You just aren’t very domestic.
As these words rolled off my mother’s tongue, I instantly felt a sudden rush of shame, followed by an equally intense rising tide of rage. “No, I’m not. But you aren’t very educated, are you?”.
I instantly regretted my words, but not completely.
If I had taken a moment to breathe and resisted the shame driven urge to lash out, we might have both seen more clearly that my mother’s assessment of my domestic ability was merely a failed attempt at trying to make sense of our two very different views of womanhood.
I do not, by any means, live in squalor. What had triggered this mutually uncomfortable exchange was me telling my mom that I was thinking of hiring a cleaning lady to help with some of the day-to-day chores. Managing my then full-time job as a clinical supervisor, plus trying to build a brand-new private practice, all while being pregnant with my daughter had left me feeling pretty run down. I needed help.
My mother comes from a generation of women who were trained to hear dust land. I swear. She has only one level of tidy and that is “Showroom”. She is also of the notion that a good woman keeps a good home. Reasonable right? Nothing crazy about that. But here’s the thing… the unspoken follow-up to “A good woman keeps a good home” is… “no matter what.”
I’ll admit it, there are few things in my life I feel warrant doing “no matter what” and this was what led to our verbal clash described above.
“You don’t need someone to clean for you Bonnie. You just need to not be so lazy and make it a priority. It’s not that hard. You just aren’t very domestic, are you?”
What really happened…
My mother and I have two different views of what it means to be a good woman. As a woman born in the 50s, she was taught that a pristine house is everything, your husband’s food should be on the table when he gets home, you never show what you feel, and look good but try not to say too much.
By the standards my mother had to meet, I would not qualify as a good woman. Indeed, by those standards I would be considered a rebellious, lazy, mouthy, know-it-all who struggles to know her place! Luckily though, I have found comfort in my own definition of success both as a woman and as a mother.
For me, independence, strength, and the ability to self-advocate are central components to my identity as a woman. I am not afraid of conflict, but I don’t go looking for it either. As a mom-preneur, I love cooking for my family but on a day I’m working late or am just too tired, I am perfectly happy to find them a nutritious alternative or hand off the responsibility to my hubby for the night. Unfortunately, I wasn’t blessed with the ability to hear dust fall and not everything in my home has its place, but overall, my family is happy and healthy and have everything we need.
This is what I feel keeps me grounded in my identity as a woman.
Identity is something we don’t give much thought to.
I am fortunate enough to have someone who comes in periodically to help when things get a little overwhelming.
There is no wrong way to woman!
Bonnie J. Skinner, MEd, RP, CCC
B. Skinner Coaching & Psychotherapy