be like as an abstract painter, or if I’d do well on a TV game show. It brings me no further to peace, and expresses no otherwise difficult feeling or sentimentality, artistically or uniquely humanly. It's a role, not my soul.
Don’t get me wrong, I really love being a wife and a partner. This is the part where I wax poetic about how marriage is hard work, but worth it, etc, etc. But it’s true. Because one of the best parts about marriage, if you’re paying attention, is that EVERYTHING CHANGES. You change, they change, and if you’re lucky, and work really hard, some of it happens at the same time. My husband has been subtly screaming for me to buck conformity and just do me for some time now- but I’ve wrapped warm expectation and reassuring responsibility around me like a kid who’s had a nightmare instead. And thanks to the self actualizing journey I’m currently on, I think I may have actually heard him this time. And more importantly, I may have heard me.
If you want to be an interesting person, seek interesting experiences, not Pinterest perfect clean houses. If you want to be different, do different things, not the same shit you've been doing ad nauseum with little to show for it. Buck conformity. Make the time and the space for endeavors that are in alignment with your joy. Start, by seeking out what brings you joy and passionately loving it back.
The dishes certainly won't do themselves-- but neither will self actualization. Time is finite, choose your battles accordingly.
*not actually scientific, but damn near close