I live in a house where I am not embarrassed if people stop by. My kids all want to bring their friends over because there is a pleasant place dedicated to play. All of the neighborhood teenage girls offer to babysit because I have the best snacks and the most well-behaved kids. I bake my husband’s birthday cake from scratch. I know how to make sauce from the stuff at the bottom of the pan that’s left behind when you cook meat.
…In my very rich and vivid fantasy life.
In real life there is a cough drop stuck on the floor by my couch. I don’t even have kids — if I did they would impale themselves within moments of stepping into my house. I can’t even get the neighborhood kid to mow my yard. I make cakes with box mixes. The stuff that’s left at the bottom of the pan that’s left behind when I cook meat is probably burned.
Somewhere in my childhood or adolescence, I got the impression that a wedding ring was some sort of secret decoding device that unraveled the mysteries of homemade broth and stain removal. Being married means you are grown folks, and grown folks know how to do these things. I guess I assumed it would imbue me with the super-powers necessary to make my life more like the fake life I had always imagined.
My shit is clearly broken.
I am a shit housekeeper. My culinary background is in microwave dinners and take-out. As a solitary dweller it was completely normal to leave clean laundry on the couch and “dinner” was leftovers of questionable safety, dipped in humus that I usually ate in my underwear standing over the sink. It never occurred to me that I would have to learn some domestic skills if I was ever going to actualize my dream of being a mostly decent human being. I didn’t think anything of it until it came time to move in with my now-husband. We moved into a lovely house (check), I bought some lovely lipstick (check), I found a strand of pearls at a garage sale (check). So why the hell is the laundry always in a pile, the dishes never done, the floor all dirty and most of the things I cook are gross, mushy approximations of food?
Because I never learned to cook. I viewed cleaning as a project to be checked off. Not as an ongoing thing that keeps your house mildly presentable. Before I figured out that this was a skill that needed to be learned, I was very hard on myself for not being naturally adept at these things. I would fall into a pit of self-loathing when I did something wrong, forgot something or just couldn’t keep up. I have the best husband in the world, but I would refuse his competent help because I felt like it was my responsibility to do all of these domestic tasks. (To be clear: domestic tasks are not my responsibility because of a gender role thing and I don’t think this is the way to do it, the right way to do it or the only way to do it. It is the most practical solution for our family as my husband works many hours and we have the good fortune to live in a place and a manner where we can live comfortably on one income while I finish school). I would turn a little crazy and think that his doing some small household task was a passive aggressive way of pointing out my deficiencies. In all actuality his doing some small household task was the result of seeing that some small household task needed to be done and just doing it. Basically, I was giving myself hell and making my marriage less awesome and fun.
I have been married for six months. In that time, I learned how to meal plan, grocery shop, cook food that tastes good (ask me for my falafel recipe!) as well as develop a system to keep the house clean that works for me. More so, I have learned not to beat myself up over these “inadequacies.” It is definitely a work in progress, but just forgiving myself for not knowing something was the most important, beneficial, and liberating steps in the process.