cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

Of domesticity and feminism - August 9, 2004

It's time for that most constant of mama-ly themes: how is it that I can be such a juxtaposition of career woman and housewife, nurturer and breadwinner? How is it that I can take my child to a peanut butter restaurant and immediately start churning out a competitive analysis in my brain?

Friday the hubby and I went to a play. I should explain. My hubby lived with several of his friend's families during high school, and their mothers are now my de-facto mothers-in-law. Which is nice because sometimes I want to throttle my true MIL. So I was, in a way, going with my MIL to see my BIL's play.

The play was very odd, and not a little dark, but I greatly enjoyed the overdrawn, hyperbolic mom character. When she went crazy, she just recited recipes from her "Modern Feminist Consumer" magazine. When all was lost, she looked through the back issues for advice.

She resonated with me, because I, too, love the magazines. I pore through Saveur, Budget Living, Parents, Martha Stewart and the rest of them for cool ideas and inspirations. My husband can't believe how I can get sucked in. One day I'm buying up all the scrapbooking supplies I can find. The next I've decided I can't live a quality life without canning bunches of fresh fruit and ooh, dilly beans!

My split personality confounds him. I am the consummate overachiever, which he just doesn't get, but it goes beyond that - I have this innate belief that I must succeed in everything, be not just supermom but super-everything. I must breastfeed until 2, and work, and cook healthful creative gourmet dinners, and sew things, and take all my own photographs and preserve them, and find bargains at garage sales, and have good friends, and start preschools and playgroups and neighborhood movements and write about it all. I can't let anything go without getting involved.

I just can't see something that another mama is doing, or something that no other mama is doing but clearly needs to be done, and not want to do it myself. I want to be super-mba and super-housewife and super-friend and super-mom all at once. How can I stop this crazy spiral?

And how can I explain to my husband that it's normal to be who I am, to have piles of sewing projects and photographs to be filed and, of course, my hours and hours of writing to do each night and still insist that I can't possibly be expected to throw away the canning doodad I got at a garage sale for fifty cents? You see, honey, I need that canning doohickey. I can't possibly expect to feel good about myself come winter if I'm buying someone else's canned goods for my pies and antipasto plates. While I'm knitting all my Christmas gifts and finishing up my book and, naturally, successfully marketing Jyte and garnering unheard-of revenue for Big IMAP and starting to franchise my neighbor's business plan.

I'm a domestic feminist. I can't sit still for five minutes without feeling guilty. I can't do something for five minutes without remembering the 18 other things I should be doing that instant. I've got to have it all. And I've got to get my taxes done!